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Steve West: How to really win at Monopoly


WORLD Radio - Steve West: How to really win at Monopoly

The classic board game offers lessons in grace, humility, and fallen human nature


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, September 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Up next: game night.

Nick, whether you admit it or not, you’ve probably enjoyed the feeling of passing GO on the Monopoly board and collecting $200 buckaroos.

EICHER: Not as much as the feeling of someone else landing on Boardwalk with my hotel on it. That’s 2-thousand ducats right there!

BROWN: Ok, so you’re pretty competitive, but Commentator Steve West says there are deeper things at stake in the family board game.

STEVE WEST, COMMENTATOR: You can learn a lot about human nature playing Monopoly. During our last Christmas break together, our family of four played the game for five nights straight–and lived to tell about it.

I follow a simple strategy in the game. I buy everything I land on, even if I have to mortgage other properties in order to do so. If you play it safe, you'll end up with no property and no opportunity to make the big bucks. This highly leveraged approach doesn't always work out. It may make me a winner or bankrupt me early in the game. In all this, I behave quite contrary to my real-life, risk-averse self. I am a lawyer, after all; it's my business to manage risk.

On our second game night, my daughter went into the game vowing to "whup us," a cocky capitalist. Yet when the bubble burst, you have never seen such a deflated investor. My son adopted my "always buy" strategy and soon ended up bankrupt. My wife was content with the modest rent off two properties she liked, steadily amassing cash, bit by bit, prizing liquidity rather than hard assets.

At one point, when both my son and I were losing to my daughter, we considered the benefits of communism. We didn't enjoy being on the short end of this kind of capitalist system, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But we got over it. We ate a warm chocolate chip cookie and returned to the game.

In the end, Monopoly has some great moral lessons. If you're gifted and talented and usually have things fall in your lap, it reminds you that you will lose or fail at some point. You may develop an empathy for people whose lives are strung together by losses and can't seem to get ahead no matter what.

And then there's the proverbial "pride goes before a fall." One day you're up, hotels on Broadway and Park Place, and the next game you're busted, holding ten mortgaged properties and $18 of cash. We're all just a step away from bankruptcy, financially and perhaps morally. “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation,” as it says in James 1:9.

And then there’s those beautiful moments when you land on Free Parking and grab all the accumulated cash, or pass go and collect $200 for no reason at all. Winning is sheer grace in Monopoly and not so much a reflection of your skill. So it is with life.

But here's the best thing: At game end, no matter who wins or loses, we put the deeds and money away, fold up the board, look up, and are still loved by each other, no matter how cocky we were in winning, how pitiful we were in losing, or what we said in the heat of competition.

We get on with the most important things in life—like loving each other, no matter what.

Pass the cookies, will you?

I’m Steve West.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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