Digital Dependency

By Jaime Nava

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We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. This is Luther’s explanation of the first commandment, “You shall have no other Gods.” We tend to avoid the fear part. Either we water it down by saying things like, “Well, fear just means to be reverent.” Or we take the tack of the clothing line and say we have No Fear. Fear includes reverence, sure. It also means you’re unrighteous face is down in the dirt as a sinner before a righteous and holy God. Oh, and love. Talk about something totally misunderstood today. We hear that love means toleration (I don’t tell my wife, “I tolerate you”). We hear that love means accepting someone for who they are. Love is abused as freedom. It’s not freedom. Love means slavery and limits. When a man and woman say, “I do” to each other they are saying “I don’t” to the billions of other people on the planet. Love means not accepting someone’s sins if they are going to hurt themselves or someone else, even if it makes them feel bad. Jesus showed the ultimate picture of love by limiting his abilities and dying to pay for all sin. Then there’s trust. With the number of lawyers and legal documents, I’d say trust is at an all-time low. I trust your word if it’s on paper and your name and date are on it. It’s either that, or we do the trust toss and see how far from me you land. The truth is, we trust ourselves and our stuff. Trust means letting someone else take care of it, even if it’s important. Trust in God means even if you lose your family, even if you lose your retirement, even if all else fails, you still believe God will not fail. You have broken this commandment…a lot.

We break this commandment with addiction. Addiction means we fearfully hide from the world in a bottle. It means we love ourselves first. It means we trust in substances to get us through the day. Addiction is easy to fall into, especially for gamers. The number of hours gamers pour into video games is astronomical. This is why the older generation sees the next one as lazy. Read a book, take a walk, or just go outside and recognize what the sun looks like. Why waste so much time on moving a digital dirt block out of the way? Why waste so much time capturing a point when it’s only go to flip minutes later? Why waste so much time leveling and grinding? What do you get out of it? Not only that, but the trash needs to go out. The dishes need doing. You’re not getting any thinner. When was the last time you brushed your teeth? Why do you wake up so late in the day? It makes parents want to do what the dad does in this video (which isn’t real but still funny).

All things deserve moderation. When it comes to gaming or anything that absorbs all our thoughts and time we need to repent and recognize where our true help comes from. If you are hiding from the world in video games, repent. If you would rather play video games than do your daily devotions or go to church, repent. If you think that your value comes from a high score or being well known in a gaming community, repent. If you are ignoring your family and your duties, repent. Going down that road is going to harm you and others.

Part of the recovery process for addicts is admission of guilt, admission of the problem. Another part is admitting that you can’t do it on your own. When we recognize what low-lives we are, when we actually fear God’s wrath, He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. He provides tangible gifts that are filled with His Word, water, bread and wine, and we get to trust in the power of those things.

The ultimate example of fear, love, and trust is Jesus Christ on the cross. By His power we are saved. By His strength we are made whole. By His work we are conformed to His likeness. Jesus has done so much for us addicted people. So much more than we deserve. This is why we gather together on Sunday. We’re not at church to pat ourselves on the back. We’re not there to point at others and say, “Thanks for not making me as bad off as that guy.” We gather and confess, “I a poor, miserable sinner…” to which we hear “I forgive you…” It’s why baptism, confession and absolution (especially privately), and the Lord’s Supper are ginormously important to us. In them, forgiveness is touched in real time. We gather as people who eagerly want to break our addictions by the work of the Holy Spirit.

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It doesn’t seem fair. We deserve to cry a little more. We deserve to repent a little harder. We deserve a fiery lake, and instead we are given Living Water. It’s not fair. It’s not equal. It’s called mercy for a reason. The love of God in Jesus Christ is foolishness that outsmarts our wisdom. It’s weakness that overpowers our strength.

Learn to get off the game. Go do your chores. Go love your family. In this way you show fear, love, and trust in God even if it’s not perfect. You reflect a minute fraction of what God has done for us. Peel your eyes off the game and fix your eyes on Jesus and those He wants you to serve.

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One thought on “Digital Dependency

  1. As one who, from time to time, has fallen into patterns of game addiction… let me say this is spot on. Let me also say it’s not always just a matter of laziness; there can also be elements of fear and shame co-mingled with it. They feed into one another.

    Not such an uncommon thing. Young man gets out of college, gets discouraged in his job search. Friends are already lined up with good-paying jobs, getting married and happily posting wedding photos on Facebook, and here he is, months later, jobless, single and still living at home. He hates every minute of it. Feels like his good grades don’t matter. Feels like less of a man than he ought to have been by now. Finds himself in the morass of self-loathing from which he finds it harder and harder to extricate himself. It is in these conditions something like videogame addiction can develop.

    If anyone reads this and it hits close to home — I say this not in judgment but as a fellow traveler on the road. I love videogames. Always have. And I still intend to get many hours out of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and System Shock. But don’t use videogames to escape the world. Don’t use them like an alcoholic uses drink. The effects will be just as damaging. My dear brother, there is absolution for your fear, your shame and all the sin co-mingled with it. For your own sake, please don’t shut Him out.

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