Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

This entry is part 100 of 140 in the series Holiness Matters
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As we continue to talk about issues of holiness, the next posts deal with specific and current dangers in our culture and society. Gambling has become one of the number one vices around America. States are adding casinos like crazy.

It used to be you had to go to states like Nevada where gambling is legal in Las Vegas. The no longer. You can even use online apps to gamble on everything from athletic games to casino games.

In fact, several of the most popular ones just added casino games because everyone is stuck at home with COVID and many athletic games have been canceled for the last year. Since people couldn’t gamble on the athletic games, the apps added the ability to use casino games in their place.

Playing by the Rules

Gambling has very specific rules that make it addictive. Games need to have a draw that keeps people coming back to play them, or won’t let them go once they start.

What separates gambling from simply winning something? First, gambling offers an incentive. There’s a reason people keep playing over and over. The incentive is winning more money than you put into the game.

There’s nothing better than putting $5 toward a game and getting back $100. On the surface, anyone with half a brain would take that deal. But there’s one problem. You are not guaranteed to make that money. In fact, it’s most likely you will lose.

The incentive is like the other principles I’ve talked about with temptation. If it promises something that sounds too good to be true, it generally is. Not only is it too good to be true, but you will find yourself in debt because the deck is stacked against you.

For some people, the fact that the deck is stacked against them is also an incentive. Gambling appeals to their pride in themselves, their sense of feeling that they are specially lucky. They think that they are the only person in the universe that can reverse the statistical improbability that they’ll win. They may be right one or two times, but the other eight times they play, they will lose more than they gained.

A second rule for gambling is that chance must be involved. You gain your prize by playing the game of chance. The amount of chance can vary for different games. For instance, some games have mathematical ability.

Gamblers count cards to gain an edge. Black Jack offers a bit more control in counting to 21. But the draw of the game is to test yourself against the chance the next card won’t put you over. Even games that require skill and give you the feeling of more control still have the addictive element of how far to go before you owe the house.

Finally, a gambling game requires you to pay in to play. Most games are set up to take a small amount of your money and promise a large amount if you win.  You pay in a small amount for the promise of financial gain. Some games focus on predictions. Skills include knowledge of the players and statistical probabilities of who will win. The draw of such games is thinking you can beat chances with your knowledge of the players and probabilities.

What about games that don’t fulfill all three rules of gambling? These aren’t gambling. Sometimes I play fantasy football with my friends. It tests your knowledge of the football players. You win games to get to the Super Bowl.

But we don’t play with money. It doesn’t violate the third rule for you. If you don’t play poker for money, it doesn’t fulfill the rules for gambling either. It takes the incentive out of the game.

Loading the Dice

At its core, gambling gives you the opportunity to get ahead without working. The Bible teaches that God expects an honorable work ethic. Paul tells Christian slaves to work as to the Lord rather than to their masters (Ephesians 6:5-7).

He says the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). If you gamble to make money, you violate this biblical principle. Gambling doesn’t promote a godly work ethic. Gamblers look to chance to provide for their needs.

Some people find ways to cheat or cut corners. Casino owners kick card counters and gamblers who load the dice out of their casinos. The house almost always wins. Casinos provide complementary gifts to keep you gambling.  Once you are logged into the game thinking your luck can win against chance, you lose more than you gain.

Many go into debt. Their desire to keep winning keeps them playing. Most people don’t have the willpower to stop while they’re ahead. Gambling becomes a threat to your financial stability just as much as alcoholism and other addictions.

Rolling the Dice

No matter how much skill is involved, chance reigns supreme. It beckons you to keep playing. Even when you are losing big time, it tells you you can get it back.

The Bible categorizes gambling as idolatry. Isaiah speaks of gods of chance (Isaiah 65:11). He mentions these two gods, Gad and Meni. Gad is the Canaanite god of Fortune. They threw fees to worship him. A happy Gad meant good luck and fortune. Meni is the Canaanite god of Destiny mentioned with Gad. He controls a person’s destiny or fate. But God declares himself the one who is the fortune and destiny of his children.

Gambling has a very religious aspect to it. If you walk into a casino, people raise their arms as we do when we worship God. They are praying to the gods of chance, asking them to give them luck. Our trust is not the God of chance. It is in the Lord.

God’s children are blessed when they follow his commandments and teachings. This brings wisdom and success in life. Any other approach brings failure and foolishness. God has set up the world to work with these principles.

Gambling addictions affect your finances and work ethic, and your relationships with family and friends. People who can’t stop gambling lose the money that should take care of the welfare of their family.

This strains relationships with family members and friends when they are affected by gambling and its results for them. God expects us to take care of our family. Shortcuts look good in the beginning but end in loss and ruin.

The Bible describes the practice of casting lots. Rolling dice to discern the will of the gods happened often in the nations around Israel. The Israelites cast lots sometimes. Some scholars wonder if the Urim and Thumim may have been a pair of special dice the priests used to discern God’s will for Israel.

But when Israel cast lots, they were seeking Yahweh, not foreign gods or idols. The nations around them sought the gods of chance. Israelites expected God was answering them.

God’s children have a better way to see his will. In Acts 1, the church casts lots for the last time. They sought God’s will for who among two well-qualified men of God would become the twelfth apostle to replace Judas. After this, the Holy Spirit indwells believers and we seek God’s will through him.

What the Heart Wants

Nothing will stop people from fulfilling their desires. Gambling apps added casino games when athletic games were canceled. They made a way for gamblers who can’t quit.

In case gamblers were getting a bad rap in our society, states made the lotto all about helping the elderly. Now a gambler can comfortably bring this up when people address this addiction. After all, who is against helping the elderly?

People with gambling addictions have actually found ways to gamble to their hearts content and make themselves sound like philanthropists. Are there positives to gambling? Only if you win.

Only Jesus can change a person’s heart, free them from addictions, habits, and temptations. He transforms us into his new creatures making our desires to please him. He makes the heart new in him.

I lean toward a negative point of view on gambling because any addiction that makes Jesus second place in slaves you to its desires. It’s not of God. The Bible doesn’t present it in a positive light.

But you must take up this issue, study the Bible and pray, asking the Holy Spirit what he expects of you. Follow the Holy Spirit. He will never steer you wrong. I hope I didn’t press too hard on this issue. But I must warn you of the dangers of gambling.

Conclusion

When you consider gambling, as an addiction it will rule your life. It will master you. You must consider what the Scriptures say as I have tried to show you. Study the issues at hand. It’s not about what others tell you to do or think of you. It’s all about what the Holy Spirit expects of you.

There are games that involve cards and dice that are not considered gambling. God won’t strike you dead for playing Yachzsee. But you must know where the line is for the Holy Spirit in your life when you think of playing games that can be used for gambling. What do you think about the issues surrounding gambling?

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