I have mentioned gambling addictions in sermons. While gambling does not have a hold on me, I do know people who suffer from it. The father of a friend of mine helped me see the problem more clearly. “Barry” has a condo in Las Vegas and a home in the Los Angeles area. The condo is simply to enable him to gamble. He told me that he’d love to stay in LA but gambling is not legal here so he needed a place in Vegas. He explained he makes enough gambling to pay for the condo. At the time, we were staying at Barry’s place for the yearly football match of UCLA versus USC. Barry bets on the number of first downs in the second quarter, the number of fumbles, who will receive the kick in the second half, and, the long shot, that USC’s defense will get a “safety” in the third quarter (they didn’t). His $10 bet could have won him a hefty sum. Barry is addicted to gambling. You can’t tell by looking at him. Gambling doesn’t smell or leave tracks on the arm or even cause one to lose control of their car.
Gambling cost Barry his marriage and my friend grew up with a distracted father. From what I’ve heard, gambling debts made Barry rent out the condo, sell his home and live with his son until he gets his life turned around.
Because of the Supreme Court decision allowing states to legalize sports gambling, I’ve been thinking about Barry, and others I know who struggle with their addiction. The libertarian side of me is just fine with this decision. I don’t like the Federal government regulating morality. Americans should be free to choose how to live their lives. Plus, I am a states’ rights advocate because I think the states are more responsive to their local electorate. The other side of me is concerned. California will probably be one of the first to legalize sports gambling. And, whatever happens here tends to spread across the other states. I hope we pass legislation that funds rehab centers for gambling addiction.
A greater concern is that professional sports will probably be able to promote gambling. I know that one can gamble on-line. There are probably underground gambling networks too. But, legalization allows for more promotion.
There is gambling in the Bible. The soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ tunic as he hung on the cross. This act fulfilled Psalm 22:18, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” Casting lots is similar to rolling dice. In the Bible, many important decisions were determined by casting lots which was to determine the will of God. This past Sunday, we heard about the eleven apostles casting lots to see who the twelfth apostle should be. That practice ended on the Day of Pentecost. After then, the Church believed that praying in community is a better option for discerning the will of God.
Simply because some are addicted to alcohol doesn’t mean the state should ban it. We learned that lesson during Prohibition. Christianity has decided that casting lots is not an acceptable way to discern the will of God. Gambling is coming to a state near you; as followers of God, we must devise strategies by which the fate of Barry and others like him will not befall us. There are many dangers to the Christian family and many of them involve addictions. Let us practice both vigilance and compassion as we face a new challenge.
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