Gambling (Newsletter 4-3)

Gambling by Chris Buie

We find ourselves in a time of economic turmoil. I too feel the effects of downturns in my particular industry that has led to employment uncertainty. Those of us who place our trust in Jesus Christ find hope, peace,and comfort in these difficult times.

However, there are many who find no such serenity in times of stress. Instead of searching for Jehovah Jireh, they look elsewhere to satisfy the questions of their financial insecurity. Inevitably their pursuit will lead them down roads with devastating consequences. Irrational thinking leads to unwise choices. Reality becomes blurred with the determination to find a quick remedy. Despite odds stacked against their patrons, gambling activities will actually see an increase during periods where economic confidence is low. The Harvard Medical

School on Addictions ran an experiment in a casino environment where the test subjects were monitored with chances of winning, 10-ing, or breaking even. Using neuro-imaging techniques comparable to an MRI, the study concluded that monetary rewards in a gambling type atmosphere produced similar brain activity that has been observed in a cocaine addict after an infusion of the illicit drug. It is therefore no surprise that those who become hooked on this rush have a high probability of falling into the category of a compulsive or pathological gambler.

Although financial problems are an obvious reason someone might plunge into the pitfalls of gambling, there are many other motives that feed the cravings of the gambling addict The excitement or positive feelings of self-worth, social acceptance. camaraderie, or a way to feel successful are also motives for gambling. Other rationales include using gambling as an outlet for anger, rebellion. or to escape anxiety, stress or emotional pain. The fact for most who have delved deep into this malicious mindset is that when they are honest about their addiction, they will admit that it was not about the money at all. It becomes a need for one or more of the reasons above-a need to be in action at any given time. Many who even manage to defy the odds by winning admit to repeatedly sinking whatever winnings they had back into their habit.

The frame of mind is one of me against the world-what I am doing is of no significance to others. The ramifications are more far reaching than just what affects the individual. Some of the consequences include marital disharmony, divorce, child abuse, substance abuse, and suicide attempts. One study in The Journal of Social Issues found that as gambling increases, there is an increase in “(a) proportion of divorce and separation; (b)disagreement about money matters with one’s spouse; (c) lack of understanding between marital partners; and (d) more reported problems among children of gamblers.”

As a result, because of its very nature, gambling leads to the destruction of the family. The Bible is clear that we are to provide for our own; especially those in our own house. (See I Timothy 5:8.) It does not matter whether it is a husband with his wife and family, a single mother, or a single young man just starting out on his own. When one takes the grocery money, the mortgage payment, or any provision that would other-wise be used to benefit the household and places it into an act of greed he is worse than an unbeliever. Proverbs 15:27 states, “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house.” Proper stewardship and a consciousness of the protection of God’s provision place gambling at the polar opposite of Christian principles as it relates to spiritual health.

Gambling also destroys the work ethic. In Colossians 3:23-24, we are told “whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Yet gambling mocks disciplined work habits, thrift, prudence, adherence to routine, and the relationship between effort and reward. Gambling replaces those values with greed and selfishness. Rather than depending on hard work, they depend on luck and chance. Compulsive gamblers have serious trouble even holding jobs. Actions like calling in sick, taking off early, or stealing from work are not unusual.

The very act of placing a bet, for any of the numerous reasons mentioned earlier is a simple denial of the sovereignty of God. Taking a gamble because of financial duress, emotional pain, or lack of self-worth indicates a lack of trust in the Lord’s ability to answer. The world offers many escapes from the daily grind, gambling included. I applaud the efforts of the many “step” programs that are used to help individuals to break free from these type of addictions, but even those try to limit the “higher power” they advocate. The premise is that the addict will never be completely free, but will remain in a constant state of recovery. If only they could reach out and grab onto the revelation of complete trust in God. I am glad we serve a God whose work in our lives is not bound by perceived conditions or unjustified limitations. Our salvation is a whole work. Our Savior is a comprehensive God. When we need the God of healing, Jesus is there. When we need the God of provision, Jesus is there. When we need the God of comfort, Jesus is there. Yes, it is true. It is all in Him. His works are never partial. For the gambler, He can restore trust, repair relationships, rebuild confidence, and totally deliver without restriction. While the world takes its chances on uncertain outcomes, unproven schemes, and other vices in search of answers, we can place our faith in Jesus Christ .

Chris Buie attends Apostolic Pentecostal Church in St. Louis, Missouri. Steve Willeford is the pastor.