Gambling

PEOPLE GAMBLE TO WIN

People don’t gamble because they enjoy taking chances. They gamble to win. People who operate casinos and gaming parlors are well aware of this and make certain that their customers win. They would never return if they didn’t win. Ask anyone who gambles and they will assure you that they win – always!

About twenty years ago, an Atlantic City casino boasted on a billboard, that it paid out an average of $1,500,000 in daily winnings. I was certain that this astronomical figure was a blatant lie and took the trouble to check it out. I discovered that it was actually true!

Casinos generally don’t reveal statistics on their operations, but after doing some extensive research on the Atlantic City casino operations in 2005, I came up with some revealing facts.

In 2005, 35 million people visited the 14 Atlantic City casinos. That comes to nearly three million per month or 96,000 per day, making Atlantic City the most frequented tourist attraction in America.

These same casinos generated $5 Billion in gaming revenue, an average of $142.86 per customer and day. Because slot machines have a high rate of payback, it takes quite a while to get rid of that much cash. Every time the slot machine spits out money, it is counted as winnings and the slot machine keeps a tally for you. You can readily see why a gambler’s “winnings” can be many times the amount he actually spends. The money is “recycled” until nothing is left. It can take hours, but players always manage to get rid of their money. That is why many gamblers claim that it is simply entertainment.

CASINOS AS BENEFACTORS

When the casinos opened in 1978, we were told that taxes would go down. New Jersians now carry the highest tax burden in the nation. Property taxes are double the national average with the average private home-owner paying over $7,000 per annum. One fourth of our Social Security income goes to pay taxes on our modest 45-year-old rancher, with a single bath and crawl space.

As anyone can imagine, residents have been complaining long and loud about this situation. Senior citizens living on Social Security were eventually granted a modest property tax rebate, but that didn’t placate most voters. A candidate for public office who fails to put tax relief foremost on his platform hasn’t the ghost of a chance to get elected.

In 2005, Democratic Senator, John Corzine, campaigned successfully for the office of Governor with promises to ease the tax burden. One of his first acts as Governor was to raise the sales tax from 6% to 7%. Political talk about lowering property taxes dragged out for more than a year and likely contributed to global warming.

Finally, in January, 2007, State politicians grudgingly agreed to cut property taxes for nearly everyone. But senior citizens living on Social Security (like us) get no relief whatsoever from this measure. Why? We already get a partial property tax rebate.

Although a reduction in property taxes has been agreed on, no one has seen relief yet. Most New Jersey residents fear that any reduction in property taxes will be more than compensated by higher assessments. This has already happened in some municipalities.

Haddon Heights citizens met in a church on June 26, 2007 to protest the sudden hike in their property taxes. The 100-year-old house of one senior citizen was re-assessed for three times its previous value! The owners may be forced out of the home they have lived in for decades. Casino operators should be standing in line to offer assistance!

Casinos like to boast about how many jobs they create. They employ PR people to inform the public about all the benefits they receive from gambling. And they hire clever accountants who manage to keep earnings down and owners rich. The Atlantic City gaming industry bragged that it paid $490 Million in taxes in 2005 “which benefits seniors, the disabled and economic revitalization programs in New Jersey.” Yet, after paying salaries, utilities, advertising and other expenses, one third of Atlantic City’s casinos reported losses for 2005!

In order to escape taxation, the “Casino Reinvestment Development Authority” was formed. The Associated Press reported on February 19, 2007, that the CRDA was purchasing eight double-decker passenger cars for approximately $15 million, and leasing four locomotives for another $4.5 million. The trains will transport people between New York and Atlantic City. That is how casino winnings “benefit seniors, the disabled and economic revitalization programs in New Jersey.”

THE FIRST GAMBLERS
The first sin recorded in the Bible was gambling. Satan preached a four-point sermon and there was rejoicing in hell when Adam and Eve took the gamble and became the devil’s first converts.
1. "You can be like God = Do anything you please!"
2. "You won’t die = This life is all that is important. Live and enjoy it to the fullest!"
3. "You can decide for yourself what is good and evil."
4. "Your eyes will be opened = you will be enlightened."

God says one thing and the devil says something else, so what should we believe? Adam and Eve probably didn’t believe everything Satan told them but they decided to gamble and tasted the forbidden fruit.

The gamble paid off. The fruit was delicious, they didn’t die, and Eve became the first woman to exclaim, “I don’t have an earthly thing to wear!” God gave her a fur coat -- talk about winners! Adam and Eve even won the blame game. The serpent took the rap and the devil got home free!

