Question: "Should a Christian play video games?"
Answer: Written 2000 years ago, God’s Word does not explicitly teach whether or not a Christian should play video games. But the Bible’s principles still apply today regarding the best use of our time. When God shows us that a specific activity is controlling our lives, we should break away from it for a time. This “fast” could be from food, movies, music, video games, anything taking us away from loving God. While some of these things may not be bad in and of themselves, they become idols if they distract us from our first love (Colossians 3:5; Revelation 2:4). Prayerfully consider the Bible’s teaching below. If we trust God for wisdom, He promises to guide us (James 1:5; Proverbs 3:5-6).
1. Will video games edify or merely entertain me? Edify means to build up. Will playing video games build up your love for God, knowledge of Him, and ministry to others? “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23; see also 1 Corinthians 10:24; Romans 14:19). When God gives us relaxation time, we should find uplifting activities to enjoy such as quality music, edifying books, noble conversations. Do we choose permissible over praise-worthy activities? When we have a choice between good, better and best, we should choose the best! (See Galatians 5:13-17.)
2. Will playing video games obey self-will or God’s will? God’s will for His children can be summed up in His greatest commandment: “. . . You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Our will has been polluted by sin. Because we have been saved from our selfish desires, we should surrender our will (Philippians 3:7-9). God’s will transforms our will (Psalms 143:10). Soon, His desires for us become our deepest desires, as well.
Many people believe the will of God is boring and humiliating. They picture a monk in a lonely monastery or a resentful church janitor. On the contrary, people who follow God’s will for their lives are the most joyful, adventurous people ever. Reading biographies of history’s heroes such Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, and George Mueller will verify that. Certainly, they faced difficulty from the world and the devil, and they may not have had much of this world’s possessions, but God accomplished great works through them.
“Desire that you might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that you might walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing, being fruitful in every work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10). At first, His will seems impossible and too holy to be any fun, but God will give us the power to perform it and the desires to delight in it. “I delight to do Your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:8a; see Hebrews 13:21).
3. Does the video game glorify God? Some video games glorify violence, lewdness, and dumb decisions (i.e. “I’m out of the race, so I’ll just wreck my car”). A Christian’s activities should bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and help him to grow in the knowledge and grace of Christ.
4. Will playing video games result in good works? “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10; see also Titus 2:11-14 and 1 Peter 2:15). Laziness and selfishness violate God’s purpose for us—to do good works to others. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58; see also Galatians 6:9-10).
5. Will playing video games exhibit self-control? Many people have said that video games can become an addiction or an obsession. There is no room in the Christian life for such things. Paul compares the Christian life to an athlete disciplining his body so he may win the prize. Christians have a greater motivation to live a set-apart life: eternal reward in heaven. “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control. . .” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27 NASB).
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3; see also 2 Peter 1:3-8 and 1 Timothy 4:8, 12).
6. Will playing video games redeem the time? You will give account for how you use your limited minutes. Spending hours at a time playing a video game can hardly be called a good use of time. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is” (Ephesians 5:15-17). “. . . live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2; see also Colossians 4:5, James 4:14, and 1 Peter 1:14-22).
7. Does it pass the test of Philippians 4:8? “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). When you play video games, does your mind focused on godly or secular things?
8. Will playing video games fit in with my life purpose? Paul wrote that in the final days people would be ". . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4). Our culture fits that description. We love to play. Non-Christians become addicted to entertainment such as movies, sports, and rock music because they don’t have a higher purpose other than to enjoy life before death. These amusements can’t satisfy (Ecclesiastes 2:1). When Christians become addicted to the same things as non-Christians, can we truly say that we are exhibiting the new life in us “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. Among these you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15)? Or do we prove to others that we are really no different than they and that Christ has not made a significant difference in our lives?
Paul considered knowing, loving, and obeying God to be his highest priority. “But whatever things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death” (Philippians 3:7-10). Will playing video games be showing my love for God or my love for the things of the world? (1 John 2:15-17).
9. Will playing video games give me an eternal focus? Christians have hope of eternal reward in heaven if they are faithful on earth (See Matthew 6:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 3:11-16). If we focus on living for eternity rather than the passing pleasures of earth, we will have surrendered resources, time, and hearts for ministry. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.. . . . Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:1-2; 23-24). If our possessions or activities cause us to lose our eternal reward, of what worth are they (Luke 12:33-37)? Christians in affluent countries often try to serve both God and their own desires. But Jesus clearly stated, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).
God gives us joy through times of work and rest (Ecclesiastes 5:19; Matthew 11:28-29; Colossians 3:23-24). We must find that balance between labor and recreation. When we do set aside time for relaxation as Jesus did (Mark 6:31), we should choose an edifying activity. The question is not “Can I play video games?” but “Would video games be the best choice?” Will this edify me, show love to my neighbor, and glorify God? Pursue praise-worthy activities, not simply permissible ones. However He leads you, passionately follow Him above all else. Prepare for eternity. Every sacrifice will seem insignificant when we meet Jesus.