Monday, September 29, 2014

Should Christians Gamble?

Gambling for Fun
Barbara Henderson

Mortimer and his wife Carlotta were at a good place in their lives. They owned a very successful manufacturing business filled with contented employees who considered themselves blessed to have such generous management. Well, they didn’t exactly own the business. They still ran the business, but they had actually sold or partially ‘gave’ the business to the employees.  The employees bought them out a price much less than the company was worth. It was written into the selling contract that they could control the business until they were 95 or dead.  Not that they actually planed to run the business that long, but it seemed like a good idea to write it into the contract just in case they wanted to.  Mortimer and Carlotta actually had plans that did not include running a business.  They wanted to travel and see the world. They were never blessed with children, so they were not worrying about leaving an inheritance for their children. The people who had helped them build up the business now owned the majority of stock in the business.. They still had a very fine house on some acreage, but they planned to leave that to the church. 

Mortimer and Carlotta had been members of the same church ever since they got married more than 40 years ago. Mortimer was a deacon, and Carlotta was on every committee in the entire church. They loved the church, gave generously to charities, and were good Christian examples on almost everything. Although they enjoyed their life they were sincerely looking forward to eternity in heaven. They took their relationship with Jesus Christ seriously. That meant once they realized a sin was in their life they repented and turned from it.

They did have one small vice they considered harmless. They liked to gamble. They were both very disciplined people, so gambling for them meant taking a set amount of money, spending that much money, going to dinner, and going home in time to get a good night’s rest because they always went to church on Sunday. (There gambling night was Saturday) Mortimer and Carlotta considered the money they spent gambling as miscellaneous funds. It was a small amount of money considering their income and their net-worth.  They had been gambling for about 10 years, and they had never increased the amount of money they spent. The money spent on gambling had no effect on any part of their lives. They could’ve spent more had they gone to an expensive theater production and restaurant. For all those years they had never thought about gambling as being a sin. They enjoyed it.  They counted it as luck on the nights they won.  On the nights they lost ‘luck’ was not with them, but they had a good time anyway.

Then one day a missionary came to their church. He spoke of exploitation of the poor in the country where he worked. Goods and services were not available to the poor without paying extra money and higher rates of interest.  Even worse the missionary commented, the church was also exploiting the poor by promising them wealth if they only give more to the church. This put the church and the government run businesses in the dreadful place of exploiting the poor and helpless instead of helping them.  Mortimer and Carlotta were both appalled at the things the missionary told them.

The next week a great deal of their time was occupied thinking of exploitation of the poor. It almost seemed like their eyes were opened to see the poor where they had never seen them before. Both Mortimer and Carlotta had taken it very seriously to care for their employees during their time building up their company and running it. They firmly believed that business could balance making a profit with providing benefits and a good salary to employees. That was why they eventually sold the company to the employees. In some ways they saw their employees as the family they never had. They knew that some people would mismanage funds no matter how much money they earned. However, their employees were always paid wages that would allow them to have a level of financial stability not available to those who worked for businesses that cared only for profit.

After the missionary left Mortimer and Carlotta spent the week patting themselves on their backs for their good behavior toward their own employees. They also patted themselves on their backs for their generosity to the church. They were also happy to note that while their church always had a fund raising campaign they did not place the burden of funding the church projects on the poor of the church. Their preacher lived on a modest budget. He had even refused raises and other benefits because he thought it would not look right for a pastor to live above the majority of his church members. From their point of view they were in the clear when it came to exploiting the poor.

Their gambling night arrived.  They did start at the usual time, but they did not stop at the usual time.  This Saturday was no different except for one thing. They both kept winning far more than ever before. First the more they won the happier they were. Then they began to notice how many poor people were actually in the casino. Everywhere they looked there were people obviously far too poor to be spending money gambling. And the house was packed. 

