Glorifying God Through Gaming

From yelling vulgarity at the TV and other gamers, to being tempted by sexual cut scenes and themes, to allowing video games to consume most of our time more than fellowship with other Christians and God, we are faced with a lot of dilemmas as Christian gamers. Perhaps someone has told you or you’ve heard through the grapevine that playing video games is a sin, or that you’re somehow less of a Christian because you enjoy video games. I’ve been told such lies myself. When this happens, we feel resented and worthless because although we’re simply doing something we love, somehow it makes us the worst of sinners in the perspective of others. The purpose of this article is to ensure you that playing video games is not inherently sinful. However, there are common behaviors associated with video games and certain images that may cause us to sin. In every aspect of our lives—from our various vocations to daily living—we are to glorify God (Psalm 96:1-9). First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” We can glorify God by avoiding certain sins that we are exposed to as gamers.

Vulgarity

First of all, I want you all to know that although I’m writing about this, I don’t have it all figured out. I’m a sinner just like anyone else and I, too, struggle with these concepts I’ll be discussing, such as the use of vulgarity when in the heat of gaming. As I was doing this study, I came to a realization that I have some changes I need to make in my gaming experiences. Vulgarity is perhaps my biggest struggle when I game and something I’ve been working on for a while. Swearing is frowned upon in most social situations, but when confronted with our vulgarity, especially as Christians, we may raise the defense, “The Bible doesn’t say anything about swearing!” True, if you take out a concordance bible, you won’t find the word “swearing” or “cussing” anywhere in Scripture. Using such rationalization is immature, irresponsible, and intellectually dishonest. We may not find those words specifically in Scripture, but it does discuss the use of our speech. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” I hope you would agree that vulgarity is corruption. There is simply nothing positive that comes out of such talk. This Scripture says that our speech only needs to be good for “building up” so that grace may be given to those who hear us. After all, Jesus “equips the saints [that’s us] for the work of ministry, [and] for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Think of any time in your life where you’ve cussed a lot, or even a little. Did it “build up” that person into the body of Christ? Did it extend God’s grace toward them? These are, of course, rhetorical questions because the obvious answer is: NO.
Remember that as Christians, we are set apart from the rest of the world. St. Peter writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Christians are a holy nation through Israel (Jacob). By swearing, are you proclaiming the excellencies of Christ? Because we are God’s chosen race, priesthood, and nation, we are targeted by the rest of the world. If you swear a lot when you game, and the friends you’ve met online find out you’re Christian, how do you think your speech reflects Christ? From your speech alone, they’ll have no reason to want to know Christ because since you’re just like them by swearing a lot, it appears to them that there is no obvious or beneficial change in knowing Christ. I am certainly guilty of this, and I pray for God’s forgiveness over my bitter speech. As Christians, we are constantly witnessing the case of Christ, especially when we don’t realize it. In our actions and our speech, whether we’re acting or speaking for Christ or not, we are always witnessing for Him.

Consider also James 3:5-10:

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

By “cursing,” it is not talking about swearing as we understand it today, but rather words for destructive use. When words are used destructively, the source of the tongue is no longer God and the Holy Spirit; the source comes from Hell because the goal of Satan is to set the course of peoples’ lives on fire—to destroy them. When you curse, remember that with that same mouth you worship and glorify God.  It’s like the saying, “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Likewise, when we swear, we should self-reflect and say to ourselves, “With this same mouth I glorify God, and with it I also speak destructively towards others. My speech shouldn’t be like this. I need to fix this.”

When I think of the saying, “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth,” I imagine the scene (above) from A Christmas Story when the protagonist Ralphie said the “F” word, and his mother washed his mouth out with soap. Likewise, when we use vulgarity, we ought to wash our mouths out with repentance and forgiveness through the Holy Spirit. Vulgarity does nothing in building up others in Christ and extending His grace towards others, and it does nothing in proclaiming His excellencies. I believe that the constant use of vulgarity calls for great self-reflection. Consider what Jesus said in Luke 6:4-5, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” If you curse a lot—whether in every day life or gaming, or both—look deep within yourself. Is there a lot of darkness or anger there that you are attempting to regurgitate? If there is, and you curse a lot, only Christ can illuminate that darkness, for He is the Light, for “He called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Vulgarity won’t illuminate the darkness for you; only Christ can.

