“Dear children, guard yourselves from idols.” 1John 5:21
I received a phone call while I was pastoring in Minnesota from a third grader.
“Pastor Tom, this is Taylor, and I need to talk to you.”
In all my years of ministry, I had never been called by a little kid and had rarely heard such urgency in anyone’s voice. Then his mom came on the phone to set up a time when she could bring Taylor in for a meeting. What could this possibly be about, I wondered. Has he been abused? Is he having nightmares? Why couldn’t it wait until Sunday, or why couldn’t he just talk to his parents about it?
The next day, Taylor and his mom arrived at the appointed time and he opened his heart to me. “I love a video game more than I love Jesus,” was what he finally got off his chest. “It’s what I think about in the morning when I wake up and it’s what I think about when I go to bed. I used to think about Jesus, but now it’s this game. What should I do?”
I knew I needed to be careful. His tender conscience could easily have been convinced that all video games are wrong and that he should never play one again. It also would have been easy to minimize an experience he was having, where the Holy Spirit was making him aware that nothing should be more important than God. I ended up saying something like this:
“Taylor, there’s nothing wrong with playing video games; God wants little boys to have fun and excitement. But it’s also important to keep God first, and to not have idols. Why don’t we ask God to forgive you for putting this game before Him, and then you take a time of fasting from the game. After that, you could try playing it again, and we’ll see if God doesn’t break the hold it’s having on you now.”
He thought that was great and we had a time of prayer where he poured out his young heart to Jesus and asked His forgiveness.
The Apostle John tells us to guard ourselves from idols. An idol is anything you regularly look to as a source of comfort and motivation that’s not God; something that takes God’s place. It can be a person, an addiction, money, work, looks, education, television, and yes, it could even be a video game. We need to guard ourselves from even good things that become too central in our lives.