by Shaw, McMurry, and TAC Team

Video Gaming!

Is it a disease—a disorder? Is it compulsive? Can we use the word “addiction” for excessive video game playing?

Dr. Mark E. Shaw and CJ McMurry recently discussed these prevalent issues on TAC’s podcast and discerned for us the difference—it’s a problem of the heart.

Referencing Dr. Jay Adams, who once called video game addiction a “thought problem” because we seek pleasure when driven by the old desires in our flesh, Dr. Shaw said, in this sense, anything external can be addictive” because our hearts are the source of the problem. We search for pleasure from external sources. We seek pleasure and “rest” from the ills, problems, and toils in this world.

So if overuse of screens and video gaming is an internal problem more than an external one, that begs the question:

Is this purely a problem of biology?

Some secular thinkers overemphasize the biology in their discussions of gaming or screen “addictions” mentioning pleasure receptors and chemicals in the body. But the aspect of the spiritual component is what most of them are glaringly omitting.

Why do they neglect the spiritual reality? The answer is simple: they do not have an answer for it other than to tout a works-based, self-righteous solution of either:

  • declaring yourself to be the highest power or
  • manufacturing a higher power of what you already believe.

In either case, mankind is the higher power. But the God of the Bible tells us who we are and reveals to us Who He is and Who His Son is.

Self-Help and Step Groups for Gaming?

That’s the primary problem with a self-help approach that often involves the 12 Steps – a misunderstanding of who we are as created human beings meant to worship and serve the Creator rather than serve ourselves with the pleasures this world offers.

Would self-help approaches and books help this population of people who spend 7, 8, 10 or even 12 hours on their screens and games? The only answer offered is to work the steps and acquire a spiritual awakening (see step 12) while remaining “sober” from screens and other temptations. ‘Any higher power will do’ in those programs which are not Christ-only or Christ exalting.

Christ is just another ‘god’ in the 12-step program, but we believe the Bible is true in that the Lord Jesus Christ is the One True God. Only One God will solve the internal problem of sinful, selfish desires because He offers forgiveness of sins by grace through faith as a free gift, not by works of righteousness which we have done.

Why are we susceptible to overuse of screens?

The answer is simply that we are born with a selfish, sinful nature that can only be remedied by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through a redemptive relationship with Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 4:11 instructs believers how to enter into the real “rest” we are seeking:

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 

In other words, God provides His type of rest when you trust in Him alone. Seek out His rest in His way and in His Son alone. Seeking other types of so-called rest come only from disobedience. Screens provide a worldly rest that seems like a break from the reality of sin, suffering, disease, and pain. But it falls short and leaves you alone and empty. Your Heavenly Father is inviting you to so much more than a temporary amusement! It’s not a sin to use screens but when you turn to screens instead of turning to Christ, then it can become sinful.

Where do you find rest? In Christ alone? So many are striving with the cares of this world and weighed down by the sins of others (i.e. suffering) and their own sinful choices that they turn to a cheap substitute for rest.

Addictive choices provide alternative ways of escape for people to forget about what was done to them (i.e. suffering) and what was done by them (i.e. sinful choices). Forgetting it, if only for a short period of time, by being distracted by screens or drug usage or whatever pleasurable activity seems like a suitable alternative though its way will end in death.

How do I know if I’m hooked?

Most websites and professionals would offer you some sort of questionnaire to gauge your use of screens or gaming time in order to help you find out whether your use has become problematic. But can you really trust yourself to self-assess the extent of your problem with screens?

Self-assessment tools to determine whether or not you have a problem of video gaming or screen addiction are unsound according to God’s Word because we are told that we can and do deceive ourselves. These tools in which we rank ourselves are obviously flawed by what we want the outcome to be… if we want to score high, we will lean toward the higher answers, and vice versa.

hope & help video game addiction booklet

Helpful booklet by Mark Shaw for internet and gaming addiction

What is the Christian answer for Gaming “Addiction”?

The Bible is the self-assessment tool for an accurate depiction of our motives and actions (Heb. 4:12-13). A relationship with a disciple-maker from your local church who gets to know you will yield a more helpful outcome than just outward behavioral change. The answer is more than just moderation in all things.

