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What is Wrong With Gambling?


At one point in my life, just a few years before I became a Christian I became addicted to card-playing. I acquired an "expertise" at picking the cards - but it was a life-controlling force that ruined my studies and forced me to spend an extra year at University. Later I was to counsel a 70 year old man who had wasted his entire life gambling and was now a shipwreck. It frightened me deeply and made me see that gambling can move from being an innocent past-time to an all consuming and idolatrous spiritual force.

Australia's attitude to gambling has undergone a not-so-subtle shift. Betting has changed from "wagering" (on two flies crawling up a wall) to "gambling" where we hope that "Lady Luck" will secure our future forever. We hope the Gold Lotto win will set us up for life with a cool million or two. We wishfully hope that the scratch-it will buy our car or pay off the mortgage. Here is a spiritual poem I wrote some time ago about our national addiction:

FALSE HOPE

False Hope! False hope!
Australia has become a land of false hope.
Land of poker machines, scratch-its and the TAB.
We are fools! We say to the bookmaker who cons us:
"You are my friend, in you do I place my hope".
We hold the lottery ticket in our hand and say:
"You are my future and in you do I trust!"
But these are streams without water, dry gullies,
clouds without rain.
Are we without sense? Do we not know that these things are deceptive?
Is it really fun to lose that which we have earned?
Even our house, our friendships and our family?
Lady Luck is no friend - she is a hypnotist with dark dreams
Who devours all who trust in her - Beware!

To rely on "Lady Luck" and "Chance" is to rely on a foreign god. A god not found in the pages of the Bible. The God we know in Jesus Christ is Jehovah Jireh - the Provider and the Providence of God is a result of His commitment to His Creation. (Matthew 6:21-33) To rely on gambling to secure the future is to deny the Providence of an Almighty God.

Gambling is interesting in that it represents one of those ethical areas that are "spiritual indicators". It is mainly lonely, spiritually empty people that become addicted to gambling and gambling becomes a form of spiritual anesthesia, a poor substitute for hope and joy.

The "gamblers lifestyle" of hard drinking, coarse jesting, greed, covetousness and sexual promiscuity is explicitly condemned in Scripture - twice:

(Ephesians 5:3-5 NKJV) But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; {4} neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. {5} For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

(Colossians 3:5-8 NKJV) Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. {6} Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, {7} in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. {8} But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.

Gamblers can be explosively angry people. The scene in the Western movies where the shoot out comes after five aces are discovered in the poker game is still around in card games today. I have seen brawls erupt over card games and "friendships" shattered over a wrongly played card. Observers say "they are taking it too seriously..". Serious gamblers experience the same outbursts of anger and uncontrollable impulses as the demon-possessed and there may be a case for saying that spiritual forces play some part in maintaining their addiction to gambling.

Did God really say...?

The Bible seldom condemns gambling and one could get the mistaken impression that gambling is OK, or at best a minor sin. Well it is and it isn't. I don't subscribe to the "thin end of the wedge" philosophy that forbids even minor amounts of alcohol, gambling or other potentially addictive behaviours.But I think gambling is inappropriate for the Christian because in its current form it is definitely serving another god - the god of Mammon. There is no purpose to gambling other than the accumulation of Mammon. Like all idolatry it rips the idolater off -promising much but delivering little. It disempowers and impoverishes those who participate in it. I do not object to being part of the office sweep on Melbourne Cup day if that is the only gambling you do. But I do object to the scratch-it bought with the groceries in the hope of paying off the mortgage one day. The amount of money is trivial - its the idolatry, the placing of hope so far outside of God that I find objectionable. Gold Lotto is both expensive and idolatrous in the extreme and I don't think casino gambling should even be considered as a possibility for a born-again believer.

Next time you walk past a poker machine look into the eyes of the person playing it. They won't see you. They are fixed. They are lost, blinded by the pursuit of Mammon. That is not where I want a saint of God to be. To be incredibly blunt - I do not think that Jesus died to produce a room full of dependent people with blank stares. The life God has planned for us is not a win at Gold Lotto plus a trip overseas.

(Luke 12:32-34 NKJV) "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. {33} "Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. {34} "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

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