Dealing with Obscenity

Some of the best games that are out there are rated M games, which may or may not have some heavy sexual themes depending on the franchise. If I’m being completely honest, it’s probably best not to play such games as a Christian. You can disagree with me if you’d like, because you’re entitled to your own opinion, but if you’re playing a game like Dead or Alive with half naked women in their skimpy bikinis jumping around, it’d be a miracle that you’re not tempted. We can sin with just our eyes! Jesus said, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Now, this has more to do with looking at women in real life with lustful intent because such looking objectifies them and dishonors them and disrespects them. They were made in God’s image and we’re looking at them as sexual objects to be used (And the same can be said for women looking at men!) With video games, however, it’s slightly different. The women obviously don’t exist, but the lust remains. Indeed, the lust alone is sinful, but what do you do with that lust? Submit to porn? Masturbation? Enact sexual sins with your boyfriend or girlfriend? The women (or men) may not be real, but again, the lust remains, and what you do with that lust leads to sexual immorality. This is why I think it’s best not to play games that have heavy sexual themes in order that we protect our purity (One or two sexual scenes is okay, I think, so long as it doesn’t lead you to sin). Lust is an insidious time bomb that builds up for a long time until it finally explodes. Trust me, I know.  It’s not something that you want to suddenly take over your alone time. But thanks be to God that there is forgiveness, for, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Idolizing Video Games

Having idols is a big deal. So serious in fact that it’s the very first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Martin Luther’s explanation of this commandment in his Small Catechism is, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” Failing to fear, love, and trust in God above all things is idolatry. Even the English dictionary recognizes this, defining it as “extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.” Obviously, idolatry doesn’t only apply to video games. Addiction to pornography, a drug, or any other thing is failing to fear, love, and trust God above that thing—it is idolatry. Trusting yourself and your own abilities over God is idolatry. Putting your boyfriend/girlfriend, or husband/wife or even your kids over God is idolatry. Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). Taking this passage out of context is the intellectually dishonest pastime. He is not saying you shouldn’t love your parents or children. What He is saying is that if you love anyone more than you love Him—that is, if you obey their will rather than the will of God—you are not worthy of Him. Maybe it’s a radical thing to say, but Jesus was a radical man—God calls us to radical faith. Anything can apply when it comes to idolatry, even video games.  If video games consume your life more than Christ does, you have an idolatry problem. Idolatry is so corruptive that Scripture tells us to flee from it (1 Corinthians 10:14). When you put any thing or person above God, that thing or person essentially becomes your god, because you fear, love, and trust them more than the only God there is.
For example, suppose you’re in a relationship and you love him or her very much. So much in fact that you fear what they’ll think of you or will break up with you if you refuse to have sex before marriage with them. So, because of this fear and reverence and because of your love for them, you give in to their sensual desires (and your own). That is idolatry. Rather than fearing, loving, and trusting God by obeying His commands, you feared, loved, and trusted your partner more by giving in to their godless desires. I’m not saying any or many of you are guilty for this, but it is a common example among us Christians today.
So, how would we idolize video games? Suppose you skip church or some other church event in order to play video games. Or suppose your prayer life dwindles because you’d rather play video games. Or suppose you skip work or doing homework to play video games (ignoring your vocations). Ignoring your vocational duties or ignoring your congregational duties as a Christian such as fellowship, prayer, or even as simple as just attending church just to play video games is breaching idolatry. There have been times in my life when I became distracted by certain things of the world, causing me to fall away from God—not losing my faith, but simply losing my focus on God. If you find yourself at a point where you’re not focusing on God as much as you used to or should be, or if you find yourself living in a sinful lifestyle, take some time for serious self-reflection to figure out what the cause of it is. It may not be video games, but if you begin to notice that you’re losing your focus on God, there is always something external that causes it. Once you realize what that thing is, you have to decide what’s more important: God, or the thing you idolize?

