Life in the Spirit is Not a Game

“It can’t mean anything: going back to the selling game? It doesn’t mean anything. It can’t be the reason you’re here,” Mike says.

Ruby scoffs, “It’s a game whose rules I understand. And for a while at least, that’s just gonna have to be enough…It’s better than having no game at all.”

–Ruby in Paradise (R), 1993, Victor Nunez

A Game Whose Rules I Understand

I like to play games, lots of games. And I’m a bit of a strategist. I kind-of hate this about myself even while secretly plotting how I’m going to beat your pants off. I like to learn a game and study its rules so I can exploit weaknesses in the way the game is set up. By finding this advantage I can prevail against my opponent. Often times it gets chalked up to luck–everyone else thinks they played their best too, so I must’ve gotten lucky. But I know I found a way to gain the upper hand.

A game whose rules I understand is a game I can use to my own advantage.

In the same way, I think sometimes I have played at the 10 Commandments like they’re a game whose rules I understand. And if I can understand those rules, I can exploit even those.

The game I’ve played with God’s Law is the one where the rules are all very clear. So clear, in fact that I could do whatever I pleased and justify it on a technicality. Meanwhile I watched other players like a hawk, making sure they stayed in bounds.

No Game at All

The truth is, the commandments are just a glimpse, as in a mirror dimly, of what God wants for His people. I believe the commandments are worthwhile to teach and study. And I believe that the “spirit” of the commandments is so that all may go well with us (Deuteronomy 6:3).

But the commandments are not God. And following (or exploiting) them is not a game that we can ever, ever win. In fact, living out our faith is not a game at all.

Life in the Spirit is much better than a game.

Better than a Game

My husband has a way of playing games like there is actually something more important than the game itself. It drives me crazy really. He’ll get off on a tangent of conversation with other players just as I’m about to make a brilliant play!

He said once, “I don’t play games to beat people, I play games to be with people.”

And that’s just the thing–we don’t just play at life like its a cosmic game of winners and losers. Life in God’s created world is so much more than that.

In this life, we get to be in fellowship with the God who created us! We get to be in solidarity with all our neighbors on this planet! If commandments help us love and honor God and neighbor, then that is the most important thing. But when we become more worried about beating others or beating the game, then it’s time for a ‘Game Over.’

God With Us

It’s easy to say and harder to do to live like people matter more than rules. I mean, I still get caught up in trivialities of board game strategies! So to think of people in day-to-day life as being more important than whatever other ‘game’ I’ve got going is also a challenge.

And since rules only tell us so much, God did something radical. God came to us, to be one of us, to be with us in Jesus. God in Christ showed us what it really means to “be with” rather than “beat.”

And Jesus, he’s a God whose love I can understand. And it his Spirit in me that empowers me to live in love with my neighbors. And love rules!

7 responses to this post.


  2. Posted by kristenburkholder on September 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    oooh I would never want to play Scrabble with you…. you must be GOOD… I’m no strategist whatsoever! But I identify with this post. “Be with” rather than “beat.” Amen. Lord, help me, for although I am no strategist, I have a big fat ego…. : )

  3. Marvellously put! I reckon we (God’s people in general) find it immensely difficult to realise that God is about relationship, not rules. Maybe because we know where we are with rules, whereas relationships are messy and full of risk?

    But you express it brilliantly: “The commandments are just a glimpse, as in a mirror dimly”


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