Drinking Deeply

Friday, December 05, 2008 at 9:07 PM

Game Theory

Jesus tells an interesting parable about a dishonest manager in Luke 1

16:1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

The point of the parable (at least, as I understand it), is that the wicked know to use wealth that perishes to make wealth that lasts. If they are so wise, we should also be wise. In our dealings with the world, we ought to realize that the wealth on this earth is fleeting and will perish. Instead of trying to maximize this type of wealth, we should use it to purchase an eternal dwelling place by seeking the Kingdom of God.

I realized the last week at how this parable applies to recreational games.

(Short interjection - Those who know me in real life and actually have played some games with me probably know I'm a competitive guy when it comes to thinking games. I do a lot of outside thinking and often even outside reading if I come across a game I am particularly interested in. I push small edges and almost always play to win. Along the same line of thought, I generally don't like games of chance, (anyone can win) or games of physical prowess (except for Ultimate Frisbee, the math-teamer's game). I love card games (Bridge, Spades, Magic the Gathering) and have put in enough thought to be fairly good at them.

As I enjoy the act of playing games and I enjoy playing competitively, generally I'm ok with losing to a better player. But I'm less happy losing to a worse player, or winning against a person who doesn't really put that much thought into the game. "They could at least just think for a moment," I tend to think to myself. Obviously this is an area where I kind of need to grow.)

Recently, I had a particularly lously game of spades. The cards fell just right and I pushed the edges just enough that after a few hands me and my partner were well ahead and one of the opponents decided to quit. She had a few choice words about the whole circumstance which were very insightful (she apologized later, but she needn't have), but it got me thinking later on after the game was well over.

The above parable came to mind. If the intent of this parable is to remind us that we ought to use worldly treasure to purchase eternal dwellings, I think we can use the same idea (in an even more obvious way) to apply to games. Winning certainly gives us a thrill and a nice memory, especially if it was a particularly close contest or we had invested a great amount of effort into it. Yet on the last day, whether we win or lose in a particular game really won't matter. No amount of money we accumulate in Monopoly, nor points aquired in Spades, kills scored in Counterstrike will count for anything in eternity. Someone will not decide to repent and believe in Christ because you gave them a trouncing in spades.

Rather, we can decide to use a fake wealth to amass friends instead of enemies. Not everyone is out to play as competitively as I am, they may just be there to enjoy the game and the conversation. I don't have to win every game or play optimally to enjoy the time, but I can use my time and my abilities to seek after the objectives that others are playing, rather than demand everyone play by my rules. At the end of the game I may win less than I would have, but my winning won't put a bad taste in other people's mouths, which actually is a real life win, rather than just a silly game.

Yeah, so now the task is to actually put this into practice. Great.

Labels: ,

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Drop a thought