At first Mortimer was appalled that so many people who obviously could not afford it were wasting money on gambling. ‘Carlotta,’ he said.  ‘I never noticed how many poor people were here.’  Carlotta replied, ‘neither did I.’
‘Of course we really can’t help what they do with their money.’ Said Mortimer.
‘No we can’t,’ Carlotta replied. ‘The real issue is that we are part of exploiting the poor.’
‘What are you talking about.’ Mortimer said.
‘Well, it looks like 80% of the people here gambling are poor to very poor. That means 80% of our winnings come from the poor. We are definitely taking advantage of the poor.’
‘Well I’ll be.’ Mortimer said. ‘Who’d a thunk it?’

Mortimer and Carlotta realized that gambling was participating in exploitation of the poor.  What they did about it was up to their conscience. I hope they remember that the Bible says Christians are to come out from among them and be separate.

The thing is that disciplined gambling may not be seen as a vice because the spender is not spending more than they can afford. They are not in charge of who is allowed to gamble.  If the poor want to gamble, then they have the right to do so.  If their families suffer, then it just what happens when family bread winners make wrong choices.  It is equally true however, that anyone who gambles is aiding and abetting in exploitation of the poor. In gambling the American dream of financial security through hard work and planning is replaced by ‘I want to win the lottery’.  They pray they will be ‘lucky’ the next time they pull a slot or roll the dice. 

In Gambling the gambler is trying to take what others lose.  Is it legal?  Yes it is?  Is it moral?  No, it is not.  Does God want His children to spend the money He has given them chasing ‘luck’ instead of honoring Him?  Of course not. 

By the way, who is ‘luck’?
‘Luck’ is a figment of your imagination just like mother earth.  If either luck or mother earth existed they would both be evil.  They only smile on people accidentally.  Both luck and mother earth are cruel masters.  Remember that when David faced the giant he did not ask luck to help him. He put his trust in the Almighty God of creation.

There is also the point that the apostle Paul made when he pointed out that he was free to do all things that are legal. However, he restrained himself from doing many things that are legal because he realized that some things appear as sin to younger brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul did not want to be a stumbling block to any fellow believer.  If a Christian is able to mentally distance themselves from the fact that gambling is a vice by rationalizing the evil that goes with it, they still cannot change the fact that many young Christians or people under conviction to become Christians do consider gambling a sin.  There is no way gambling can help you.  It can only hurt you and many others.

It is positively true that those who gamble their salaries away will gamble whether you gamble or not.  They will lose their money.  They will get another paycheck and gamble that away too.  But you do not have to participate in enabling them to keep their lives in the gutter. 

PS.  I want you all to know that I have never been in a Casino unless you count the airport at Las Vegas.  There was also a close call at a K-mart also in Las Vegas.  They had slot machines everywhere – including in the ladies bathroom.  I was taught not to gamble, but my real conviction came when Texas got the lottery and those scratch cards at convenience stores were everywhere.  The Convenience stores are really what opened my eyes.  I used to pick up ice for our auto repair shop every morning at a convenience store.  After the scratch tickets became available I saw the poorest of the poor buying scratch tickets early every single morning.  They were filthy, in poor health, and obviously mentally lacking in some way.  They would get to the counter, fill their coffee cup, buy tickets, and go back to sit down.  Then they scratched off their tickets, and went back to buy more.  I don’t know if the laws have changed, but the clerks should be able to refuse to sell more tickets after a certain amount.  At a different convenience store one evening I was paying for gas.  There was a woman with a car that was broken down and in need of major repair sitting in the parking lot with her hood up.  She was trying to borrow money to ‘get her car fixed’.  Some people gave her money.  She immediately went in and bought scratch tickets because she needed more money to actually get the car fixed.  The clerk begged her to stop.  She threatened to call the police if the clerk refused to sell her tickets.  It was horrible to watch.  We saw things like that all the time. I mean – where else can you get gas except at a convenience store?

As our economy shrinks and times get harder for everyone, I look to see the gambling industry grow – because people will become desperate as they see their chances of becoming ‘rich’ grow slimmer and slimmer.  Don’t encourage them by joining them.  They need help.  They-need to know Jesus Christ.  We all need to rely on the directions and promise in Psalm 37:3-5 which says:  
3Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Gambling is trusting to ‘luck’ instead of trusting in the sure promises of Jesus Christ.


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