This past weekend was my wife’s birthday. Her favorite kind of birthday party is one in which she hosts her friends, so that’s what we did on Saturday. We held the party at my brother’s house, and Anna cooked her amazing enchiladas, and many of our friends, mostly married couples, came over to celebrate.
Christian, married couples play games; I think that’s part of being married. I think these games must be social lubricant for a bunch of couples that don’t go out and party anymore. We brought Apples to Apples and Taboo, and both saw a little action. Apples to Apples is essentially an individual game, and for Taboo, we went guys vs. girls.
Everyone had a good time, and the night ended well, with my brother emerging as the victor in A2A and the girls triumphing in Taboo. But it was interesting to notice the hearts on display throughout the night: Lying, cheating, accusing, over-competitiveness, self-justifying, holding grudges, incredulity, boasting. And that was just me. The list makes it sounds much worse than it seemed. Most of these were masked in laughter or sarcasm and seemed harmless at the time.
Here’s what the people in the room may have seen from me that night:
- Playfully making a case to bend the rules in my favor but not others
- Mock indignation told through jokes
- A friendly sense of competition
Here’s what God saw in my heart:
- Desire to exalt myself
We know that the inward workings of the heart are the source for the outward workings of our bodies. Or to say this another way: our motives drive our actions. When we sin, we often focus on the external sin itself rather than considering the heart motive that led us into sin. We see the fruit, whether good or bad, without considering the root. But we’re blind to these motives and impotent at uprooting the dead roots on our own.
Fortunately, God does see and God does show. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). His word pierces and discerns and reveals the thoughts and intentions of the heart that we would never see. Our only chance to sever the root of sin is to see our hearts as God sees them and put our faith in His power to destroy the evil He reveals.
This is not a passive action; the writer to the Hebrews says we should “strive to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11), which is consistent with “work[ing] out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). And putting our faith in God is active as well. But Paul gives us the key to actively persevering in righteousness: “…for it is God who works in you” (Philippians 2:13).
So games are mirrors for our hearts, as are relationships, as are many other things in our lives. But the best mirror is the word of God which penetrates the impenetrable, making known to us what is seen by the God who sees all things, so we can repent and He can purify a heart that is already free from condemnation but one which needs regular cleansing.
Ultimately, we’re not quitting games; there’s nothing wrong with the games themselves. But next time, I will put my faith in a God who will reveal the thoughts and intentions of my heart so that they, and my actions, might honor Him.
Question: What sins do you see surfacing when you compete?