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“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.” (1 Timothy 6:6-7)

Conceiving a life full of money, wealth, and power in the midst of the Great Depression – an unemployed electrical engineer by the name of Charles B. Darrow developed his version of a board game involving the buying and selling of land and the expansion of that land. Using playing pieces named after locations around his home in Atlantic City, New Jersey – Darrow introduced MONOPOLY® on March 7, 1933.  After showing a draft to Parker Brothers who rejected his design, Darrow decided to release the game on his own, but he was unable to keep up with production due to increasing demand for its popularity. He once again contacted representatives of Parker Brothers who turned Monopoly into a household name, as it soon became the best-selling game in America. It has been distributed to countries all over the world and has been translated into dozens of languages. Over the years, the most expensive version was made from 18-karat gold estimated to be worth roughly $2 million, and the world’s largest permanent outdoor Monopoly board is 30-foot square, made from granite, and located in San Jose, California. How fascinating that a game about living the high life as a financier would be introduced at a time when the country was trying to rebound from its worst economic depression and continue to have relevance today.

As we develop the skill-set of playing games as children, we sometimes learn valuable life lessons as well. Author and Pastor John Ortberg tells the story of playing Monopoly with his grandmother at an early age. He described the manner with which she maneuvered through the game as “totally ruthless.” As a little kid, his approach was always to hold on to his money. Inevitably his grandmother would buy everything she could, take his assets, and win the game. Without reservation she would always say – “One day you’ll learn to play the game.” After many hours of practice with a friend, he was determined to beat his grandmother at her own game.  When he finally did so, he thought it was a great moment. But grandma had a final word, one remaining lesson. She simply said, “None of it was really yours. You got all heated up about it for a while, but it was around a long time before you sat down at the board, and it will be here after you’re gone. Players come and players go. But it all goes back in the box.” Ortberg has written a book logically entitled – When the Game is Over. . . It All Goes Back in the Box.  It’s a profound lesson he learned from his grandmother and one he had also heard from Dr. James Dobson.

Our society often fosters the attitude that aggressive achievement is necessary to win in life and that you have to relentlessly get everything you can, while you can. Accumulate wealth, grow that résumé, build up power. Those who live out that philosophy can quickly succumb to feelings of great emptiness. Ortberg says: “You have to ask yourself: When you finally get the ultimate possession, when you’ve made the ultimate purchase, when you buy the ultimate home, when you have stored up financial security and climbed the ladder of success to the highest rung you can possibly climb it, and the thrill wears off–and it will wear off – then what?” Jesus said: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:19-21). The most valuable success for any Christian is to learn how to play the game in light of this one great truth: to consider what will matter a lot and what’s not so important in light of eternity.  Make sure that your heart is right with God, and all else will follow. “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you” (1 John 2:15). We can expend a lot of energy and time gathering things that merely go back in the box when the game of this earthly journey is over. We must realize that our ultimate goal is to become rich toward God and that accumulation of stuff is only an exercise in futility.

REFLECTION: Have there been times when you wished that your accomplishments could remain as a permanent memorial of your greatness? What might a life that is rich toward God look like? As you consider your life — where you have been, where you are today, where you’d like to be, and what you’d like to do tomorrow — what is it you are trying to win and how are you setting the strategy as you determine that successful conclusion?


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