This post is part of the weekly series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
image: An image of the board game Monopoly shows brightly colored game pieces on brightly colored squares with chance cards and fake money in the center.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Luke: 16:13)
From the Parable of the Shrewd Manager- Luke 16:1-13
The game of Monopoly can be vicious.
During my college days, my group of friends and I didn’t have much money, so when the weekend rolled around, we had to find cheap and affordable forms of entertainment. “Game Nights,” where we spent the entire evening in the lobby of our residence hall playing board games, quickly became a weekly tradition.
We enjoyed playing many games, and often our games could become quite competitive. Some of our favorites were Risk, Sorry, and Apples to Apples, but Monopoly was the most intense. We took our Monopoly playing very seriously. At a certain point, our group of friends had a huge falling out over a game of Monopoly.
It seemed so serious at the time. That particular evening, the game started out in good fun, but by the time we were halfway through, tensions were running high. I owned Indiana Avenue and Bob wanted to buy it. I refused to sell it to him.
Bob’s voice was raised in frustration. “Come on, Beckie! Why won’t you sell me Indiana Avenue?”
I raised my voice in return. “Why do you always have to be right? You act as if you have to win at every game- It’s infuriating! I’ll never sell you Indiana Avenue!”
“If you don’t, you’ll go bankrupt!”
“Fine!” I said, “Then I’ll go bankrupt. I would rather go bankrupt than sell it to you. You’re such a sore loser.”
“I’m a sore loser? Well let me tell you what I think about you!”
What had started out in good fun had quickly devlolved into chaos, arguing, and injured feelings. Our group of friends quickly chose sides. There was yelling, the throwing of paper of paper money, and someone upended the game board. Tiny hotels and houses were strewn across the table.
The game of Monopoly seemed so serious at the time.
Looking back, it all seems so silly. How could we have all taken a game of Monopoly so seriously? At the time, the game seemed so important that we were willing to sacrifice our friendship over it. I never did sell him Indiana Avenue and Bob didn’t speak to the rest of us for weeks. When we finally did manage to mend our friendship, we all vowed to never play Monopoly together again. We even developed a slogan, “Monopoly ruins lives,” and joked half seriously about having it printed on T-shirts.
Even though it was only a game- and even though it was only pretend money- we had allowed ourselves to confuse the game with the reality of life. We allowed the fake money to become the most important thing. It became even more important than our friendship and our love for one another. The idol of fake monopoly money had become for us a false god.
I can’t help but wonder- when our heavenly father looks down on us as we squabble over wealth and material goods in this life, do we seem like children fighting over a game of Monopoly? As Jim Somerville from A Sermon for Every Sunday points out in his sermon, “Monopoly Money,” when one child gloats over piles of monopoly money and another child weeps because they have nothing, how does that make God, our loving parent, feel?
Money matters, but not as much as we think.
I won’t say that money is not important. In my personal opinion, I believe only people who have never known the ache of hunger of the fear of homelessness can say that money money doesn’t matter. Money does matter. It pays our bills, helps to keep us fed, and provides a safe place for us to live. In my own life, money allows me to afford the expensive medical care that preserves the vestiges of my vision.
Money does matter- but it is NOT the most important thing. It is easy to get caught up in the game of life. It is easy to think that the game of Monopoly is all there is and that whoever dies with the most hotels and property at the end wins. It is easy to believe that we are only worth what we own.
Jesus frees us from the endless, pointless game of real life Monopoly. He tells us quite clearly in Luke, “No one can serve two masters… You cannot serve both God and money.”
Christ forgives our debts.
No matter how important the game seems to us, our lives are only a moment in the grand scheme of eternity. The joy in this passage is the fact that Christ knew and understood our suffering. Christ knew what it was too be hungry and thirsty, he experienced the sorrow of losing a friend, and at last to die a brutal and painful death upon the cross. Even though Christ knew what it was to be both fully human and fully divine, he never allowed the Monopoly game of life to become the most important thing. He never worshipped the false idol of money, instead saying, “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17).”
Christ was sent to forgive all of our debts. Some translations of the Lord’s prayer read, “Please forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This week, I am inspired and encouraged by a Savior who forgives my sins and my mistakes. There is forgiveness for all of our sins and all of our debts if only we trust in the Lord.
May we forgive others as Christ has forgiven us-
And may we always remember that there is more to life than Monopoly.
Until Next Week,
A special thanks to Jim Somerville from A Sermon for Every Sunday. His sermon, “Monopoly Money (2007),” was invaluable to me as I worked to understand the parable of the Shrewd Manager from Luke 16:1-13, His sermon on this challenging parable provided me with the overarching metaphor for my own sermon on this text. His words deeply touched my heart and helped me to come to a better understanding of the words of Jesus.
Right now I’m reading Homer’s Odyssey. I’m so excited about this new translation because it is the first translation of The Odyssey into English that was ever done by a woman. Emily Watson does an excellent job and I highly recommend it.
This post is part of the series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
Now, it’s your turn! What Scripture verse is inspiring you this week? Let me know in the comments below!
Thursdays are always a really long day of the week for me. As a pastor, Sunday feels like the natural beginning of my week. By the time I get to Thursday, I am tired and drained. That’s why I’m excited to join with a group of blogging friends in order to offer you a weekly devotional which will be posted every Thursday.
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