Many experts agree that moderation is needed in dealing with screens because we will be dealing with them for the rest of our lives in this day and age. They say that understanding what they call
“the science” (or biology) behind how and why we become addicted to screens can help you overcome it. But our message takes it further by bringing the motivation toward bringing glory to God with our lives and our time here on earth.

We emphasize a heart motivation that wants to please and glorify God, which can be the best eternal motivator for using our time wisely and loving others.

Hungering for Rest

Video gaming overuse is a spiritual issue stemming from a heart seeking rest. We believe the “heart” in the Bible refers to the core of who we are, our desires and passions toward what we want. Wanting rest is a good thing but attempting to find it in anything other than Jesus Christ is severely lacking.

The Solution

The solution for this spiritual problem of video gaming overuse is found in our Lord Jesus Christ who has paid the debt for our sins.

The solution for the empty false “relationships” that occur on a screen are real life relationships that center around fellowship with other Christians in our life.

Our approach to addiction is different because we have a different description, a different cause, and a far superior remedy. This is God’s approach. We believe video gaming and screen addictions are problems that start and end at the thought level.

Going to the Scriptures we will lovingly call users back to what the Bible calls it: living a life of idolatry of self.

We don’t put people into a stigmatizing group that has you identified by your choices! We don’t call them “game addicts” or give them a disorder label. We give people who struggle with how to spend their time to the glory of God good news—they can be free and live a life of pleasure in serving and loving their creator more than the creation or any experiences on this planet earth.

The good news that your spiritual heart (not your brain) is the problem, and the forgiveness from God that comes through trusting Christ is the most life-giving exciting message of all.

Mark E. Shaw, D.Min., CABC, ACBC, IABC, CADAC II, is a biblical counselor, ordained minister, speaker, and author of over 26 books and booklets of hope and help. Dr. Shaw has been involved in counseling since the early 90’s. He served in residential care and medication assisted treatment centers (methadone), but Biblical Counseling became his passion in 2001.

Dr. Shaw’s resources are found at Focus Publishing for discounted purchase in bulk quantities, or at

As well as being the Midwest Regional Director, C.J. McMurry serves on TAC’s Board of Directors, and is a Commissioned Addictions Biblical Counselor (CABC). C.J. and his wife Misty have been blessed with 6 children and 3 grandchildren. He currently serves as an elder at Redeemer Church in Winterset, Iowa, and leads the evangelism/outreach ministries. He is also the founder and program director of The Refuge ( (A men’s residential addiction program listed on TAC’s network of recommended programs). C.J.’s heart and passion is to see more and more people come to know Jesus Christ and to be transformed by God’s Word and the work of The Holy Spirit.

The Addiction Connection is Here for You!

The Addiction Connection is a network of ministries who offer the hope of transformed lives through Jesus Christ for anyone struggling with addiction of any kind. Our network of encouraging resources, ministries, and biblical programs that stretch across America and the world will always point people to Jesus Christ and the Word of God for answers. 

Launch an Outreach Today

Do you want to start a Biblical outreach to those in addiction? Check out this disciple-making curriculum for those in addiction entitled Next Steps: Be TRANSFORMED.

Your church can reach out to families of those in addiction using this 12-week curriculum Family Help for Addiction: A Care Group Study

Need Help?

The Addiction Connection offers hope and healing to those struggling with addiction. Start your search for  biblical programs here.

Consider contacting one of our Commissioned Addictions Biblical Counselors who are available to help you.

Residential Programs for addiction that we recommend.

Non-residential Programs (weekly addiction meetings) that we recommend.

  • Looking for biblical addiction counseling training? Find out about our Commissioning Program HERE.
  • Are you a leader who wants to help those who are addicted? Check out this disciple-making curriculum we created just for you entitled Next Steps: Be TRANSFORMED.
  • Looking for addiction resources, courses, curriculum? Find out more HERE.
  • Are you more of a podcast-listener-while-you-get-things-done? The Addiction Connection Podcast is just for you!