We have a lot of questions coming in about video games, as you might expect. A listener named Elizabeth writes, “Pastor John, I am engaged to be married to a man who is addicted to video games. He says he wants to stop, but his life shows very little fruit, and he keeps playing games. Should I go through with the engagement or not?” How should Elizabeth think about this?
We have been here before, haven’t we? We are asked to tell women whether or not to marry somebody. I don’t take this lightly at all. I really don’t. I will give a yes or no answer to the question “Should I go through with this engagement?” But before I do, let me ask Elizabeth five questions.
Under Christ’s Authority
First, have you considered the implications of 1 Corinthians 6:12? “All things are lawful for me” — that includes video games, I think. “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” Now that word dominated (exousiazō), is one long Greek word. “I will not be dominated” is a strong statement. It means nothing will have authority over me.
“Jesus calls us not just to be forgiven, not just to profess faith, but to experience him as the one with all authority.”
It reminds us of Jesus’s final words on earth. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given me. Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18–19). That is, call people out from under every alien authority because you have my authority. They should submit to my authority because I am the strongest authority on the planet. Therefore, we can call them out of demonic oppression and horrific false religions. Nothing is to be enslaving, even the subtlest temptations of video games.
Jesus calls us not just to be forgiven, not just to profess faith, but to experience him as the one with all authority. He breaks the powers that hold us captive. It is a serious thing to be held in bondage by anything but Christ. We have all been bought by Christ’s blood for freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Christ has set us free. And we dishonor the blood-price of that liberation if we don’t experience it.
Occupation of the Mind
Second, what does the fact that your fiancé is enslaved by something as trivial and banal as games say about his elevation of mind? I use “elevation of mind” because of Colossians 3:1–2: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above [elevated], where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” In other words, the mature Christian mind is elevated. Increasingly, our minds are taken up into great, glorious, beautiful, and godlike things.
Therefore, the mind addicted to something as trivial and unimportant as games is out of touch with reality. These preoccupations are not only unimportant; they are unreal. Video games are unreal. Christ has saved our minds to be set on the most real and the most important things in the world. That is the essence of question number two: What about his elevation of mind?
Third, if your fiancé can’t control his behaviors in this area, will he be able to control them in other areas? Jesus said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10). Now, marriage is a massive commitment for a woman and a man. There is no back door. That is why the disciples were stunned at Jesus’s teaching on divorce. They said, “Well, then who should marry, for goodness’ sake?” And Jesus said, “Well, this is not given to everybody. Maybe you should not” (see Matthew 19:10–12).
“Children don’t just learn what they are told; they learn what they see.”
God gives grace to husbands and wives to deal with disappointments that always come when we discover things about our spouses that we did not know would be there. And they will. They will always be there. If they haven’t come up yet, they will. Nevertheless, be as wise as you can before you marry so you do not make a covenant with a man who gives little evidence of his ability to control himself.
Fitness to Lead
Fourth, will this man be able to lead you in the way that Ephesians 5 describes — as your head? Headship means going ahead and doing many hard things that a family needs a husband to do. Headship always involves doing hard things. That means denying immediate gratification. It means pursuing the desire of long-term joy in obedience, love, sacrifice, and helpfulness. If he cannot deny himself a video game, will he be able to deny himself things for the good of the family? Will he be able to get up from the television? Will he be able to leave his hobby in the garage? Will he be able to put his book down? Will he be able to leave his computer and lead the family in Bible reading and prayer? Or will he just be stuck?
If he does not behave as a biblical head, he will not leave his TV. He will not leave his computer. He will not leave his garage. It doesn’t matter to him whether the family is perishing in the living room or not if he has no self-denial and no self-control.
Fifth, will he be exemplary for his children? Children don’t just learn what they are told; they learn what they see. They will see what Daddy defaults to, and they will see that as his God.
So, my answer to Elizabeth is no. Unless you see some significant character growth and freedom for greater things than games, I would not move forward in that relationship.