But gambling existed before creation.

The ultimate gamble was made by Satan before the creation of this world, when he risked everything to challenge God’s supremacy. For millenniums, Satan seemed to be the winner, but when the seal on Jesus’ tomb was broken, the devil’s fate was sealed. Satan is still free, but he knows that his time is running out. He’s desperately trying to persuade people to gamble with their goods, gifts, health, lives and souls – in pretty much that order. He lets people win in the beginning, but what he is really after are the big stakes: their souls.

GAMBLERS ARE LOSERS

When you gamble, you may seem to win at first, but in the end, you lose. Occasionally, you hear about someone winning big, but they don’t tell you how much was lost while hoping for the big win. Even those who take home more than they brought are losers. Much of the money goes for taxes and fees and the rest is soon spent. Because the names of winners are publicized, they are deluged with requests from charities. Relatives and friends expect a share in the takings and beggars are a dime a dozen. With the last few Dollars, the gambler returns to the casino, hoping to crack the jackpot again. Someone should make a survey of what ultimately happens to winners. How many marriages and families are ruined and how many become compulsive gamblers, addicts, alcoholics or commit suicide?

When a person lives a wicked life and dies of old age, it makes headlines, but nobody is interested in reporting or reading about the millions who die young or who suffer much because of their chosen lifestyles. It is the same with gambling. We occasionally hear of a jackpot winner, but no one reports on the losers.

SO, WHAT IS WRONG WITH GAMBLING?

Those who cheat or steal have feelings of guilt and shame because they know someone else gets hurt. But a gambler feels he can have a good conscience because gambling is a voluntary pastime. The gambler accepts the risk of losing along with the chance of winning. Gamblers see nothing wrong with this and apparently, neither does the government which doles out licenses and collects taxes.

WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULDN’T GAMBLE
1. THE GOLDEN RULE

One reason I don’t gamble is because I attempt to follow the Golden Rule: “Love thy Neighbor as Thyself.” I don’t willingly take part in contests that involve luck or chance even if they don’t cost anything. God takes good care of his own and I don’t need any other sustenance. By participating in a contest, I also diminish the chances of someone else winning.

I have won contests, however, in which I was an involuntary participant.

In 1980, I was flying home from a Field Directors Conference in Kansas City. A stewardess passed out rub-off tickets to each passenger. Anyone who found three TWA symbols on their ticket would win a free round-trip ticket to any destination served by Trans World Airways. I waited until the gentleman seated next to me had finished rubbing off his ticket and handed him mine. “Don’t you want it?” he asked with obvious surprise. I said, “No, the Bible tells us to love our neighbors and even give them preference.” The ticket was a winner and the stewardess announced over the PA system that there was a winner on board. Once out of the airport, we found ourselves on the same shuttle bus. My newfound friend announced to everyone on the bus that he was flying to Greece because I had given him my winning ticket. He even told the passengers about my personal faith in God! That precipitated a lengthy conversation with someone sitting next to me. Talk about winners!

After eating in an Austrian restaurant once, we walked home with a couple that lived only two doors from us and had also eaten there. A local electrical appliance store was having an special exhibit of its newest products and I suggested checking them out. At the door, we were each given a ticket that was good for a door prize. I handed my ticket to our neighbor. As you probably guessed, he won first prize, a color TV.

On another occasion, the teller at our bank handed me an entry blank for a contest in which someone would win a mountain bike. I turned it down using my Golden Rule argument. When she looked puzzled, I explained that by not participating, others had a better chance of winning. Two weeks later, she told me that the young man who won the bike had lost his mother to cancer the same day. The bank teller started attending our church, but then she gambled on a promising young man who kept her away and made her life miserable.

Most teachers of the Bible Institute we founded in Austria were pastors and not trained teachers. For this reason we conducted a 4-day Teacher Training Seminar and engaged an expert to lead it. The first session was in the evening and our instructor explained that we would be very busy from morning until night. For this reason, he was choosing one person to serve as “Watchman” for each day. The watchman’s duties would be twofold: He was to get up early and listen to the news; and then share the headlines with everyone at breakfast. His other duty would be to ring a bell which announced the beginning of each session.

To be fair, he had each of the 13 teacher participants draw a card from his hand. The holder of a pre-selected card would be Watchman for that particular day. I took a card and realized that it was from a deck of regular playing cards. My parents never allowed us to play with these, saying they were of the devil. Here was a Christian instructor dealing out “the devil’s cards” to teachers of our Bible Institute!

