The Game of Life
John Telgren


I remember sitting around the table with family and friends playing Milton Bradley's game, Life. It didn't last as long as Monopoly, and use younger children seemed to enjoy it more. The game moved you along through different stages of life. You could go to college or you could skip college and try to go directly into business. Along the way was marriage, children, and other things. That last part of the game was the "Day of Reckoning." Depending on how much money you made determined whether you went on to Millionaire Acres or to the Poor Farm. There was nothing about virtue or vice in the game. According to this game, life was all about making lots of money with the ultimate goal of becoming a millionaire.

I didn't realize that this game was actually a anniversary commemorative edition which came out in 1960. The earlier edition in 1860 was called the "Checkered Game of Life." Unlike the modern version, this 19th century game included various vices and virtues. For things such as honor and perseverance, you got to advance through the game. Things such as idleness and crime set you back.

There was yet an earlier game from England with a similar name. This late 18th century game was called the "Game of Human Life." This game did not involve money. Each player played through various stages of life, from boyhood, to the prime of life, to old age and death. There were 84 squares representing 84 years of life. Those who land on spaces such as the studious boy, the assiduous youth, the married man, the temperate man, etc. got to advance in the game to places such as the orator or the patriot. On the other hand, the negligent boy, prodigal, drunkard, romance writer, the dramatist, etc. had to either lose turns or go backward on the board. A warning points out the dangers of introducing dice into the game (since it was associated with gambling). The game used a totum, or teetotum, which was a spinning top.

Isn't it interesting how things have changed? What would it look like if there was a Christian game of life. Virtue might set one back in life, but gain treasure in Heaven. Worldly riches may rise up as a witness against the greedy man. In the end, God would exalt the humble and bring the proud low. The day of reckoning would be more about treasures in Heaven rather than how much earthly wealth one accumulated.

Life is a gift from God. Redemption is a gift from God. We are stewards of the gifts that God has given us. Much of what we value is the opposite of what the world values. We value humility over pride. We value poverty over wealth. We value generosity over accumulation. We value principle over pragmatism. We value godliness and dignity over flamboyance. We value holiness over conformity. We value life over death. We value responsibility over freedom.

What would it look like if we built these types of values into a Christian version of the game of Life? Actually, it is not a game at all. We are living it right now. God has laid out the rules of play and what it means to win. The great thing about it is that anyone that is willing to trust and submit to His lordship can win.