Life is kind of like a game. Multiple players, sometimes teams, rules, a running clock, strategy, surprises and in some sense, winners and losers. It might be better to say that games are like life, which is probably why we love them and cheer for those who play them well.
Life is a hard, complicated game we all must play. We don’t always know all the rules, and even the ones we do, we’re often all too willing to break. Of course, as the Vikings remind us, breaking the rules only makes the game harder to win.
The world is governed by various kinds of rules, from the inflexible rules of mathematics to the heartless law of gravity. But if you’re engineering a plane, and want me to fly in it, please, observe the rules. There are economic laws of supply and demand, relational laws of give and take and moral laws of right and wrong. Breaking any of them brings a certain amount of pain and trouble.
We all know people who are bad at basketball or Monopoly, but that’s OK, they’re none the worse for it. But we also all know people who are bad at life, and that’s not OK, because they’re making life hard for themselves and others. There’s nothing good about being bad at life.
We want to be good at the game of life, not throwing life away, not making self-destructive choices, not injuring those we love and who love us. A husband should want to be good at being a husband, because it creates a better life for him and his family. Same for doctors and their patients, teachers and their students and businessmen and their clients.
The biblical book of Proverbs is expressly dedicated to helping us be good at life. It’s a book of wisdom, which I define as a tool for being good at life. An unwise person is either ignorant or a fool, and both are bad at life. The ignorant doesn’t know how to live well, the fool knows but doesn’t care.
Wisdom, Proverbs says, is worth more than gold. It would be pretty awesome to be rich, still, it’s better to be wise than rich. Why? Money doesn’t fix all your problems, and it can create other ones, like being able to really feed that addiction (which happens to lots of famous people, sadly).
Proverbs helps us make good decisions, travel a good path, avoid temptations that will ruin our life. Some things are really simple, like get out of bed: “As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed” (26:14). Or, to paraphrase, don’t sleep with your neighbor’s wife if you don’t want to get your lights punched out. Simple, ancient “life hacks,” as the kids would say.
Being good at life starts here: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” If we want to be good at life, we must first acknowledge and submit to the reality and the rules of the God of the Bible. He made the place (including us), and He set the rules, so nobody can truly be good at life and simultaneously ignore Him. Follow his instruction, and you’ll be good at life.
One of the basic rules of the game of life is that life has an end; death is coming. When it does, we will meet our Maker. Literally. Part of being “good at life” is preparing for the future. There is no meaningful preparation for life after death without being right with the only person able to defeat death for you. There is no being good at life, in a true and eternal sense apart from knowing Jesus Christ, “the wisdom of God.”
Joe Reed is the associate pastor at Lewis Lake Covenant Church in Ogilvie.