Gambling: Sport of Kings or Prison of Fools?

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Every Christian needs to be familiar enough with Calvary to be able to picture each of the actors and the events – events which culminated in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you see the angry priests, the weeping women, and the apostle John slinking through the crowd? Can you distinguish the sneering thief from his repentant counterpart? Do you see the fierce nails, the blood and the jagged slivers jutting from the beam of the cross? Read once again the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion. Read them all at one sitting. Meditate over them. Weep over them!

If your visualization is accurate, you’ll see several soldiers just down below. Perhaps they are on their knees as though in prayer. But look closely. They aren’t praying! Those foreign mercenaries are gambling; wagering to determine whose bloody hands would be privileged to carry away our Lord’s seamless robe.

Those gamblers represent the epitome of evil, while on the cross we see the Incarnation of goodness and righteousness. Can you imagine those roles reversed? Can you, in your wildest imagination, picture Jesus on his knees shamelessly gambling over the property of another?

My Friend, gambling is contrary to the principles of Christ. It doesn’t belong in the heart of any follower of Christ.

The History Of Gambling

Wagering is almost as old as the hills. For many hundreds of years before the first coin was minted, men found other objects with which to gamble. Archeologists have found painted pebbles resembling dice which go back to the Stone Age. Anthropologists tell us that gambling has its roots in the worship of primitive gods. In fact the Hindus, until recently, worshiped Krishna through gambling – often losing all that they possessed. This link with idolatry alone ought to be enough to keep God’s people away from the vice of gambling.

With the advancement of knowledge and technology, gambling has advanced as well. Not quite so often do we hear of people wagering on which oyster will open first or on what day the first snow will fall. Now we enlightened people bet on football games, dog races and against computers. No longer do we need a pocket full of cash in order to bet; roughly half of the money wagered in American casinos is picked up and laid down electronically. Trips to ‘Vegas’ or Atlantic City aren’t necessary today, because addicted gamblers can loose fortunes with credit cards and the Internet. For years horse racing was called the sport of kings, while dice and cards belonged to serfs and beggars, but today all of us have access to whatever gambling we want, from the back alley “crap” game and the sleazy bookie joint, to the plush casinos of Reno and Monte Carlo via the World Wide Web.

Not only do we have access to gambling, but with the approval of government, the numbers of bettors is spiraling astronomically. Americans can make a legal wager of some sort, in person, in every state of the union but three: Tennessee, Hawaii and Utah, but even these might fall prey to the lust of bureaucratic greed. Lotteries are operated by the governments of 40 states. Nearly a thousand plush casinos legally steal paychecks and social security checks in over two dozen states. Studies indicate that two-thirds of all adults lay down a bet at least once a year, and 80% see absolutely nothing wrong with the practice. According to the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago, 5.5 million Americans are pathological or problem gamblers with another 15 million at risk to follow them.

Dr. Igor Kusyszyr of York University has said, “We are pluck in the middle of a pleasure explosion. People are searching for kicks. They want to experience new and pleasurable sensations… Gambling will, pleasurably, take the man out of reality, suspend him at a comfortable level of arousal and allow him to test his power of decision-making. Gambling also allows the individual to be a leading actor – a hero in a dream of his own making.”

On the other hand, the gambling industry is doing its best to paint this vice as merely harmless entertainment. They are betting on, and winning, the hearts of hundreds of thousands of American seniors. For example, 9 million people a year are brought to Atlantic City by casino busses, primarily senior citizens. Las Vegas builds hundred million dollar casinos next door to children’s theme parks, trying to give the illusion of recreational kinship.

The Waste Of Gambling

Despite the growing statistics, few seem to be paying attention to the disastrous results of this gambling frenzy. According to “International Gaming and Wagering Business” Americans lost $50.9 billion (BILLION) in legal games in 1997, $27.2 billion of that in casinos and $16.6 billion in lotteries. Those figures, a few years old, are probably tame compared to today. And who knows what additional monies are lost in illegal and private betting.

A 1962, “Atlantic Monthly” article said, “Gamblers look upon it simply as taking a chance. But they are taking a chance which the nation and its economy cannot afford. They are pouring dimes and dollars day by day into a vast stream of cash which finances most illegal underworld activities.”

Some argue that legalized gambling puts a stop to the illegal variety. Actually, studies indicate just the opposite. The U.S. Justice Department’s Organized Crime Section says, “Legal gambling creates a whole new (gambling) market, but the effect on illegal is negligible.” Illegal bookmakers are still popular, because they offer better odds than state-run operations, and the winnings are completely tax-free.

And then there is the collateral damage from these billion dollar bombs. In an article from “Christianity Today” (May, 1999), John W. Kennedy wrote, “Compulsive gambling causes people who have no past criminal behavior to suddenly write bad checks or steal money from relatives. Out-of-control bettors lose their jobs, gamble away cars and homes, file for bankruptcy, divorce, go to prison, or kill themselves – all because the addiction became paramount in their lives.”

While comparisons are often made between gamblers and alcoholics, gambling has the greater potential for destruction. There have been thousands of bettors who have lost not only their entire earthly possessions, but through credit card gambling debts, they have lost everything that they ever hoped to possess, as well.

The Popularity Of Gambling

Without doubt gambling has never been so popular! Never has such a large percentage of our population been so addicted to it. Never have governments stooped so despicably low, delightfully clapping their hands that their citizens are so mesmerized.

The Greeks claimed that gambling was detrimental to the state, but today we use it to support the state. The Egyptians used to call it effeminate, because it turned working men into lazy louts; today the welfare leach often cashes his check at the track. Tertullian, the early church father, denied that dice players could be Christians; today churches head the betting parade and make fortunes off the weaknesses of their own addicted members. England once outlawed gambling entirely because wise officials could see what a terrible effect it was having on the nation; Today Great Britain is as addicted as most other nations of the world.

