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FIRST-PERSON: Gambling: What is at stake?

SPANISH FORT, Ala. (BP)–Gambling has been around for centuries. Historians reveal Egyptian pharaohs practiced gambling compulsively. Their subjects buried them with their dice. Greek and Roman civilizations had an affinity for gambling revealed by their goddesses of luck and gambling.

Scripture reveals that Roman soldiers gambled for the garments of our Lord Jesus Christ while He was on the cross. The annals of history record accounts of gambling in various forms in France and Britain. In 1826 Britain banned lotteries. Meanwhile, during that era the United States employed lotteries for building projects and to support schools of higher learning. Most states either held lotteries or allowed the practice.

In an article titled “What’s Wrong with Gambling?” Philip L. Wilson explained, “As time passed, however, corruption became rampant and the outcry against gambling grew. By the time of the Civil War, only three states did not have laws against lotteries.” Wilson concludes, “For the most part, Christians have traditionally viewed gambling with alarm — and with good reason, for its basic philosophy is anti-God.”

Dr. Kenneth S. Kantzer (1917-2002), former president of Trinity International University (Deerfield, Ill.), and editor of Christianity Today magazine, wrote in an article titled, “Gambling: Everyone’s A Loser”, “[Dr.] Cotton Mather (1663-1728) preached against gambling as the denial of the providential control of God. Puritans and Quakers generally followed him.” Dr. Kantzer further explained, “The fundamental Christian objection to gambling is that it represents a denial of the God of providence. It replaces him with the universe of pure chance and a dependence on blind luck.”

In Isaiah 65:11 we read God’s indictment against His chosen people:

“But you are those who forsake the LORD,

“Who forget My holy mountain,

“Who prepare a table for Gad [the pagan god of fortune and luck]

“And who furnish a drink offering for Meni [the pagan god of destiny and chance].”

Dr. Kantzer added, “[Evangelicals] denounced [gambling] as socially harmful and inconsistent with the biblical view of God and the Christian’s responsibility to exercise good stewardship with his resources. Methodists and Baptists supported the Puritans and Quakers in an evangelical activism that lay at the growing edge of American Christianity all through the nineteenth century. State after state rejected government lotteries and declared gambling illegal. The last fling of government participation came in Louisiana in 1894. It ended in corruption and in a financial fiasco. Public gambling was finally stopped cold when U.S. Postmaster General John Wannamaker, an evangelical, barred all letters, postcards, circulars, lists of drawings, tickets, and other materials referring to lotteries from the mail.”

The Apostle Paul reveals elements of our identity “in Christ” in Ephesians 1:3-14. God wants believers to understand who we are “in Christ”. Please consider these three consequences of gambling:

— Gambling discards our values from Christ.

British theologian and author Godfrey Clive Robinson (1913-1971), reminds us of the biblical declaration, “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Rev. Robinson stated, “Gambling is a sin against God. It is a misuse of what He has graciously provided to meet the needs of His children, through their labor and the just exchange of goods and service. Let those who claim that gambling is their way of helping good causes simply help those causes, thus eliminating the motive of greed. Gambling is opposed to the example and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is as we trust and reverence Him that we learn to receive all His gifts with gratitude and employ them with a wise concern for the welfare of all.” Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7, clearly reveals His values.

— Gambling dims our vision of Christ.

Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman (1859-1918), American evangelist, revivalist and pastor, said, “It is a very difficult thing to make a rule for another to live by. The rule which governs my life is this: anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps me in my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me; and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.”

Allow me to share the lyrics of the first and last stanza of the hymn titled, “Be Thou My Vision”:

“Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;

“Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.

“Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,

“Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

“High King of Heaven, my victory won,

“May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!

“Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,

“Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”

— Gambling diverts our venture with Christ.

Ovid Demaris (1919-1998), former United Press correspondent and newspaper reporter, once wrote about an experience in Atlantic City, N.J., “It was broad daylight when I stepped into his cab. I had just arrived in Atlantic City to begin research on my book ‘The Boardwalk Jungle.’ We were in the heart of the business district, but he gave me that wary appraisal taxi-drivers usually reserve for the most dangerous areas of our cities. Seemingly satisfied that I wasn’t going to mug him, he shifted gears, and I said, trying to be friendly, ‘Well, what has casino gambling done for you?’ He swung around and glared at me. ‘I’ll tell you what it’s done for me,’ he snapped angrily. ‘It turned my daughter into a hooker and my son into a hustler.”

If you enjoy the rush of risk, remember, if you are a real Christian, you will risk your life and livelihood in the will of God. In Romans 16:3-4a, Paul writes about “Priscilla and Aquila, [his] fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for [his] life.”

As believers we must remember who we are “in Christ.” Many Christians are living far below their privilege as children of God. Paul’s prayer recorded in Ephesians 1:15-23 provides encouragement, as we seek to be wise in this evil day.

As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, when you think about gambling remember what is at stake.
Franklin L. Kirksey is pastor of First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Ala., and author of “Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.”

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  • Franklin L. Kirksey