Question: "Should a Christian play video games?"
Answer: Completed nearly 2,000 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, TV, music, video games—anything that distracts our attention from knowing and loving God and serving His people. 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). Below are some principles to consider, whether the question is regarding video games, TV, movies, or any other earthly pursuit.
1. Will video games edify or merely entertain me? To edify means to build up. Will playing video games build up your love for God, knowledge of Him, and ministry to others? “‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24; Romans 14:19). When God gives us relaxation time, we should find uplifting activities to enjoy. Do we choose permissible over praiseworthy activities? When we have a choice between good, better, and best, we should choose the best (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: “’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, ‘Love 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 (Psalm 143:10). Progressively, 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 as Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, and George Mueller will verify that. Certainly, these saints faced difficulty from the world, their own flesh, and the devil. They may not have had much of this world’s possessions, but God accomplished great works through them. 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 (e.g., “I’m out of the race, so I’ll just wreck my car”). As Christians, our activities should bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and help us 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 (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 of self-control—eternal reward in heaven (1 Corinthians 9:25-27).
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 noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). When you play video games, is 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). Western culture fits that description. We love to play. Non-Christians become addicted to entertainment such as movies, sports, and music because they do not have a purpose higher than to enjoy life before death. These amusements cannot truly 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 a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15)? Or do we prove to others that we are really no different than they are and that Christ has not made a significant difference in our lives?
Paul considered knowing, loving, and obeying God to be his highest priority. “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ....I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in 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 rewards 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 (Colossians 3:1-2; 23-24). If our possessions or activities cause us to lose our eternal rewards, of what worth are they (Luke 12:33-37)? Christians 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? We are to pursue praiseworthy 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.