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Reaping the Fruit of Gambling
Dr. C. Van Dam
State organized gambling has been with us since 1969 when it became legal and provincial finances can no longer be imagined without those easy dollars from state lotteries and gambling casinos. Although there were publicly expressed qualms originally, not much of that is heard nowadays. There appears to be little political resolve to hinder the procreative abilities of this golden goose of gambling income in any way. More casinos continue to be built and the hawking of lottery tickets continues as shamelessly as ever. The public seems most obliging to help fill cash strapped government coffers this way. So, why not continue?
There is however a very high price that will someday need to be paid for promoting gambling. A Nova Scotia expert has been quoted in the secular press to the effect that the tremendous growth of gambling combined with an increased reliance by governments on the revenue gambling generates sets the stage for a catastrophic calamity for the next generation. He sees the next generation entrapped "in an illusionary world of almost virtual reality wherein everything is a game and every game may be won or lost. The game and the play have a price. Are we willing to pay for it?" (1) Research has shown that it is especially youth that are becoming addicted to gambling. These youth are the first to grow up in a time of statesponsored gambling which is socially acceptable. This means, for example, that their perspective on life is different from that of an earlier generation. The work ethic used to be generally accepted. In the 1960s nearly 60 % believed in it. Now only one of three believe that hard work pays off., What will happen to this generation who are being taught to dream for an impossible lottery win and who are thus not being equipped for the real world? More and more experts are raising the alarm of the unpaid bills of gambling addiction that will be exacted from society in the future.
There are other related grim fruits of the lottery harvest that are now already being reaped. Lottery promotes coveting and desire for something that normally would not enter one's mind to wish for. The more seriously one takes the lottery, the more frustrating not winning becomes. Considering the chances of winning are typically somewhere in the range of 14 million to one, there are many people out there who are or could be generally dissatisfied with life. Many of these people will nevertheless continue to pump an untold number of dollars which they can ill afford into the dream they long for. Ultimately, the resulting shortage of money and even poverty leads to tremendous pressures and conflicts which can destroy entire families and lead to devastation of all involved. Investigations have shown that families will support rehabilitation for an addiction like alcoholism. But when a family has been financially ruined, the response of those affected is very negative and there is little support for rehabilitation. (2)
The grim fruits of gambling should come as no surprise for those whose guide for life is the Word of God. Gambling is sin for a number of reasons.
In the first place, God has taught us not to long for and gather possessions in this way. We are to use the gifts God has entrusted to us, our health, opportunities for education and work, and our material goods as faithful stewards (cf., e.g., 1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:12). Not squandering for a dream, but using our resources wisely and productively. In the parable of the ten talents, one servant receives one talent. In our context, a detail is noteworthy in the account of this story as such. Even though this servant did not recklessly squander or spend the one talent, but buried it in the ground for safekeeping, he was punished for at least not working with the money productively by depositing it with bankers for interest (Matt. 25:24-30).
Secondly, as Christians we know that not chance, but God, our heavenly Father, governs all things. Not even a hair can fall from our heads without the will of our heavenly Father. (Think of Lord's Day 1, 9, 10 and 13.) Now an unbeliever has no difficulty with playing lotteries for he believes chance governs all things. But how can a child of God play a lottery, or for that matter participate in a raffle with the fervent hope and wish that he win? A believer knows that God directs the lot (Prov. 16:33). (3) For this reason, it is a grievous affront to God to try to use His directing of the lot to attempt to gain money or a prize at someone else's expense. Such behaviour easily becomes addictive and desire feeds desire in violation of the tenth commandment. This kind of lifestyle can only reap the fruit of eventual estrangement from God. One cannot attempt to use God's control of all things for selfish materialistic motives with impunity. There is a price, a penalty for not honouring God as GOD. The wages of sin is death. The essence of this punishment is estrangement from the God of life.
To oppose the gambling ethos of our day, we need to start at home, re-examine our own attitudes to this evil and renew our wholehearted commitment to a lifestyle that is in accordance with what God has revealed about Himself and His controlling also "chance." Such examination is necessary for it could be that before we know it we become influenced by the godless world of materialism around us and see nothing wrong with lotteries and raffles.
We also have an obligation to let those in authority over us know that it is immoral to promote gambling. Governments cannot absolve themselves of responsibility by factoring rehabilitation of compulsive gamblers into the cost of casinos. The end (getting easy money) does not justify the means (more gambling casinos).
(1) The Globe and Mail, Sept. 19, 1995.
(2) Christianity Today, April 8, 1996, p. 12.
(3) God used the casting of lots to divide the inheritance of Canaan among the tribes (josh. 18:10), to designate Israel's first king (1 Sam. 10:20-21, 24), and to arrange the priestly service in the temple (1 Chron. 24:5-19).