Is It Okay to Play Pokemon Go (And Other Disputed Matthers)?
One question where we find many Christians expressing their views is regarding the popular video game Pokemon Go. Is it okay to play Pokemon Go? Some Christians who say "no" argue that Pokemon Go is satanic, that by playing this game which involves catching virtual creatures and training them to fight, you are engaging in occult-like practices and playing games with the devil. Other Christians say it's just a game and it's no big deal. Who's right and who's wrong?
Interestingly, this issue has something to do with passage in 1 Corinthians 8.
In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul addresses a question where many Christians in his church were expressing conflicting opinions: is it okay to eat food sacrificed to idols or not (v1-4)? From Paul's answer, we can learn 3 questions to ask when determining whether you should engage in what seems like a questionable activity (whether it's eating food sacrificed to idols, playing Pokemon Go, going trick or treating, or something else):
Question 1: Ask "Does God's Word clearly and directly prohibit this activity?" If yes, then the answer's clear: don't engage in this activity (or at least don't engage in that part of the activity which is clearly prohibited by Scripture). If God's Word does not clearly and directly prohibit this activity, go to question 2.
Application: In the case of eating food sacrificed to idols, Scripture does not clearly or directly prohibit it. That's why it was such a contentious issue. The same might be said about Pokemon Go.
Question 2: Ask "What fruit is born in my life when I engage in this activity?" Just because Scripture does not prohibit it doesn't mean it's okay to engage in it. As Paul says, "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Corinthians 6:12)
So ask yourself:
- Does this activity help me fulfill God's purposes for my life or does it pull me away from God's purposes?
- Does it promote the character of Christ in my life, or does it open the door for Satan to work in my life?
- Does it set me free or does it enslave me?
- Does it renew me (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually) or does it corrupt me?
- Does it benefit my relationships with God and with people, or does it hurt them?
Application: Sometimes the answer to this question will vary depending on the person. For example, Paul himself had no problem eating food sacrificed to idols. In Paul's mind, there is only one God (v6), idols are not real "gods" (v4-5), and food is just food -- "we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do" (v8). For Paul, eating food that was sacrificed to idols was no different from eating normal food, so Paul personally had no problems engaging in this activity. Other Christians, however, had a different experience. They couldn't get over the fact that the food had been prepared for the purpose of worshiping an idol (v7). Thus they couldn't eat such food with a clear conscience and were disturbed to see other Christians eating it. For these Christians, eating food sacrificed to idols was not beneficial and thus it was best for them not to engage in this activity.
Pokemon Go players, does it truly benefit you to play this video game or does it do more harm than good?
Question 3: Ask "What impact does it have on others when I engage in this activity? Are others blessed or discouraged when I do this?" You personally may have no problems engaging in an activity, but if others see you engaging in it and are impacted in a negative way, it may be best not to engage in that activity, at least while in their presence. As Paul says, "be careful that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak" (v9).
Application: Since eating meat sacrificed to idols was becoming a stumbling block for other more sensitive Christians with a "weak conscience" (v9-11), Paul resolved that he would not eat food sacrificed to idols, at least not in their presence. In verse 13 he writes, "if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall."
For Pokemon Go players, ask yourself: what example am I setting for my brothers and sisters in Christ when I engage in this activity? What impact am I having on them?
Praise God. May God give you wisdom to know how to discern God's will for your life with every disputable activity you encounter. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in answering these 3 questions, and you'll have a better idea as to whether God wants you to be engaging in that activity or not.