When the Game is Over - It All Goes Back in the Box by John Ortberg

Using board games as a metaphor, It All Goes Back in the Box offers practical wisdom on how to be successful in life from God’s perspective:

  • Object: being spiritually rich toward God
  • Set-Up: keeping score, taking turns, preventing regret
  • Playing: with rules, gratitude, and a mission
  • Hazards: competition, wanting more, losing 
  • Winning: collecting the right “trophies”


Ortberg’s outstanding gift of saying serious things in engaging and sometimes funny ways draws the reader into deep reflection about their life and death and what is ultimately temporal and eternal in God’s kingdom.
One example of Ortberg’s captivating communication style comes in Chapter 17 (“More Will Never Be Enough”) when he references a poll where 89% of Americans say our country is too materialistic; yet the same percentage revealed they felt they needed “more” for themselves. He recalls a quote from his grandmother: “No one ever made an itch go away by getting really good at scratching.”

Ortberg's wrting is very visual.  Although his insights and stories are excellent, Ortberg repeatedly points the reader back to God and Scripture to make his points. 

It All Goes Back in the Box would work well for both personal study and group discussion, as well as an outreach tool as Ortberg ably references popular culture (i.e. Seinfeld, Monty Python, etc.) to highlight biblical themes. 

Ortberg has succeeded in writing a powerful “life stewardship” book without calling it a stewardship book. If you were blessed by books such as Purpose Driven Life (eternal perspective on your life) and Treasure Principle (eternal perspective on your stuff), you will enjoy how Ortberg seamlessly weaves together these powerful themes. 

Things to be aware of

While It All Goes Back in the Box does a great job motivating readers to play by God’s rules, it does not necessarily offer much if any advice on how to respond when others do not follow those rules. The book would be even better if Ortberg had addressed this daily reality.

Available at Zondervan.com.