The instructor announced that the person holding the Ace of Spades would be the watchman for the following day. I had no idea what that card looked like, so I asked a teacher sitting next to me. He glanced at my card and said, “That’s it!”

The instructor shuffled and dealt the cards again for the second day and named another card. I got that one too. After winning the third round as well, everyone was laughing and joking about my luck. One teacher even got out his calculator and calculated the slim chance of anyone winning three out of four times. The instructor announced that he was not including me in the next drawing, but there was a storm of protest from the teachers. “We will never know if Ralph might have won the fourth round,” they complained. I was included and – you guessed it! I won again!

2. FALSE DESIRES
An inherent part of gambling is the desire for personal gain, but desire is not inherently wrong. Hunger and thirst are just two simple examples of that. Jesus desired to eat the Passover with his disciples (Luke 22:15) and Paul’s desire for Israel was that they might be saved (Romans 10:1). The Bible encourages us to desire spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 14:1) and “the sincere milk of the Word” (I  Peter 2:2). If a man desires the office of a bishop, “he desires a good thing” (I Timothy 3:1).

It is desires which are not controlled by the Holy Spirit, that are wrong or even deadly. Jesus reprimanded the disciples because they desired to be first (Mark 9:35 and 10:35). He pronounced “woes” on the Pharisees because they desired esteem and recognition from others (Luke 20:46).

Most importantly, the “get something for nothing SINdrome” stands in direct contradiction to biblical teachings.

3. WORK ETHICS
I don’t gamble because of the ethics problem involved. The Bible teaches us that “if a man will not work, neither shall he eat” (II Thessalonians 3:10).

God told Adam that he would have to earn bread by the sweat of his brow, but even before Adam sinned, he was to “till the soil” and do other productive things like naming the animals. Ever since Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden, people long to regain their “paradise lost” but few think it might involve work.

We would not be human if getting something for nothing didn’t sound tempting in our ears, but paradise is carefully guarded by the angel's flaming sword and remains inaccessible in this life.

Throughout the Bible we are instructed to serve God and man faithfully. Surely, if God does mighty works, then we have no right to be lazy. We are commanded to work six days and rest on the seventh.

We are to seek first of all, that which is of God’s kingdom and right in his eyes. Then he takes care of our needs (Matthew 6:33). When man seeks shortcuts or an easy way to obtain blessings, he gets into trouble. There is no biblical basis for a Christian to trust his luck!

4. "THOU SHALT NOT COVET"
The commandment not to covet is another reason for not gambling. Whenever a person gambles, he covets. There is no getting around this. No one gambles because he or she wants to lose; people gamble in hopes of personal gain. The argument that a raffle or contest benefits some charity is a cheap excuse for gambling. If you want to help a charity, give to it!

Giving precedence to any desire, person or object above God is idolatry. In the New Testament, idolatry is defined as “covetousness” (Colossians 3:5 & Ephesians 5:5). The Greek word is pleonexia which means “greed, the desire to have more, covetousness, avarice.”

Many Christians seem convinced that idolatry is found only in “heathen” nations and rarely in America. Hello? There is no greed or materialism in this country?

For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth (Psalm 10:1).

The longing for pleasure and craving for easy gain are basic desires of carnal man, but nourishing these cravings automatically leads to greed and lust. It is the same inner urge that eventually entices people to cheat, steal and commit adultery. And it is also why people gamble.

5. GIVING AND RECEIVING
The Christian faith is all about giving and receiving, not getting and keeping. The rules of giving and receiving stand in direct opposition to the rules of gambling. We can not earn salvation nor can we obtain it by chance. It is the gift of God lest any man be tempted to boast. There is only one source of blessing and that is God. A person who gambles has another god, another faith and another hope.

The entire philosophy of getting, collecting and keeping is satanic. Even many Christians are consumed with getting and fail to see anything wrong with it. And they never know when they have enough.

This backwards philosophy has infiltrated many churches and it affects missions and evangelism. Jesus told us to go and give, but these churches have adopted the “come and get” principle. They have regular fund raisers and promotions designed to attract people into their churches and to get money. Some even offer gambling (Bingo, raffles etc.). Committees are appointed whose job is figuring ways to get even more. Christians obsessed with getting generally don’t tithe and “Getting” churches send few missionaries.

