One day I was playing a video game with a friend when I accomplished some sort of goal and I was awarded a “trophy”. I never cared for these video game trophies but that day I wondered what they were even for! I don’t ever recollect receiving anything useful as a result of “winning” a trophy like an upgrade to my weapons or car. I asked my friend for his thoughts about the purpose of these trophies. His answer was simple: “Nothing! They give you reasons to gloat!” In sum, these small pictures of bronze, silver, gold and platinum-coloured trophies provide one feature: to be proud of something.
In the Christian worldivew, “pride” is deemed to be the sin that caused Satan’s downfall from being a beautiful angel named Lucifer, to the wretched, horned monster depicted in many forms of artwork. An authority on religions, including the occult, the late Dr. Walter Martin sites:
Satan’s true nature and the history of his fall from heaven can be found in Ezekiel 28:12-19. (citing Ezekiel 28:12-19) … Ezekiel is describing Satan here as the real power behind the earthly king of Tyre, a perfect example of the fact that we battle against “powers and principalities” and not against flesh and blood.[i]
God is telling the king of Tyre his fate is for the same reason that Satan suffered his fate. The king of Tyre prides himself as being equal to the divine (cf. Ezekiel 28:1a). He considers his throne to be akin to a god’s throne, (Ezekiel 28:1b). In sum, he is worthy of praise and worship. In the same way, talking about Satan in the first person, but to the king of Tyre, He states:
You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom. (Ezekiel 28:15-17)
The last sentence helps put what the apostle Paul writes into perspective. Ezekiel writes that Satan’s heart became proud on the account of his beauty and this pride in his nature corrupted his wisdom. Paul writes that when man sinned, our hearts and minds became foolish and, as a result, our ways of thinking became corrupted, (cf. Romans 1:21-22).
In contrast, there is a positive side to pride. There is nothing wrong with being proud of yourself for getting an “A” on an exam or for pushing yourself to see the twentieth kilometre in a jog or defeating the extremely hard foe in a video game. Good accomplishments deserve commending. However, visit my online Playstation profile and you’ll notice that my triumph over that big-bad-monster in Doom isn’t what is advertised; rather, what is flaunted in supersize font is the number of trophies I have collected in toto. My profile has a striking resemblance to a trophy case; but again, there is nothing wrong with being proud of your winnings and showing off the icons of your successes.
There are, however, three potential problems in the way video gaming trophies are issued and presented:
- Seeing the total number of earned trophies displayed can make it too easy to become proud, based on the number of trophies earned rather than the effort that went into winning the “Boss battle” which is represented by one trophy.
- Trophies are given away too easily. When examined, most video game trophies (I’d say roughly 95%) are for simple, tiny and irrelevant accomplishments. Therefore, displaying the total number of trophies is misleading as it could give the impression to the gamer and all who visit their profile that they are at a standard of gaming which they not (that is, they are a great gamer), (cf. Ezekiel 28:3-10).
- Receiving an award for every little thing renders moot the significance of accomplishing what is truly commendable; that is to say that making one’s bed in the morning is equal in its wonder to running to someone’s need for first aid -they are both awardable.
What message does this send? A corrupted one. Of course, most people, gamers included, know not to expect a trophy for something like showering in the morning, but one’s expectations to receive a trophy for this or that little deed in a video game may cause them to subconsciously lament when their act of “washing behind their ears” is going unrecognized. This is corrupt thinking, even if it is done so unintentionally. As such, the way trophies are issued in video games is one thing that I think aids in their addictiveness. You are lavished praise for everything you do – great for the self-esteem; horrible for the ego.
What if a Christian’s “Christian life” was displayed as a gamer’s online profile; that is, with a number indicating the total number of people they helped, Gospel tracts they handed out, Bible verses they’ve memorized, people they’ve told the Gospel to and so forth? Would that mean they are a better Christian than a Christian whose number was smaller? Simply no!
If the Christian life was displayed as a video gamer’s profile, then there should only be one oversized number representing awards for “a job well done”: One. Every deed, big and small, that a Christian does as a Christian will be represented in the reason for this one trophy and every deed will not be forgotten by the one being whose praise matters the most: God. The author of Hebrews encourages his audience to actively go back to the time when they were not pushed around by members of their un-Christian world as they represented Christ, while always remembering that God hasn’t forgotten their work during those years, (cf. Hebrews 6:10-11).
What makes someone a Christian? In the salvation sense: God’s choice to save them, (Romans 8:28-30); in the sociological sense: the one whose heart status “earns” the “Well done, good and faithful slave,” (Matthew 25:21), trophy from God. The true, God-fearing Christian who’s handed out 10,000 Bible tracts, teaches Sunday school, street preaches, serves in the church and in public in many ways is no better or worse than the true, God-fearing Christian who serves God in the one way God encourages us to act on a daily basis. The mark of a true Christian is one who represents Christ in “why” they live their life rather than what they do for Christ, (cf. Matthew 7:16). Deeds, can represent two things: 1) A true heart for the service of God or 2) a desire to earn brownie-points with God and / or man. The former will only receive recognition from God, as it is only God who know the true state of the heart, (cf. Acts 15:8). A Christian should never gloat that they have done this or done that, or they serve in this way or that way, lest their thinking become corrupt causing them to think that they are better than their brother or sister in Christ. Deeds are irrelevant in comparison to “why” they are being done. The reason for that one trophy on this hypothetical Christian’s profile is for having a heart for God. The only way to receive it is to have a heart for God, not just to look like you have one.