This article is about the foolishness of gambling.

Source: Clarion, 2000. 2 pages.

Many Foolish and Harmful Desires...

People who want to get rich fall into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

1 Timothy 6:9, 10

Gambling has become a national pastime, and winning big a number one fantasy. It’s hard to believe, but it’s only been just more than thirty years since lotteries became legal in Canada. In 1968 the civic authorities in Montreal organized a lottery to pay for the expensive structures needed to host the 1976 Olympic Games. Since then lotteries have spread across the country like an epidemic. Provincial lotteries, charity lotteries, and what not. It’s been embraced as a sure-fire way to raise money. And on the coattails of the lotteries you have the casinos. The government of Manitoba recently decided to license a number of new casinos. And the casinos that exist are fancy and flourishing establishments. Club Regent in Winnipeg has one hundred handicapped parking spaces.

The Internet is also fraught with gaming sites. Just give them your credit card number and play to win from your own home! Charity lotteries and casinos have also become popular. They are organized to raise money for hospitals and foundations that have come into a financial pinch over the last years of government cutbacks. Pay for a chance to win big, and at the same time support a good cause!

Recently television broadcasters have come up with a new kind of gambling disguised as a sort of game show. You’ve probably heard about shows like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and “Greed.” People are asked questions and win money when they give right answers to a certain number of trivia questions. If you answer all the questions correctly you win a million dollars or even more. You can become a millionaire simply by answering a number of skill-testing questions! The form, the lighting, the music on these shows are meant to build suspense. And millions of people watch in suspense. This is gambling with your mind. Instead of dice, people play with their memories.

And let’s not forget the mailings proclaiming you to have won hundreds of thousands of dollars – that is, if you have the winning numbers. Retailers are becoming more and more oriented to this approach too. We are encouraged to buy certain products so we can win big money or tropical cruises. Just going to a store sometimes seems somewhat like going to a casino too. Win, win, win!

Don’t people see what this is about? What about Canadian Reformed people? I wish I could believe that no Reformed person ever bought a lottery ticket or set foot inside a casino or played a video lottery terminal. That’s because the Bible, for example in the text above, speaks very strongly against this sort of thing. This plays on the love of money, on greed, which the apostle calls the root of all kinds of evil.

The text calls this foolish desire. Gambling and gaming is designed so that almost all players lose. The very few winners win big and are celebrated. They gain a lot for a little, and they are used to promote envy and greed among the many, so that those many will play again. This is a glorious moneymaking scheme, as cash-strapped and cash-hungry governments, institutions, and organizations have discovered. It’s easy to get people to part with hard-earned money like this.

Ornate casinos, exciting ads, easy slot machines, and charity benefit all make what R.M. Rogers in his book, Seducing America (1997), called “a spiritual and financial time bomb in a pretty package.” It’s foolishness which plunges people not only into financial ruin, but, even worse, spiritual ruin.

The apostle Paul also speaks about harmful desires. It’s not wrong to set your mind on something and to work to obtain that. That is not covetousness in itself. But once one starts being dissatisfied with what one has because of that desire, that’s covetousness. Covetousness breeds discontent with the possessions and opportunities God has given. Gambling feeds this covetousness and discontent with God’s gifts. D.J. Kennedy called it “institutionalized covetousness” in his book, Gambling: America’s Hidden Addiction (1995). This makes it harmful. It is sin that is destructive to the covenant relationship with God.

It’s true, one can be captured by the love of money and be covetous and greedy without being a gamer or gambler. People who cheat on taxes are no less captive to the love of money. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the words of God above apply to the whole gambling and gaming culture of today.

The apostle of the Lord warns in 2 Timothy 3 that in the last days people will be lovers of themselves and lovers of money. We live as people of God in the middle of such a world today. We need to be watchful. And if we have succumbed, we need to acknowledge sin and show repentance. For there is forgiveness too, also for those who have fallen into foolishness and the sin of covetousness. We have a Saviour who was stripped naked on the cross for us, so that we might be forgiven and so that we might be heirs of all things with Him.

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