Some might argue that you can’t give until you have, and in order to have, you must get. That reminds me of the guy who told God, “If you help me win the lottery I will give you a tithe.” It is putting the cart before the horse. Giving comes in “cans” and not in “cant's.” The purpose of a sewer pipe is  getting, but the water main is for giving. We Christians have plenty to give because we have a direct supply line to the giver of all good things. We can give time, health, gifts, things, hope, strength and comfort, but most of all, we can give Christ, the Bread of Life and the Living Water.  What the lost need most is not what I have, but what God offers. "For God so loved the world [us] that he gave his only begotten Son..." Jesus gave himself and he commanded his disciples to do likewise.

The widow of Serepath claimed that she had only enough for one meal before she and her son would starve to death. The prophet convinced her to give of what she had and they all had an abundance. Did she gamble? Not at all! Faith is not a gamble and she believed. In fact, neither God nor the prophet needed what she had. Both were desirous of giving her what she really needed -- assurance of God's love and sufficiency.

There is another important aspect of giving and receiving that I want to stress. The Bible commands us to forgive each other even as Christ forgave us. The “Lord’s Prayer” gives this teaching another twist in that we ask God to forgive us just as we forgive each other. The Christian faith is all about being forgiven and forgiving. How does gambling fit that concept?

6. OWE NO MAN ANYTHING!
One of the most common types of gambling is with cards, but I am not speaking of the traditional card games like Bridge, Poker and Black Jack. People gamble with their credit cards. It is gambling with someone else’s money, called debt. Christians who would not visit a casino are compulsive gamblers with their credit.

For years we didn’t have a credit card, but after futilely trying to rent a car on furlough, we decided to get one. Only because rental car companies refused to rent us a car, did we apply for a business card from our mission. For the next 10-15 years, we had a card for such situations, but seldom used it otherwise. After retiring from active missionary service in Austria and settling in New Jersey, we found it virtually impossible to get along without a credit card.

For decades, we put money aside for our retirement, yet when we wanted to buy a home, no bank would give us a mortgage. We argued that we had enough to pay half the purchase price, but were told that without a credit rating, we would be turned down or have to pay exorbitant interest rates. We were finally able to obtain a home equity loan, but only because the Bank President and Chairman of the Board were personal friends! Even after purchasing our house, nothing changed. Telephone, electric and gas companies refused to provide services unless we paid a caution fee.

After years of making mortgage payments, we now get several credit card offers a week.   We burn them in our fireplace. We do use our credit card, but always pay bills as soon as they come due. I do not consider a mortgage or home equity loan as debt. We are part owners with the bank. One might use the same argumentation for car payments, but we prefer driving older vehicles that are paid for.

A large number of Americans gamble with their credit. They have several credit cards and pay interest on sizable balances. Houses and cars are owned by the bank or mortgage company and monthly payments hardly suffice to pay the interest. Any unexpected expense can prove disastrous. The worse it gets, the more reckless these gamblers get. They will gamble with their last resources.

Actually, all gambling incurs making debts. The money you gamble as a Christian is money entrusted to your care. God gave it to you for a specific purpose and not to gamble.

7. UNNECESSARY RISK
Not all risk is wrong. There is no such thing as a risk-free environment or activity. If you are alive, you run the risk of getting sick, injured or killed, no matter where you are or what you do.

By definition, gambling is taking a risk or chance in hopes of gaining some advantage. This can cover anything from “safe bets” to “long shots.” A safe bet is when the risk factor is low and the possible gain is high. Anyone who invests in stocks knows all about this. If you don’t want to risk losing your investments, put your money in a savings account of your local bank. The interest rate will hopefully compensate for inflation, so you won’t lose even if you don’t gain. If the bank goes under, it is insured by the FDIC. There is still a slight chance you could lose your money if the government fails to keep its promise. Nothing is risk-free.

Although we can’t completely avoid risks, we should not take chances beyond the realm of faith. That would be my definition of gambling. There is no risk involved when we place our faith in the Creator and follow his leading. It only appears to be risky from a human perspective. Hebrews 12:1-2 calls us to give ourselves to God as a physical sacrifice with no holds barred. We don’t just wager a few Dollars; we stake our lives on God’s promise to care for us. We invest in the kingdom of God and what is right in his eyes. He promises to take care of us (Matthew 6:33). Placing our faith in God and his promises is not a gamble! Everything else is.

Hebrews 11:6 defines faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The faith referred to in Hebrews 11 is not just faith in something or someone, but faith in God. Faith does not negate our willpower, but brings it into alignment with God’s will. It’s a win-win situation and not a gamble. We may not know what the future holds, but we believe on him who holds the future in his hands.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)

CONCLUSION

I would like to do a biblical word study that few Christians are familiar with. These words are closely related to gambling.