One has said, “Swindling, forgery, theft – every crime that extreme necessity and outright desperation can suggest to a man who has lost all the moral ties – follows in the train of gambling.”

President George Washington said of gambling: “This is a vice which is productive of every possible evil, equally injurious to the morals and health of its votaries. It is the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity, and the father of mischief. It has been the ruin of many worthy families, the loss of many a man’s honor, and the cause of suicide. To all those who enter the lists, it is usually fascinating. The successful gamester pushes his good fortune, till it is overtaken by a reverse. The losing gamester, in hopes of retrieving past misfortunes, goes on from bad to worse, till grown desperate, he pushes at everything and loses his all. In a word, few gain by this abominable practice, while thousands are injured.”

A former Supreme Court Justice accurately noted that “‘gambling’ is a general evil. It leads to vicious inclinations, the destruction of morals, abandonment of industry and honest employment, and a loss of self-control and respect…”

We Can’t Win

Despite all the warnings of wise and good men, billions of dollars are wagered annually. How much of all this wealth is returned to the average foolish bettor through winnings? Ask Earnest Blanche, author of YOU CAN’T WIN. Mr. Blanche studied 256 horse races. He found that if he had bet on the favorite horse in every race to win, he would have lost a fortune. If he bet that the favorite horse would show, he would have lost even more, and if his money went to the favorite simply to place, he would have still gone home empty.

The Irish Sweepstakes was for years the best known lottery in the world. And like most lotteries only 40% of the proceeds went toward prizes. Today, the chance of winning a lottery is determined by the number of people buying into the scheme, and that often means that we stand more of a chance finding a $100 bill laying on the sidewalk than to win anything from the lottery. The reason we see more and more of these lotteries is because there is no way that the sponsor can lose. Yet, many big lotteries turn over a meager profit of 20% only because millions of dollars are spent on advertising each year. (20% of $120,000,000 is ….) Even lowly bingo games make a 50% profit for the accursed organizations which sponsor them.

Christian, if you know of someone who has broken even over a long period of time with lottery tickets, raffles, horses, football pools, or any other kind of gambling, you have found a rare bird. But don’t stand too close, because he’s sure to be struck by lightning or by a bus before too long. If for no other reason but the soundness of Christian stewardship, no saint of God ought to gamble.

The Danger Of Gambling

Some Christian denominations have been trying desperately (hypocritically) to defend their long time association with gambling. Charitable gambling, initially in the form of bingo, is legal in 44 states, and records show that Americans lost $1.6 billion in such games in 1997. Many churches haven’t stopped with bingo games, but now sell pull-tabs and rent slot machines.

More than one church leader has tried to say that there is a distinction between gambling as a relatively harmless diversion and gambling with the specific aim of “making money fast through chance…”

But wait! Not only do 95% of bingo parlor denizens play for the money they can win, but there is far more involved. Someone should ask this gentleman if he also advocates an occasional visit to the strip joint for some additional harmless diversion. And why not pick up a little “meth” or give a child a shot of bourbon every day just before bed? Just as it is a fact that pornography shops increase social immorality, it is a fact that gambling on a small scale leads many into gambling on a bigger scale. Ask the local members of Gamblers Anonymous – it is a habit and sin which always begins small and can end up in absolute destruction.

Christian, Don’t Gamble!

Why shouldn’t the Christian gamble? Because it has the same relationship to theft that dueling has to murder. It used to be legal for two fools to kill each other with pistols or swords, yet it has always been murder for one man to gun down an unarmed opponent. Gambling is a legal theft. When will wise governments see that, like dueling, gambling is detrimental to society?

It is morally wrong, because it is an attempt to get something for nearly nothing. It leads men to yearn for that for which they did not work. It destroys initiative and creates laziness. It is completely contrary to God’s Word.

And when will someone see that government-sponsored gambling, like lotteries, is really a regressive tax on people who, many times, can’t afford to pay any more? Many of our poorest neighbors spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars gambling; money which eventually ends up in the coffers of the government. If these people were taxed for that money directly there would be a cry for violent revolution. Why can’t people see that this is nothing but a tax on idiocy and foolishness? It is the opposite of income tax, it is an out-go tax.

There is only one good way to open a lottery pouch, and that is with dynamite. There is only one good throw of the dice, and that is to throw them away. There is only one way to cut a deck of cards, and it is with a hatchet.

The Christian gambler is financing sinners, hurting his family, probably destroying his marriage, ruining his testimony and shaming his Savior. He is displaying to the world that his heart is in earthly, rather than in Heavenly, treasures. He is not permitting the Lord to have His way with his life and future, but in a round-about way he is asking the Devil to be his guide and benefactor. The Christian gambler is of little use to the Lord! He is a fig tree ready for the chainsaw.

This writer has never yet met a Christian gambler who was consistent in his service or his giving to the Lord. Gambling and the withholding of God’s tithe are cousins in the theft family.

Whether it is matching for a coke or the coffee at work, a football pool, a dice game, a lottery ticket, a pool game, bowling or the casinos, it all flows out of the same principle and leads to the same end.

Conclusion

Reader, if you are not a child of God, and you are addicted to gambling, let me point you to the answer. Jesus Christ died on Calvary to redeem souls like yours from the bondage of sin – in every form. He is called the “Savior” because that is what He does. He can deliver you from your lusts and even from yourself. If the Lord has convicted your heart about these matters, admit your helplessness and your sinfulness. Repent of your sin; put your faith in the sacrifice of Christ. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Christ Jesus “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Galatians 1:4). “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:24).