There sits what could quite possibly be the softest, cutest, and most lovable stuffed animal ever to exist. You insert a couple of shiny quarters and the exciting 20-seconds countdown begins. The claw begins to move at your command. You check your angle on the prize from the front, then from each side. You meticulously adjust the claw so it lines up perfectly. Satisfied, you push the shiny red button and the claw begins to drop. Time seems to slow down as the claw inches closer to your prize. As the grabber lands directly on the adorable plush animal, your heart quickens. The claw closes its grasp. Could this be the time you go home with your prize? Then, as if it had the grip strength of a dead fish, the animal slips right through the claw’s grasp. But you dare not stop there. You almost had it! Two more quarters go in. Same result. Fifty cents more and it pulls the animal up slightly then slips out once more. After some 4-5 dollars have been placed into the fate of the metal claws, you finally decide to walk away. Empty-handed. Broken-hearted. Frustrated.
Many of us have put more money into these machines than we would like to admit. However, there is good news and bad news. The good news is, the animal you were trying to get is probably still in the machine. The bad news is, these machines are rigged.
Perhaps this isn’t too shocking, but at least now we have confirmation. A few years ago, Vox took a look at how these machines work. To summarize, the owner of the machine can program the grip strength of the claw and even make the claw drop the animal just before it reaches the prize chute. The owner will determine how much the game costs (e.g. 50 cents), how much each animal costs (about $5), and how much profit they want to make (let’s say 50%). This means the claw will grip super light about 15-20 times before it finally gives enough strength to get a prize. Of course, this will only land a price if the person did a good enough job lining it up. So, the reason we can’t ever seem to win the prize isn’t our fault. It’s because the game is rigged (Vox).
Claw machine games are frustrating because they are just unfair. This is something that we should naturally want very little of, and yet, even though we know it’s rigged, there is still something alluring about it. Maybe it’s because we like taking the chance. Maybe because it doesn’t actually cost us that much. Or many it’s because we believe that “this time” could be the time when we win.
Unfortunately, the claw machine is not the only game we play that is rigged. We often play another game with much higher stakes. In fact, the stakes are so high that we’re putting literally everything at risk – life, eternity, salvation, etc. And even though the stakes are high, we still play. Sadly, this game is also rigged. While we may receive a temporary reward, we will always lose. The game we play is called “sin.”
Why would we risk an eternity of pleasure in heaven for a moment of pleasure here? Why would we chance an eternity of pain just so we can escape temporary pain here? Why would we play this game of sin when we know the stakes?
With vivid imagery, Peter warned, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog returns to its own vomit,’ and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire’” (2:20-22).
There is nothing worth risking eternity for (Mark 8:36-37). Let’s stop playing the claw machine game of sin. True meaning and value aren’t found on this earth, even if we get a little prize from time to time. Let’s look for treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). If we do this, we will win every single time!