In Ecclesiastes, the writer mentions “vexation of spirit” (KJV) ten times. The meaning of the Hebrew terminology is unfortunately lost in translation. The first appearance is found in Ecclesiastes 1:14: "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit."

The Hebrew word for "vanity" is hebel, which means emptiness or dissatisfaction.  The Hebrew word translated "vexation" is rehooth which means, grasping or groping. Coupled with the word for breath or wind, it means “groping in the air” or "grasping for the wind."

The idea is delving into the unknown with no definite goal in mind other than finding something to satisfy one’s cravings, curiosity or inner yearnings. The term refers to searching for answers and satisfaction in an unknown spiritual realm. We might say, “trusting our luck,” “groping in the dark” or “speculating.” We could also call it gambling.

The mystical and unknown realms hold a special fascination for many, enticing them to dangerous experimentation in the spirit world or with drugs. These individuals don't intend to be negatively influenced, but that is often the result. As I wrote at the beginning of this article, people don't intend to lose at gambling but they do.

In the NT there are two juristic terms that mean to decide, judge or make a determination. The Greek words are diakrise and diakrino. The prefix dia means through or by. Krino or krisis indicate the method by which the decision is made.

Diakrise decisions are judgments based on clear evidence and facts. The Bible teaches that a person should not be condemned after hearing only one witness. Even two witnesses could be doubted, but three witnesses lead to a diakrise verdict.

Diakrino judgments, however, are based on circumstantial evidence, a hunch or inner gut feeling. Or it can be a determination based on the testimony of a single witness. For this reason, it is often translated “to doubt.”

James writes in his epistle (1: 5-7): "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. Nor let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."

James says that if we lack wisdom, we are to "pray in faith (pistis= conviction or assurance of truth), not wavering (diakrino)." The idea is similar to the words of Solomon when he speaks of “groping in the wind.” James is saying that we are to pray based on faith - our conviction of God's truth and what he desires. Our quest for wisdom should not be a random grasping for some kind of feeling, mystical experience, dream or special revelation. If we do that, we are like ocean waves that are tossed about by the winds with no certain direction. We should rather place ourselves in subjection to God and the clear teachings of his Word.

If we ask God for guidance in specific situations and then do what we believe is his will, this is called faith, or in Greek, pistis. We often make decisions based only on what we believe to be best for lack of facts or clear leading. Decisions based solely on human instincts, feelings, or circumstances, would be diakrino decisions. A diakrino discernment is one without absolute certainty, but if we have sought the mind of the Lord and then do accordingly, we are acting in faith.

The Bible warns us not to gamble, but to seek God’s will in order to do it.

There are many covert forms of gambling that we would hardly consider as such. Unnecessary risk while driving a car is a gamble that could cost lives. Even shopping is a gamble. In sale- and bargain-conscious America, many Christians spend hours clipping coupons or they drive extra miles to buy a dress or TV that is on sale, only to discover that it wasn't a bargain after all.

Stores used to have “specials,” then “sales,” and now everything is “off“. A visitor to America from what was once called Eastern Europe paused to look in the window of a clothing store. The store was having an end-of summer sale on ladies’ swimwear. The visitor commented, “40% off? It looks more like 90% off to me!”

I often hear Christians bragging about the bargains they got at a yard sale or the money they saved on shopping sprees. They seem to think that this is the religious obligation of every good Christian, paramount to being a good steward of that which God has entrusted into our care. I don’t condemn this sort of thing, for we do need to be frugal and careful with all the tricks businesses play with their customers. But in some ways and with some people, it closely resembles gambling.

Psychiatrists are now talking about eBay addiction. Americans can be very gullible and easily duped by fast-talking salespersons. They fall for anything that is free and actually believe that a company like freecreditreport.com spends millions for TV ads and sponsors a NASCAR race car with no self-serving interest. Not a few Christians believe and forward everything they get on the Internet without questioning its validity. They think that they are being nice to their friends, yet at best, this is gossip and at worst they are spreading lies to everyone in their address book!

When we believe the ads or the salesperson and buy without praying, we make diakrino purchases! If it is only a jar of peanutbutter, it may seem insignificant, but we could also get sick on it! I don't want to say that we should have a hundred little prayer meetings a day, but faith should be involved in everything we do or don't do.

Let’s be honest with ourselves and stop being hypocritical. Whose money is saved and how is that saving spent? Do you honestly keep a record of your savings in order to increase giving to the Lord’s work?

Admit it! It’s all about getting and not giving.