Zero-Sum Game

Remember splitting the oatmeal cream pie at school lunch? It had to be even! Otherwise, your friend would take the bigger half. Remember the top hat stopping on Boardwalk? It meant that your stack of Monopoly money was about to grow or disappear. And who hasn’t lost a few minutes of childhood trying to fly solo on a seesaw? The only way to go up is if the other end goes down.

These are all zero-sum games. The only way to advance is at the expense of something or someone else.

When we grow up, the games intensify. We no longer care who gets the biggest slice of pie when we’re trying to manage our own slices of time, money, and commitment—and there’s never enough.

There’s something ruthless about zero-sum games. They force choices. If you work 70 hours a week, you probably can’t coach Jr’s little league team. If you give your heart to a new endeavor, you’ll have to take it from where it is now. These aren’t problems to be solved, they’re tensions to be managed. They demand wisdom and sacrifice. If you don’t recognize you’re playing a zero-sum game and employ a strategy, you’ll lose in the worst ways. Your priorities will be chosen for you by the loudest voices and squeakiest wheels rather than being set by your values and God’s direction.

We desperately need God’s help in this. We need his word to light the way, his wisdom to weigh our priorities, and his strength to stick to our choices. This series of messages is about acknowledging the zero-sum games we play, and then employing a strategy that reflects God’s heart and reclaims our lives for his glory and our good.


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