Conclusion

In review, vulgarity is a failure of building up people, a failure of extending the grace of Christ to others, and a failure of proclaiming His excellencies. Some video games may cause us to commit sexual sins and if this happens, it would behoove us as responsible Christians to stop playing those games (such as Dead or Alive). Lastly, if we idolize video games so much that it becomes our central focus rather than Christ, we are committing idolatry and need to revitalize our relationship with God. If video games cause us to sin, then we need to either reform our behavior or stop playing video games if it becomes impossible for us to stop sinning when gaming. I know, I love video games too and it would be difficult for me to give them up, but drastic sinning calls for drastic action.

Ricky Beckett

Garrick Sinclair "Ricky" Beckett first started his Christian writing on a blog titled "The Lutheran Column" where he hires proficient Lutheran writers to convey biblical truth. Along with the blog, he also writes poetry, string quartets in music composition, enjoys doing photography, reading, and playing video games. Ricky is a graduate from Concordia University-Ann Arbor from the Pre-Seminary program with a major in Christian Thought and a minor in Theological Languages. Currently, Ricky is a seminarian at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis as he works on his Masters of Divinity to become a pastor in the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).

3 Comments

  1. Nikolay Stoynov on November 25, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Very good article, but I think it strays away from its title topic. Sure, games can be and can’t be used to glorify God. And with 99.999% of games being not Christian it’s easy to stumble on games with questionable morale values. But the question is: “Can games be used as ministry to God?”. In my opinion: yes, even the most wicked ones. But let’s first define two types of games: action heavy and story heavy. I have a friend (much more mature Christian than I am) who is really found of modern fast paced games with fancy graphics. These games does not reqire immersing into their world. You just react to what’s thrown at you. They are no different (as source of temptation) from watching TV, except they train your strategic thinking and fast reflexes. There is always the risk of addiction or to just snap out and become violent in real life, but this is individial and nobody can’t be blamed but you (Bible warns us about that in general). The multiplayer aspect is great for social interactions even with mixed groups of Christians and non-believers. Or just to let the steam off after a hard week. Overall, the benefits are greater than the negatives. And as these games are largely popular now, it’s easy to make friends and talk about Christ when you’re not playing (also defying the myth that Christians are dorks).
    The second type of games: the story rich – or my prefered type – are actually bigger threat even if there is less violence. You spent lots of time with the characters, forming an emotional connection with them. But because this is a single sided relationship, only they influance you, but not the other way around. The danger comes if the character has some negative perks that easily become contagious: for example the character Gregory House (from the TV series, but still a valid point) is highly cynical and make that look cool. The show does portrait how lonely he feels, but since this is not the main topic it’s easily overlooked. Not to mention that those stories take time to unfold, and often are just based on single idea and have no definite conclusion. The result: they waste your time. A lot. The social element is also here, but usually as fan clubs and those are harder to crack – people there want to talk about their favorite character and show little or no interest in Christ. BUT… If a story is done properly it could influence people to be good. Or make them think about something they never thought about. For example I had really hard time in Life is Strange when I was asked to do assisted suicide. Christians should be highly against that. But as it was for character I cared, it made me think what would I really do in real life if asked? Because a rich story can open your mind, it gives you different perspective to look at the world. “Can I be like that person?”, “Would I steal if I and someone important to me are starving?”: I stumbled upon lots of similar scenarios while playing games. It’s easy to talk in church, when it feels personal you can see your true colors if you dare to look. Few games shook me to the bones, but was in a life changing way. Not to mention I often get inspired for things I do to the ministry. A friend suggested that such games can develop your empathy toward others. Not sure about that, but definitely helps me understand some type of people I was unable before.

    • Ricky Beckett on December 3, 2015 at 12:07 am

      What NOT to do is exactly how we glorify God when playing video games. So you’re still doing something when you abstain from these things. It’s exercising self-control. If my intention was to write about using video games as a ministry of God, I would’ve made that clear in the title and introduction.

      • Nikolay Stoynov on January 31, 2016 at 5:05 pm

        I’m sorry if my post seemed disrespectful to your work. You put TONS of effort of keeping this site good for fellow geeks like us (and maybe the only one of that kind I stumbled upon). If my words offend you, I beg your forgiveness.

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