How much gaming is too much gaming?
This is a question we’ve been asked a lot on the show. It’s a fair one in light of our culture and it’s addiction to addictions. A common misconception about video games is that they’re so addictive that they’re inherently evil and cause people to lose sleep, miss meals, and even die. But this is not the cause of the video game, though they are designed to immerse you in to a different world. It’s an issue of idolatry. You see, in the book of Genesis, God created man and woman in the imago Dei, or image of God. As such, we were created worshiping God and one of our primary functions is to worship God.
So, where’s the balance? How can we worship God while enjoying video games? What’s the appropriate amount of time that you can set aside to play so you don’t enter into sin? The answer will surprise you:
There isn’t one.
I know, I know, you’re all like, “say whaaaa”. Let me elaborate a bit.
Your life situation is different than your neighbors, your fellow class mate, your family member, etc. Your schedule is vastly different than another person’s as is my schedule is vastly different from yours. Therefore, to give a quantifiable number that says this is the line you can’t cross simply doesn’t work. It even goes so far as to exclude fellow brothers and sisters, in varying seasons of life, from enjoying video games.
However, there are some helpful guidelines. It all starts with our priorities. Take me for example: my responsibilities include my spiritual well-being (devotionals, prayers, ministry), my job (a standard 9-5), my family, and finally, my hobbies, some of which include this website and podcast. Sounds busy, right? But did you notice something?
My hobbies come last.
See, we are commanded in Deutoronmy 6:5, and later verses speaking of instructing children, to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”. Likewise, we are commanded to “have no other Gods” before Him, as per Exodus 20:3. This means that God, alone, is worthy of our worship and our first-fruits, whether that be with time, finances, etc. Likewise, for our spouse, we are called to love our spouse as we love ourselves; and likewise our friendships, to serve one another as Christ does the church, (cf. Eph. 5:22-33; Mark 12:31). Likewise, us husbands, are called to provide for our families (1 Tim. 5:8; Eph. 5:23) which is usually carried out via a job/career. All of these that have been labeled so far require a significant amount of time to cultivate and build. Our time should best be used in maintaining our Biblically-commanded priorities before taking the time to relax.
Let’s ask the question then: where do video games fit in? The answer? In the excess time you have left-over. Or perhaps brief pockets of time between studying for a final. Or on the train to work.
I do not know what your schedule looks like, nor do I have an easy answer that works for everyone reading this. However, the management of our priorities allows us to get a look at our highest priorities first, lay them out, and plan accordingly. But our hobbies should never encroach on our priorities. The moment a hobby begins stealing time from our priorities and we are neglecting that priority, we need to step back for a time of prayer and self-examination. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a hobby but they’re never worth more than God, another human being, our families, our school, our career, etc. And for some, we can enjoy a video game, after our priorities have been tended to, no problem. For some, there needs to be some work done first before we can enjoy rest.
It’s as the saying goes though, “There’s more to life than video games”.
GG & Amen
(If you’d like to hear more about this topic, check out Episode 1 of The Reformed Gamers on iTunes, or your favorite podcast catcher)