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WANNA BET?

Don't. Here are some good reasons:

GAMBLING IS ADDICTIVE. Gamblers Anonymous says, "Our GA experience seems to point to two alternatives: To gamble, risking progressive deterioration, or not to gamble, and develop a better way of life ... [Does this mean that one] ... can't even participate in a little penny ante game or a world series pool? It means exactly that. A stand has to be made somewhere, and GA members have found the first bet is the one to avoid even though it may be as little as matching for a cup of coffee."

"You bet your life" is more than just a cliche. Ask Pete Rose. There is something in the very nature of gambling that tends toward addiction: The winner becomes eager for larger wins. The loser becomes desperate to recoup his losses. Solomon wrote of this condition many years ago: "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity" (Ecclesiastes 5: 10).

Thirty years ago, before the boom in racetracks, casino-building, and the proliferation of state lotteries, there were an estimated one million compulsive gamblers in this country. Today, Gamblers Anonymous reports there are as many as 15 million addicts, and the fallout touches more than 60 million family members, employers, employees, and friends. According to an investigation conducted for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, twenty million Americans have (or soon will have) a serious gambling problem. Five million are classified as "pathological" (hardcore) gamblers (some authorities say ten), while another 15 million are in danger of slipping over the pathological edge. Ten million are classified as "compulsive." There are now more compulsive gamblers than there are alcoholics. More than a million adolescents, ages 12 through 17, are severely addicted to gambling.

Like alcohol and narcotics, gambling is deceptive. For a dedicated gambler, there is no merit in moderation. Those who run casinos play on gambling's addictive nature (cf. Rm. 6:16). Many Las Vegas hotels provide two rolls of coins with every hotel reservation. Why? So individuals will go to casinos to gamble. They know that most will not be able to quit with two rolls of coins.

Of course, some are strong enough to resist addiction even if they indulge in minor gambling. But before we say that "it can't happen to us," we should consider that each addict thought that at the beginning (Prov. 7:26). Experts say that one in every ten who start gambling will become addicted. Those are not very good odds (pardon the pun). Further, even if we avoid addiction, we set an example for our children and others. They may not be as strong. They are watching. Paul wrote that we must abstain from every appearance of evil (I Thes. 5:22) Let's resolve with Paul, "...I will not be brought under the power [become addicted to] of any..." bad thing (I Cor. 16:2).

GAMBLING VIOLATES THE GOLDEN RULE (Mt. 7:12), A gambler could never be successful if he practiced the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.") He must desire upon his opponent what he does not want for himself. He cannot have pleasure unless another suffers. He cannot profit unless another loses. He cannot be a victor without another being a victim. Gambling operates according to the "Iron Rule"-"Do unto others before they do it unto you;" or "What's yours is mine, and I'll take it if I can." If he can take another's property through skill, outsmarting, or good fortune, then let the loser weep. He seeks to obtain what another has worked for, at no cost to himself. This violates the "Love thy neighbor as thyself' principle (Mt. 22:39), even if "thy neighbor" consents. The "Golden Rule" is the opposite of the "Iron Rule." True morality requires that one seek not only his own welfare, but also his neighbor's (I Cor. 10:24; Phil. 2:34). Love will not allow us to work any hardship on others (Rm. 13: 10), even if they are prone to self-destruction.

GAMBLING VIOLATES THE BIBLICAL WORK ETHIC. The American dream used to be: "If you work hard enough, you can make a good, comfortable life in this great nation." The American dream now is, "Win the lottery!" Sociologist Mark Abramson explains: "The same state that urged people to stay in school, seek job training, and persevere through hard work and sacrifice, also encourages the fatalistic belief that people's lives can change dramatically if their numbers come up in the lottery. The state is selling one message with its right hand and another with its left." Gambling encourages an unhealthy "easy come, easy go" philosophy. Advertisements for gambling entice potential customers with an offer to "get rich quick." One ad says, "All you need is a dollar and a dream."

If on the one hand, "idle hands are  the devil's playthings," then on the  other, working hands are God's tools. Man is to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow (Gen. 3:19). "Six days thou shalt work" (Ex. 20) was the Old Testament command. The wise man said, "He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons [chases fantasies] is void of understanding" (Prov. 12:11). Paul wrote, "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth" (Eph. 4:28). God warns, "...if any will not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thes. 3:10). Let's practice self-control (Gal. 5:23).

GAMBLING ENCOURAGES THE SINS OF GREED, MATERIALISM, AND COVETOUSNESS. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (I Tim. 6:5-10). "Covet" implies an eager longing for something which belongs to another (cf. Jer. 22:13). "Covetousness" is the desire for more at someone else's expense. Covetousness is condemned throughout the Bible. "Thou shall not covet..." (Ex. 20:17) was one of the Ten Commandments. The New Testament says we must not have even a hint of any kind of impurity, or greed, because these are improper for holy people (Eph. 5:3; cf. Col. 3:5, 6; 1 Cor. 5:9-13). The whole appeal of gambling is to get rich ... that one needs more material things to be happy. Happy people learn to be content with food and raiment (I Tim. 6:8). Jesus warned against materialistic lust: "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Lk. 12:15).

GAMBLING IS POOR STEWARDSHIP OF GOD'S BLESSINGS. "It's my money, I can gamble it if I want" someone might say. Let's consider that. What would we think if the church treasurer told church members: "I did not deposit last Sunday's contribution. Since I was going through Las Vegas on Tuesday, I took the money to see if I could make us a little extra. I am sure you will appreciate my efforts even though it did not turn out so well." What would they say? "It was not your money to gamble-it was God's money! Pay it back."

The same principle is true of individuals, although in a little different sense. The Communist view of property is that a man is merely an instrument of the state with no rights to title or possess property. The Capitalist view is that man can own what he can rightfully purchase. The Christian view is that God is the Owner of the entire universe (Job 4:11; Psa. 50:10-12), and that He lets us live here as stewards. My money is really God's money. We are to be "good" stewards (I Pet. 4:10), "wise" stewards (Lk. 12:42), and "faithful" stewards (I Cor. 4:2). As the man in the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward, we will one day be called upon to give an account of our stewardship (Lk. 16:2). Will He be pleased if I gambled away His money?

Don't bet on gambling. The odds are bad.

Chuck Webster
House to House/Heart to Heart