Is the deck stacked against you? If you look at the Instruction Manual to see if this game of life is really fair, you’ll find amazing hope for the future.
“Life’s a game,” some people say. Yet if it is, how can it possibly be fair?
Some lives end far too soon. Some drag on in wave after wave of pain. Some circumstances are so desperate that it’s difficult to imagine escape. And then there are the bullies, whose abuse seems to go on and on unchecked.
If life is a game, where do we find the rules? The Bible is like an Instruction Manual, a place we can find answers to life’s most challenging questions.
But many discard the Scriptures for this very reason. How could a just God allow the evil and suffering that is clearly present? How could a loving God hold everyone to the same high standards when the deck seems stacked so heavily against some people’s success?
Yet, considering the stakes in this real-life game of life and death, shouldn’t we give the Instruction Manual a chance? Let’s explore what sort of game life is supposed to be. What are the objectives? How do we make progress? What happens once it is over?
In the process, we’ll find that we can rely on God’s merciful justice and that ultimately life will be fair.
Playing the game (life) is a very immersive experience—but is it real, in the sense of permanent? One wise player from the past explained his hard-won perspective on the game: “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
He came to see that maximizing the thrill and prolonging your life aren’t really the point of this game. Death in the game is not permanent because God can and will resurrect you. Just as important, God can and will heal the emotional and psychological trauma that abuse and suffering have caused. This is all possible because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. (Read more in our inspiring article “The Power of His Resurrection.”)
We don’t have to fear death in the game, although we should also know that it is possible to die permanently (see our short article “The Second Death”).
According to the Instruction Manual, all players will die, but in their next conscious moment (since “the dead know nothing”—Ecclesiastes 9:5), they will be resurrected alongside friends, family and strangers who played the game thousands of years before. The Bible calls this time “the judgment.”
You’re playing the game in tandem with billions, but do you have to defeat all of them? Not according to the Bible. In fact, you have the opportunity to build alliances with as many as you like—good relationships can really boost your experience points (Hebrews 10:24).
In some ways, you’re playing against yourself, but you also have a dangerous enemy, who tricks players into hurting themselves and each other and works to distract them from the purpose of the game. You have to be constantly on your guard against his attacks and deception (1 Peter 5:8).
Thankfully, you also have unlimited access to help from the Designer, God (Romans 8:38-39). Again, we owe this to the sacrifice of Christ!
You don’t get to choose your avatar …
In many games you get to choose what you look like, where you’re from, your strengths and weaknesses—or at least whether you’re a pink peg or a blue peg. Not in this game.
In most games, all players start with the same resources. Definitely not in this game.
Looking at real life, what do we see? Each person has a different starting point, and there are more inequalities than you could tabulate. But the Designer cares about every single player and knows exactly the advantages and disadvantages of each, down to how many hairs are on his or her head. The Instruction Manual promises that all inequalities will be fairly accounted for in the judgment (Luke 12:7, 47-48).
… But you’re not stuck with it beyond the game
Crucially, these physical inequities will not last forever. Discrimination and disadvantage will be abolished. Players who truly understand this treat each other with appropriate respect (Galatians 3:28).
So what will today’s players be like after they win the game? The Instruction Manual doesn’t give us all the details, but it does say that, as children of God, we will be like Him (1 John 3:1).
The goal: character
Most games include a central goal and potential distractions. An expert chess player isn’t too worried about how many pawns she has, for instance; she is prepared to sacrifice a few pieces to achieve checkmate.
What are the potential distractions in this game of life? You could probably come up with a long list. The Bible warns about some of them, such as money, pleasure and physical accomplishments. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these, but they don’t help you win, and they don’t last beyond the game. Unfortunately, many players get entirely wrapped up in these pursuits.
The true object of the game is to learn to always do the right thing at the right time for the right reason, just like Jesus Christ (1 John 2:6). In other words, the point is to build the godly character we will need beyond the game as children of God.
Of course, in order to do the right thing, you first have to discover what the right thing is. In this round of the game, most players are learning from personal experience that the way that seems right to them has devastating consequences (Proverbs 14:12), which is, in itself, an essential lesson. Far preferable, however, is learning from personal experience that God’s way works!
For the good of all the players, God provides rules demonstrating how to build and show love both to others and to Him (1 John 5:2-3). Some rules are so obviously necessary that almost any player would have come up with the same. Some rules we only know because our infinitely wise game Designer told us.
In any case, consistently choosing to follow God’s law even when it’s hard builds lasting character. Since struggling against resistance helps you reach your goal, enduring trials and temptation in the game is actually a good thing.In any case, consistently choosing to follow God’s law even when it’s hard builds lasting character. Since struggling against resistance helps you reach your goal, enduring trials and temptation in the game is actually a good thing (James 1:2-3, 12).
An incredible prize for finishers
For those who, through the power of Jesus Christ, keep on building character to the end of the game, the ultimate prize is far beyond any hardship they endured.
Soon Christ will return to the earth; and when He does, these Christians will be resurrected first and given the amazing opportunity to help Him heal and rebuild this broken world. They will be spirit beings, no longer subject to death (Revelation 20:6). For 1,000 years, they will help teach the people of earth how to live God’s way and establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Satan, the enemy, will be removed. Through their just, merciful leadership and universal application of God’s laws of love, the world will gradually be rid of pain and suffering.
But what about the billions of people who reached “Game Over” long before, knowing neither the law of God nor the name of Christ?
As we mentioned earlier, they, too, will be resurrected—in the judgment. The rest of the dead will be brought back to life after the world-building 1,000 years are complete (Revelation 20:5). The Bible shows that books will be opened, and the dead will be “judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12).
The books—the various sections of the Instruction Manual—are opened to give these players the same opportunity as those who were resurrected first: to learn God’s way, to learn about Christ’s life and sacrifice and to choose whether to turn their lives around and follow Him. The Book of Life is opened so that their names can be added and they, too, can live forever as part of the family of God.
Get back in the game!
Looking at the Instruction Manual, we’ve seen that, despite the hurtful actions of other players and the impact of chance misfortunes, in the end, this game of life is both just and merciful. A better future is coming, and we only skimmed the surface! Be sure to read the articles in our “Plan of Salvation” section to get the rest of the story.
But right now, our future brothers and sisters are still suffering and sinning, seeing no hope for their future. We who know the truth must live the future now.
Sure, on our own, we cannot fix all the pain and problems we see around us. Yet even one person living God’s way of kindness, purity and respect does make a difference. And who knows who else may be inspired by our example? Just as we pray every day for God’s Kingdom to come, we must throw our hearts into preparing for it—winning the game by becoming people who will always lead and serve in love.