Mayor of Vice City

I have always been an “old soul.” Perhaps it is the result of being raised by slightly older than average parents. Or maybe it is just the way God made me. Whether nature or nurture or both, it’s the way I’m wired. Take for example my favorite way to spend time in seventh grade. Each day after school, I would come home and head straight to my computer. Not to do homework, mind you, but to play the game Sim City. I would sit at the computer playing that game as long as my mom would let me. What is “old man” about that you may ask? Every hour I played that game, I would keep a stereo system (think boom box) at my feet with a blank cassette inside. My favorite radio station was the local oldies station KBBQ 100.7 – whenever a song came on that I really liked, I would record it to that blank tape. While other guys my age were making mixed tapes of Boyz II Men or Nirvana, I was “driving my Chevy to the levee” on “a horse with no name.”

Sure, it was fun to play sports. My neighbor would later say she always knew what season it was based on what sport my friends and I were playing in the front yard. But there was something awesome about Sim City. If you are not familiar, it is a game where you are “mayor” and attempt build a successful city. You decide where buildings are built, where to put a city park, and how to make your citizens happy with fair taxes. The most fun I had was when I gave in to using a cheat code. This particular code gave you an unlimited amount of money. An endless budget with which to build, tear down, and build again.

As adults this mindset seems tempting. While we all probably wish we had a cheat code for unlimited money, I’m talking about our perspective on blessings. James 1:17 teaches us that there is a source for our blessings. Not only did God create us, but He blesses us – like a father blesses his child. So, there is a great lesson to be learned on the sin of worshiping the created instead of the Creator (see article Preventing Idols). However, what I’m writing about today is the temptation to embrace vices in our lives. Giving in to whatever allows us to feel good when we want to, how we want to.

There is a great irony. You trust God to provide His Son Jesus as a satisfactory death on the cross. He is your substitute. You know you cannot be saved without the blood of Jesus – your faith in this provision is why you are a Christian. Yet, when it comes to your happiness, you struggle to allow this same God to provide what He knows you need when He knows it is best for you to have.

Matthew 6:8 Jesus teaches His followers to not pray like non-Christians do. Jesus calls us into a personal, intimate relationship with God the Giver of blessings. In order to be mature Christ-followers, we must commit to “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done” not just in His plans for our lives, but perhaps more importantly how and when He blesses our lives. Whenever we embrace vices – whether they are vices of food, drink, shopping, tobacco, or worse – we are declaring to God we know better than He does. We are assuming His role in our lives.

For clarity, think about that one thing you believe you have to have. That one thing that makes you feel good or experience happiness. It’s often motivated by a, “I’ve earned it” attitude or “This will be my little secret – it’s no big deal.”

Many conclude The Fall (eating the fruit in Genesis 3) was a cosmic overreaction to Adam and Eve breaking a rule. A more accurate, more mature understanding is that Adam and Even (representing all mankind) were aspiring God-likeness by committing their sin. They wanted to eat because they wanted to the god of their lives. When you declare “Oh, a little sin never hurt anyone” you are aspiring to God-likeness in your own life. Whenever you engage in an activity or a substance for self-gratification or momentary happiness, your heart condition is likely one of selfish gain and self-control rather than a grateful heart living for His blessing and His timing.

Join me in prayerfully considering which activities or substance may be a vice in your life. Whenever God identifies those, especially ask Him to forgive you of the heart attitude which motivated you to assume the role of blessing-giving – a role that He alone rightfully holds.