We can all imagine a desert traveler, thirsty for water, climbing over the sand dunes, who, all of a sudden, sees an oasis just over the next sand dune. He rushes to the spot only to find another dry sand dune. What did he see before? It was a mirage. He was seeing what he wanted to see, but it was an illusion. This is an excellent parallel to the man or woman who aspires to become rich through gambling. They have their eyes fixed upon a great mirage.
It is estimated that in the United States 500 billion dollars is spent in legal gambling each year. If we were to add to that the illegal gambling, it is estimated to be one trillion dollars per year. Statistically, those who gamble the most are the poor. They are lured in by the advertising promoting the possibility of becoming rich and escaping from their poverty. Sadly, the majority of them are only driven deeper and deeper into poverty by gambling their money away. Today, gamblers make use of the internet to gamble, as well as gambling in giant casinos. They gamble away everything from hard-earned money to their welfare checks. They gamble the money in their hand and the credit from their creditors. Participation in gambling is made easy by the industry itself.
What is gambling? Isn’t it true that the general, and most broad, meaning of the word is simply to take a risk? Life is full of risks. In fact, you can’t go through one day of your life without taking some sort of risk. However, this is not what I am talking about. When I speak out against gambling, I am talking about the game of gambling in which money or possessions are betted in some game of chance. It is not a moral issue whether, or not, you put knee pads on when you bicycle in town but it may be a moral issue if you game-your-money-away in legal or illegal gambling.
Why may it be a moral issue to gamble? Does the Bible say, “You must not gamble”? Not in those emphatic words. However, there are principles that gambling violates and vices that gambling supports. Some principles that gambling violates are:
Stewardship – In God’s kingdom we do not own a thing, not even ourselves. Everything we are, and have, belongs to God. God expects a return on what He allows us to manage during our lifetime. Is gambling a responsible use of God’s money?
A spirit of contentment – God has given us so much. We are to be thankful for this. However, the spirit of gambling is one of discontentment and greed. It is actually materialism which fuels the game.
3) Responsible care for ones family – Families need the security that a wage earner brings to a home. That security and provision allows spouses and children to be fed, clothed and provided for in many ways, including educationally and in terms of medical expenses. How much will your children need for their future education? What medical conditions may your spouse develop and for which they will need expensive medical care? These are uncertain requirements. Wages are needed for families but, sadly, many families are coming up short due to the gambling habits of wage earners.
What evils does gambling support?
Organized crime – It has long been known that the criminal world is deeply involved in the gambling industry. In fact, casinos are like magnets for criminals of all sorts. Consider that since the city of Atlanta legalized gambling in 1976, the crime rate has risen 380%. Consider that the state of Colorado had to double its police force when five casinos opened. Las Vegas boasts one of the highest crime rates in America. It can be observed, again and again, that when casinos are brought into a city, prostitution, drug and violent crime quickly begin to rise. This is because the criminal world is, and has always been, deeply involved in this industry. I realize that organized crime is involved in many businesses through money laundering, and otherwise. It is impossible to prevent your involvement in it 100%, but the gambling industry has been seen to foster crime to such an extent that it should be reconsidered as a legal industry.
Addictions – Gambling is addictive. We are told that there are 2.5 million pathological gamblers in the United States. Usually when people hear the word “addiction,” they think of drugs or alcohol. Gambling is also very addictive. It does not take long before people move from experimenting with gambling, to occasional gambling, to regular gambling and then to compulsive gambling. Those in the first three stages mentioned often deny having a problem with gambling. Those in the last category can’t stop on their own.
3) Exploitation of the poorest and weakest in society – The poor have been the largest contributors to this industry. They are simply sucked in by the advertising. They will continue to be sucked in and exploited as long an this industry is permitted in our nation. Teens and the elderly are also sucked in by its advertising. Casinos are now even building children’s theme parks to desensitize children and families to gambling.
Dear reader, if you are involved in gambling, I hope that what you have read here challenges you to re-think your involvement. The chances are that you are chasing a mirage. You are being lured into giving up hard-earned money which is needed in God’s kingdom and in supporting your family. The future security of your family is being laid out on the poker table and is being fed into slot machines. Friend, God has blessed us and we have much to be content with. God has given us funds to provide for our families, for their security, for their education and for their health. Greed and materialism is the motivation for gambling and the gambling wealth that you are looking for is just a mirage. Your family is not the only one who would like to use your resources. The criminal world wants your money, also. They have white-washed something dark and sleazy and now the advertising is there to lure you and your sons and daughters. Gambling may be easy at the beginning. You may have the cash, or credit, to get involved but it is addictive and hard to stop. Friend, please reconsider your participation in gambling.
MacArthur, John Jr. So What Is Wrong With Gambling? Grace To You, Audio Tape 1997.
Scalise, Dr. Eric. Courageous Living : Understanding Addictions. 2009 American Association of Christian Counsellors, Inc. DVD