Girl, Please Don't Pokemon Go!
There is a park near me that I walk and run in almost daily. Usually, there are about a dozen people there, although on the nice days it will get crowded. But this last week, there are people everywhere. And they're all on their phones or congregating in groups... and still on their phones.
Y'all, I don't know if you've downloaded the game Pokemon Go yet, but can we talk about it just for a few minutes?
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. -Romans 12:2
The enemy is clever. He knows just where to get us, and technology has made it so much easier for him to get into our hearts and lives. Between television and movies to social media, we are constantly bombarded my images of this world: how we should live, what we should wear and how we should spend our time.
American teenagers spend an average of about nine hours of entertainment media use, excluding time spent at school or for homework. Only 6 percent of teens don't use any screen media. Mobile devices, as of 2015, accounted for 41 percent of all screen time among tweens and 46 percent among teens.
But it's not only teenagers. Adult spend nearly half their day staring at a screen (approximately 10 hours and 39 minutes per day). And that was before Pokemon Go was released a week ago. Since then, the game gets approximately 9.5 million active users per day.
Friends, let me tell you this: a game that adds $9 billion to a company's market cap in one week by having people catch little creatures like a glorified Easter egg hunt is not selling you Jesus or anything edifying.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. -1 Peter 5:8
You might say that's it just a harmless game - a little bit of fun or a way to relax. But don't be fooled, if something is labeled as "harmless" or "free," it's most likely not either one of those things. It's like buying crackers that are "fat-free" - any nutritionist will tell you not to buy the crackers if you're trying to be healthy because the ingredients are usually a mix of preservatives that will harm your health more than any fat-laden product.
The game might be "free" but all the numbered hours and minutes of your life were bought and paid for with a price - the son of God crucified (John 11:25, John 3:16). You pay with your time and your mind. That screen entices you and keeps you back from pursuing the greater things God has for us. And if you're full of this world, you have a deaf ear to the Gospel.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. -Matthew 7:15-20 (see also 2 Corinthians 11:14)
The devil may walk around like a roaring lion, but he also knows how to sneak in and trick you in ways that look harmless. He can take a "harmless" game and drain away all your time and attention. He can take a yellow bug with eyes or a purple little bug and plant all sorts of toxic seeds in your heart. The world can call it a game but God calls it a spiritual war (Ephesians 6:12).
Because those eyes of yours? They are truly the windows to your soul. They are the gate and the access point for all sorts of information and influence.
I will set nothing wicked before my eyes, I hate the work of those who fall away. It shall not cling to me. -Psalm 100:3
But we will not allow Satan to take advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). Because we know that our eyes are incredibly vulnerable; what we see is what we are:
The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eyes is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light. -Luke 11:34-36
As a generation of royal daughters, we must walk as children of light, finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. We cannot have any fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather we are called to expose them (Ephesians 5:8-14). Let us walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).
You might question how this game is darkness. The original Pokemon characters were partially inspired by bugs, but also by Japanese mythology and animist religious history. Shintoism, Japan's oldest religion, teaches that the world is inhabited by thousands of kami, or gods. When made offerings of food and incense, kami bestow good luck in business, studies, and health. When disrespected, they can turn indicative. In her book Millenial Monsters, scholar Anne Allison argues that popular culture phenomenon such as Pokemon demonstrates "techno-animism," which imbues digital technologies with a spirt or a soul. But even if you don't buy this stuff, think of your time.
So, you might point out the "benefits" of the game - like that it gets people outdoors and moving around instead of sitting on a couch. Or that it encourages people to congregate together. Which is valid. But, if you haven't yet, put down your own phone one evening (I've noticed an increased presence of Pokemoner's later in the day), sit on a bench in a public park and observe. Walking with glazed eyes that are glued to your phone screen is not enjoying nature. Standing in a group in the middle of a sidewalk with everyone on their phones and the only communication is in grunts and "I got it!" is not fellowship. Chasing a little yellow creature on your phone is not walking like the wise. Because the wise believers seek the Lord and obey His commandments.
Fellow daughters of the King of Kings, we are running a race to win an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:25). That is our prize. So, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). That's the "game" we should play to win. All day, every day.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. -Hebrews 12:1-2
Have you ever wondered who this "great cloud of witnesses" is? If you read chapter 11, you'll meet a lot of those witnesses: from Moses to David. But the ones that get to me the most? The ones who were "tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection," the ones who withstood trials of mocking and scourging and of chains and imprisonment. The ones who were stoned, sawed in two, tempted, and slain with the sword. The ones who were destitute, afflicted, tormented - of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:35-38). All those people and martyrs are waiting on the rest of us believers to finish our race before they inherit the promise of an eternal kingdom (v. 39-40). They finished their race. Now it's our turn. And in light of all of that, Pokemon seems so trivial and worldly.
Because before we turn to the world for comfort, relaxation or entertainment, we must turn to the word of God. It is so easy - and maybe even automatic for most of us - to turn to Netflix, TV, Pokemon, social media, dating apps, food, or attention from the opposite gender to fill our souls and schedules. But it takes discipline to turn to the word of God each day. You might get bored after 10 minutes, and stop. Don't though.
You'll get more out of 30 minutes spent in the presence of God through prayer, Bible study or fellowship with other believers, than you will from a 30 minute walk playing Pokemon or an episode of the latest TV hit.
I recognize that some of you will read this article and disagree. Some will unfollow Tirzah and others may even leave not-so-nice comments telling me to keep my opinion to myself. But I just could not keep silent. At first, I was amused at all the people wandering like lost sheep attached to phone screens. But then my heart slowly started to break and the Spirit in me wept for every believer who has and will be entrapped by a little yellow creature on a phone screen. These words were like fire shut up in my bones. I could not hold them in.
So, before you disregard this as trivial or just some girl's opinion on the internet, will you please just take a few minutes to get on your knees and ask God what He thinks of all this? Will you compare the game against the Word of God and see if it fits in with what God tells us our lives should be filled with?
I recognize that all of this can be said for most of modern entertainment - from Pinterest to television. But today, let's start with Pokemon - because I know you are so tempted to get not hat bandwagon, if you haven't already. Tomorrow, we'll fight another battle. And fight we must, because there is a battle for the salvation of our souls going on behind the scenes. If there is even the slightest chance that this game will cost me an eternity with my holy God, I want nothing to do with it. And so shouldn't you.