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Monopoly - All for Me

The board game that encourages us to be selfish

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To explore how much we put our own interests before those of others (SEAL theme: Social skills).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and four readers.

  • Have available an image of a Monopoly board and the means to display it during the assembly.

  • Familiarize yourself with the Bible story in the passage Luke 12.16-21, which is when Jesus told the parable of the rich fool.

  • Have available the song 'Money, money, money' by Abba and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.

Assembly

Leader: Show the image of a Monopoly board.

This must be one of the most popular board games of all time. It’s the one that grandparents produce when the family comes to visit at Christmas. It’s the game for rainy holiday days. It can be played on the table, online on your laptop or even as an app on your phone. 

Monopoly was first launched by Parker Brothers on 5 November 1935, which is 80 years ago. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the game, it goes like this.

Reader 1: Each player travels round the board in turn, using a dice to decide how many squares to move each time.

Reader 2: When a player lands on a property square for the first time, he or she can buy that property. In the original game these have the names of roads and stations in London, but there are also special editions, featuring places in the film Star Wars, for example.

Reader 1: If anyone else subsequently lands on that square, the owner can charge rent.

Reader 2: Players try to own as many squares as they can, so they can charge lots of rent to the other players.

Reader 1: It’s also possible to raise the rent on a square by buying houses and hotels for them.

Reader 2: In short, the object is to make loads of money for yourself and make every other player very poor, even bankrupt. That’s when you become the winner.

Leader: Hold on a minute. That doesn’t seem a very fair set of values on which to base a game. You’re saying that Monopoly encourages players to become landlords, each with the single intention of driving everyone else into poverty. That’s scarcely the frame of mind we want to encourage. It reminds me of a story Jesus told (Luke 12.16-21).

Reader 3: There was once a farmer who had a very successful harvest.

Reader 4: He was so successful that he almost ran out of space to store the crops in his barns. So he built bigger ones.

Reader 3: The next year the harvest was even better, so he began to store it in his new barns, but he almost ran out of space again.

Reader 4: So he built the biggest barns he could - so big that he knew he’d not run short of space ever again.

Reader 3: The next year, he had the best harvest ever. He packed the grain into his barns, sat back and said:

Reader 4: I’ve got everything I need now. I’m going to retire, eat, drink and enjoy myself.

Leader: The only problem he had was that  . . .  the next day, he died.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to create a comfortable lifestyle by working hard. Financial security gives us the freedom to direct our energies into other areas of life. It’s a question of how absorbed in ourselves we become, as in Monopoly or as the man did in Jesus’ story. If all our energy is directed towards getting richer, then what sort of effect does such a narrow focus have on us and on those around us?

In actual fact, the story of Monopoly is a little more complicated than we’ve outlined. The rules of the game were first invented in 1903 by a lady called Elizabeth Magie. She wanted the game to teach people how to survive in the jungle of city life. Players could earn money by taking on tasks outlined on the board and were given advice about how to manage money and taxes, so as to avoid being sent to jail because of bad debts. By solving problems on the game board, they learned life skills.

She also provided two ways to play the game. In one, the aim was to rise up the social ladder and achieve financial success, just as in the version we play. In the other, there were opportunities to share wealth with less successful players, so nobody lost. Loans were made and paid back in times of crisis. Everyone was a winner.

Time for reflection

Most of you have the ambition to succeed - to own a car, a house, have holidays abroad and, eventually, enjoy a comfortable retirement.

What else do you plan to include in your success story? How about relationships, family and friends, the needs of the community in which you live, the needs of the world? Does wealth alone make us happy and contented? There are many stories that suggest it doesn't.

Monopoly is only a game, but its very name hints at the mindset it encourages. 'Mono' means one and the one in the game is always me. Maybe we could invent another game and call it Polyopoly. I’ll leave you to work out what 'Poly' means.

Prayer
Dear Lord,
Thank you for the measure of wealth given to each one of us.
Remind us that, even in this school community, there can be inequalities.
May we recognize the needs of those around us, here and in the wider world, and be willing to help meet those needs by sharing what we have.
Amen.

Music

'Money, money, money' by Abba

Publication date: November 2015   (Vol.17 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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