Tag Archives: Competition

Playing Games

I have come to a startling revelation:  children today do not play, or at least they do not play like we did when we were kids.  At a recent curriculum night, my youngest son’s teacher informed the gathered parents that their children’s fourth-grade class will be participating in a weekly program that will teach how to play well at recess and how to follow the rules of recreation.  At our church’s yard sale, my middle son’s friend brought home a number of board games that we had for sale because he had no games at home.  Certainly, children today are engaged in sports and video games, they do not know how to play.  They know how to compete, whether it is tracked on scoreboards or screens, but are ignorant of play.

What did we do to our children when we were encouraging them to win (e.g. on the field) or finish the task the fastest (with Legos, for example) while at the same downplaying the joys of simply ‘having fun’?    Somewhere along the way we forgot the fun of recreation and substituted it with competition and amusement.  We neglected to pass on the benefits of being renewed, or recreated, when engaging with others in play and began to emphasize the goals of skill acquisition, winning and superiority when engaging against others on the ballfield or the playground.  Sadly, the question we ask our kids at the end of these endeavors is no longer, “Did you have fun?” but rather, “Did we win?”

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.   Hebrews 4:9-10

This is not God’s purpose for us – to compete with each other until one stands victorious and the also-rans fall to defeat.  God’s plan and purpose is for our lives to have periods of rest.  He worked into His creation a break from work (toil, labor and struggle) every seven days.  God’s understanding of rest is not for us to sleep for an entire day (as there is time for sleep every day), but to fill one day a week with recreational (what will recreate us) activities.  We all need to take time to be creative and be recreated.  We all are designed to take time to read for pleasure, cook for fun, exercise our minds and bodies for refreshment and play for the sake of enjoyment.

Our children work hard; they are engaging in toil, labor and struggle at school and with extracurriculars for hours at a time.  We, as parents and as a society, must encourage them to engage in play, not to win but to recreate.  Kids need to build things ‘without the directions’, ride bikes ‘without a destination’, and enjoy board games ‘without a decision’.   Kids need to see these things modeled as well – to see us reading, riding or rolling just for the mere pleasure of being together and growing together.

I wonder what would happen if we began playing games with our children for only an hour – playing for a time and not a triumph.  We could break out the Monopoly board and set the timer.  There would be no winner and no loser, just an hour of interaction and conversation.  Would we be frustrated by the lack of closure?  Perhaps, but I think it would pass.  Would we benefit from the process of recreation instead of competition?  Probably.  Let me know what happens if you try.

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Give Peace A Chance

There is a spirit of competition everywhere you look.  Certainly, there is a spirit of competition in sporting events and reality television.  My concern is that this spirit of competition has infiltrated other areas of life: as examples, there are some who will do or say anything so that one side of the political aisle wins and the other loses or one stratum of society rises while all other strata fall.  Standardized test scores by students at primary and secondary schools are scrutinized as aggressively as baseball box scores and commercial enterprises are often engaged in a “winner-take-all” economic game of chicken.competition

Most troubling is the ecclesial capitulation to the culture, for we can see, more than just occasionally, the church as engaged in competition.  The family of God is regularly engaged in sibling rivalry, arguing amongst ourselves that our programs are better or bigger, our fervor is purer or stronger and our worship is more spiritual or more relevant than the church down the street.  The church, while competing with itself, can also be engaged in competing with the culture in a “scorched earth” war of ideas, taking no prisoners in debates on topics as varied as reproductive rights and social justice.  There are times, it seems, that the spirit of competition is superseding the Spirit of God.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Romans 12:18 (NIV)

As an alternative to competition, allow me to suggest there are two divergent courses Christians, and the churches they represent, can take.  The directions that this Frostian fork in the road creates is the path leading to compromise and the path leading to cooperation.  Followers of Christ who refuse to engage in competition against anything but sin may be tempted to compromise their beliefs and practices and wrongly seek to find some middle ground.  Personally, I find this unworkable in light of the biblical witness (which unwaveringly upholds absolute truth and the consequences to weakening God’s commands for cultural acceptance).   It is not wise to compromise simply to reduce conflict.

Cooperation, without competitiveness or compromise, seems to be the preferred way to engage with those inside and outside the church.  This would require the body of Christ to find the common ground instead of the middle ground.  It means that the family of God recognizes the universal need for compassion and civility as well as truth and faith.   As we embrace cooperation (literally the working together of two or more forces) among the churches, I feel God wants us to work together for the heavenly kingdom.  As we embrace cooperation with those outside of the biblical faith, I feel God wants us to work together for the human race.

For me, these thoughts are not abstract but extremely practical.  They inform how I see the bigger and better church down the street from me, the real estate agent who wants us to move before we are ready and my choice in November between the diplomat and the developer.  Lord, help me, without a spirit of competition or compromise and with a spirit of compassion and civility, engage all those in my life for the benefit of the heavenly kingdom and the human race.