Place Your Bets
July 9, 2002 • By Ed Wrather
(Update 2021: This devotional is a little dated, but in 19 years the problem with gambling has only grown worse. There are still only two states without gambling: Utah and Hawaii. In Oklahoma Indian casinos are everywhere and I am sure that more are planned. In 2016, Americans lost, they lost! $116.9 billion dollars! Since 2002 we’ve had the subprime mortgage crisis aka the great recession of 2008.)
And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’ - Luke 12:15.
In a German newspaper, tennis star Martina Navratilova said that money is the only thing that matters in the United States. She may be right. In a survey of teen girls, it was found that for 93%, shopping was their favorite thing to do. We also see the importance placed on money with the tremendous increase in gambling venues. 48 states have some form of legalized gambling including lotteries, video lottery machines, para-mutual betting, riverboat casinos, and Indian casinos. In 1998, Americans spent $50 billion on gambling.
We are currently in a crisis in the business world with Enron, and WorldCom crashing and burning. But this is apparently just the tip of the iceberg, with rumors of many more companies with accounting problems. Often, when people speak of buying stock, they talk about it being a good bet or a bad bet. The stock market has been used as just another gambling venue in the 1990s, and into the 21st Century. We have seen that in the name of making money anything is permissible if you succeed; and when you are caught, as seen with some CEOs in the hotseat, there is little contrition. Our whole economy has been warped and perverted into the ideal of the gambler hitting the jackpot with little regard for those who are hurt in the process.
Janet Folger who is the national director of the Center for Reclaiming America, author, and radio/TV commentator says that the costs associated with legalized gambling far outweigh the benefits. Folger also says, "Each compulsive gambler disrupts the lives of between ten and seventeen other people. So we’re costing marriages. We’re disrupting the lives of up to seventeen other people. We’re costing gamblers themselves their own lives; and yet, we’re pouring more and more money into promoting gambling from our taxpayers." Folger goes on to share, "In Atlantic City, once casinos were legalized, the crime rate more than tripled. Based on a federally funded study, 86% of compulsive gamblers commit felony crimes to further their addiction. This is serious stuff. It’s costing people their lives. It’s costing the taxpayers money."
In May of 2002, more than 200 religious leaders sent an open letter to President Bush and Congress, urging them to address the devastating effects of legalized gambling that they describe as a "moral and cultural cancer."
Our lives, as Jesus points out, does not consist of how many material possessions or how much money we have. Surely life is about more than that! If money is the only thing that matters to a person, what a little life they have. The more we focus in on money, and the gaining of more possessions, the more life is taken from us. The more we focus in on the eternal things, the more life we have.
Let us seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33); and then, everything else will fall into the proper perspective for us. When our focus is on God, we see that in the eternal perspective money is really not all that important. We may very well gain the whole world, but what good is the world if we lose our souls in the process?