I hear people talking about spending more time reading the Bible these days. That’s a wonderful thing for anyone who is exploring faith in Jesus Christ and for those who already are his followers and who are wanting to grow in their faith. As a pastor it delights my heart to hear that people are exploring God’s Word, except when I hear them twisting it and misusing it. Down through history the Bible has been used to leverage the powerful and the abusive and that kind of behaviour has poisoned some people’s view of God’s Word. Good things can be used in foolish and even evil ways and sometimes we aren’t even aware that we’re doing it. We can play games with God’s Word that serve a purpose for us, but that don’t serve God’s purposes. Here are six games I’ve seen people play with the Bible and, honestly, I’ve even caught myself playing them at times, six games we need to give up.
The game that plays on our ability to distort an original message can cause a lot of laughs but serves only to twist Gods’ truth into a lie when we play it with the Bible. The game goes like this: I try to quote the Bible, but in fact I’ve never read it (or at least I haven’t read the part I’m quoting). I’m actually “quoting” what I heard someone else say about the Bible. It may be my pastor, or it may be someone else who also hasn’t read It either, but they have passed along what they heard (or think they heard). A game of telephone spreading misinformation wider and wider. The real-life game teaches us the importance of going back to the source to get the accurate message. We’re given a great example of this in the book of Acts in the Bible, Chapter 17, verse 11 where a group of people wouldn’t take the great Apostle Paul at his word, they checked it out in the Bible for themselves. If you’re quoting or believing what someone else has told you about the Bible, it’s time to go to the source and read it for yourself.
Honestly, there’s nothing like a good game of dodgeball if you love to run and duck and throw. It’s a fast-paced, high-energy game that fast-paced, high-energy people love to play. But slow and clumsy people despise this game because they are always the first ones out – and who wants to be left out? Bible dodgeball involves people who love to lob Bible verses at others in order to eliminate them from the game. What this actually looks like is someone who can out-quote you and makes you feel like your faith is worthless, like you’re just a spiritual sluggard. Personally I take great comfort from the writer of the book of Hebrews in the Bible who often quotes verses from the Jewish Scripture but never seems to be able to pin down where the quote comes from (see Hebrews 2:6; 4:4; 5:6). The problem is that the Bible is not intended as a weapon to prove how great I am. And if I’m busy throwing verses at others, then I’m probably not spending much time letting God’s word challenge me. People who play this game use it to keep others and God himself from challenging and changing them.
3. Truth or Dare
This one is a popular sleepover game, challenging people to either be completely honest with a question posed to them OR to do some daring challenge given to them. In the Biblical realm people play this game when they take random verses of scripture as a dare rather than, what it actually is, a part of the greater truth that God is giving to us. One extreme example is those who read Mark 16:18, about followers of Jesus picking up snakes or drinking poison and not being harmed. It’s a verse that reminds us that we don’t need to fear any threat as we live for Jesus. But it is NOT a dare to pick up deadly snakes and make it part of our worship (seriously, there is a small group of Christians who do this). Truth or dare is a game that makes room for some strange and dangerous theologies. The Bible is God’s truth, always.
4. Capture the Flag
People who love Bible dodgeball tend to love this one as well. The real-life game is all about guarding your flag from being stolen by the other team; nothing matters more than guarding your flag. When it comes to reading the Bible, we play this when nothing matters more than defending the Bible. This is a touchy point for a lot of Christians who feel that the Bible needs to be actively and aggressively defended against a culture who is trying to steal it from us by dismissing its relevance or truthfulness. The problem is that the point of the Bible isn’t the Bible! The point of the Bible is Jesus Christ. And Jesus doesn’t ask us to defend him (check out Peter in Matthew 26:50-54), he asks us to bear witness to what he has done for us.
5. King of the Castle
I vividly remember this one from winter recesses in elementary school, with one classmate climbing to the top of a pile of snow and shoving off anyone else who tried to get to the top. And the game always started with the declaration (by the one on top of the snow pile) “I’m the king of the castle and you’re the dirty rascals.” Some people approach the Bible with this declaration. These people will read the Bible only to make themselves feel better and more in control. Jesus witnessed this every time the religious leaders tried to challenge or question him. I especially love Jesus response to them in John 8, when the leaders tried to make themselves look like the kings of scripture, and Jesus reminded them that Scripture’s role is to humble us before God – the place where we belong. Jesus is the King of the castle!
6. Hide and Seek
Plainly put this is where we seek out the passages we love, and we hide from the ones we don’t. It’s probably the most common game we play with the Bible and sometimes without knowing it, because we simply gravitate to the passages that give us warm fuzzies. But it’s another way of guarding ourselves against the growth and change that God wants for me and you. You know that you’re playing this when you regularly read and re-read the same parts of the Bible and leave others never read (because you’ve heard about them) or read once, never to be read again (because it felt uncomfortable the first time).
Reading the Bible is not a game, since we play games so that we can be the winner. We read the Bible so that God and God’s purposes will be revealed in us. It’s to let God and God’s Kingdom win. So read the Bible. Keep reading the Bible. And let God win so his Kingdom is clearly seen in you and experienced by you.