It’s not bad to play the game. It’s not bad to be really good at it. It’s not bad to be Master of the Board. My grandmother taught me to play to win. But there are always more rungs to climb, more money to be made, more deals to pull off. And the danger is that we forget to ask what really matters. We race around the board with shallow relationships, frenzied schedules, preoccupied souls. Being smart or strong does not protect you from this fate. In some ways, it makes the game more dangerous, for the temporary rewards you get from playing can lull you into pretending that the game will never end.
As a student in school, I may think that the game is won by getting better grades or making first string or getting elected class president. Then comes graduation and the pressure to win at my job, to get promoted, to have enough money to feel safe, and to be able to think of myself as successful. I pass somebody up and feel pleasure. Someone passes me, and I feel a stab of pain. Always I hear this inner voice: Is it enough? Did I do good? And sometimes if I’m quiet: Does it mean anything?
Then the chase is for financial security, a well-planned retirement in an active senior community where Botox and Grecian Formula and ginko biloba and Lipitor and Viagra bring chemically induced temporary immortality.
Then one day it stops. Other people keep going. Somewhere on the board, somebody is just getting started. But for you, the game is over. Did you play wisely? We all want God, Anne Lamott writes, but left to our own devices, we seek all the worldly things—possessions, money, looks, and power—because we think they will bring us fulfillment. “But this turns out to be a joke, because they are just props, and when we check out of this life, we have to give them all back to the great prop master in the sky. They’re just on loan. They’re not ours.” They all go back in the box.
John Ortberg, When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
We have just released a new Bible Study based on John Ortberg’s Book, When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, by John Ortberg.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Chapters 1 – 2
Learn Rule #1
Be Rich Toward God
Chapters 3 – 4
Three Ways to Keep Score
Master the Inner Game
Chapters 5 – 6; Untie Your Ropes
Resign as Master of the Board
Chapters 7 – 9
No One Else Can Take Your Turn
Remember Your Stuff Isn’t Yours
Chapters 10 – 11
Play by the Rules
Fill Each Square with What Matters Most
Chapters 12 – 14
Roll the Dice
Play with Gratitude
Find Your Mission
Chapters 15, 16
Beware the Shadow Mission
Two Cheers for Competition
Chapters 17 – 19
More Will Never Be Enough
Winning Alone Is Called Losing
Be the Kind of Player People Want to Sit Next To
Chapters 20 – 21
Collect the Right Trophies
The King Has One More Move
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