Chess Sacrifice

0208. Many Moves Ahead

The game of chess in modern times is not a main focal point of culture. Once considered the pinnacle of advanced strategic thinking, the game has been relegated to merely a hobby played amongst small clubs as more faster-paced activities have taken its place. However, the fundamentals of chess can be used to explained the turmoil our culture has been experiencing in recent times.

In order to be a good chess player, you must be able to think ahead, and anticipate possible permutations your opponent may take against you. This ability to calculate not only your next move, but several moves ahead, determines a person’s ability to play chess at a high level. It is said that chess grandmasters can think up to fifteen moves ahead. A novice chess player would have no chance against an opponent that can anticipate their every move.

Unfortunately, our culture does not value this type of thinking any more. We can demonstrate this fact with another sport. If you ask the typical fan of American football what the most critical down in the game is, most will say that it is third down. The reason for this is that if your team does not convert on third down, they are forced to give the ball to their opponent. However, if you ask the best coaches what the most critical down is, they will say first down. The reason for this is that first down sets up third down. In other words, your success on first down will dictate the spectrum of plays you can call on third down. And the best offense is one that never needs to worry about third down.

Think about the decisions you make in your life on a daily basis. Is it usually in reaction to something, or is it because you are planning ahead? We eat fast food because it is convenient and cheap, not thinking about the consequences to our long-term health. Influencers make snap decisions and judgments, and post them on social media, unable to take it back if what they said was wrong, or if they had a change of heart. We live paycheck to paycheck, chasing the material wealth of the world, instead of planning for a rainy day. Politicians pass outrageous spending bills in order to buy our votes and stay in power, oblivious to the fact that it causes the very inflation we are struggling with. We could continue with many more examples, but hopefully the point has been driven home. In a culture of instant gratification, is it any wonder that no one wants to play chess anymore?

Since we live in a God-omitted culture, would it make sense that the Bible has a different way of thinking? The answer is yes. Proverbs 21:5 (CSB) sums it up quite nicely: “The plans of the diligent certainly lead to profit, but anyone who is reckless certainly becomes poor.” You see, God is the ultimate chess grandmaster, because he can see every move on the board. While we are busy simply making our next move, God, being omniscient (Proverbs 15:3), can position people and events days, weeks, years, and even decades ahead so that his plans can be fulfilled.

Let’s take the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. All his brothers wanted to do was to get rid of him because he was the favorite son, so they sold him into slavery. However, it was this one action that God would use to set into motion a chain of unlikely events. While languishing in prison, Joseph was called upon to interpret dreams had by the Pharaoh. As a result, he was put in charge of planning for a forthcoming famine as shown in the dreams. He worked hard to make sure Egypt had saved enough resources, and when the famine did occur, the people of Egypt did not suffer for they had a bountiful supply of food. Little did Joseph know that it was this exact famine that would force his family to travel to Egypt in search of food. In the end, he was able to reunite and reconcile with his family, and they would flourish in Egypt. (This would lead to another set of events planned by God, but that’s a story for another time.)

Proverbs 16:3 (CSB) tells us: “Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” If God can see infinite moves ahead, how much more fruitful would our lives be with a fraction of that type of knowledge at our disposal? And it should be obvious by now that the instant gratification thinking of this culture will not get us there. In order to be closer to God, we need to think like him. And that means being many moves ahead by playing chess, not checkers. Ponder that this week.

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