Do you play chess? Are you in the ranks of the great masters of the back row, or do you feel far removed from the “royalty” of chess legend—really not much more than a pawn (most of the time) in someone else’s game? Although some consider chess a bit too competitive and “offensive” for the pacifist, and others may think its intricacy and time-consuming nature tedious, there are some parallels between this not-so-simple game and the all-too-real game of life.
Life can be like a good chess game. It is complicated, it takes planning and organization—and it often seems to take a long time to get anywhere. You must balance your priorities—pawns are easy to sacrifice, but do you really want to move that bishop there? The rules are strict, and cheating can cost you the game entirely. You must know your opponent, and you need to pay attention! It is all or nothing.
But is that all there is—anything goes, winner take all? Or, is there “a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31) if we have the eyes to see it?
God says there is, and that—just as there is a mixture of good and evil in many matters pertaining to this life—there are right and wrong aspects of “the game.”
The Christian life can be complicated, too—there are many challenges for those who follow God’s ways—but at the same time, it can be very simple. It has rules, too, of course, but the bottom line is to trust and obey God.
Of course the stakes are high, and Christians have a very real opponent in Satan, who loves to see them fail. In fact, he pulls out all the stops, and can put his victims in some very precarious positions if they do not keep an eye on his moves. Consider that, when you play the game of life like you play the game of chess—by the world’s rules, Satan’s world, that is (2 Corinthians 4:4)—you are at the mercy of your opponent, and your opponent in this case is far more wily than any Gary Kasparov or Deep Blue.
However, God has given us the ultimate “guidebook” to rise above those rules. It is called the Bible, and it teaches moves that will let us win the real game—and eternal life (Matthew 19:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 6:10-18). What does it matter if we win a few tactical victories in this life, yet still lose everything in the end? (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25). After all, “you can’t take it with you”—as the old saying goes. Pawn or King, Bishop or Queen, death is the ultimate equalizer (Ecclesiastes 2:12-16; 3:18-20).
In Christian life, unlike chess, we do not make sacrifices only for our own personal gain. A higher purpose drives everything we do (Matthew 5:45-47; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). The ends do not justify the means, and the attitude—the character—we build along the way is just as important as the end result (Romans 12:2; James 1:4). Desiring the “best gifts”—even in the Christian walk of life—is not wrong in and of itself (1 Corinthians 12; 1 Timothy 3:1), but the ultimate goal must be to give, not to get. On our own, we cannot defeat that ultimate opponent, Satan. In fact, our battle is against “self”—our internal, carnal drive to crush the competition (an urge leading to hatred and other wrong attitudes)—as well as against the external “adversary” (1 Peter 5:7-9).
Thankfully, with God’s help, we can overcome the temptation to make our moves out of selfishness and vanity and pride. By repenting of our sins, accepting baptism and learning to walk in obedience to our Savior, Jesus Christ can teach us a whole new game—and prepare us to assist Him in teaching it to the whole world in the soon-coming Kingdom of God.