August 7, 2011
All Bets Are Off – Part 1
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Proverbs 12:11

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The series That Makes Good Sense teaches from the book of Proverbs on the essential nature of godly wisdom to live life well. The series reminds believers that wisdom is about choosing to live rightly, righteously, and timely so that God is honored in all areas of life.

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Let’s begin to take a look at this morning at the subject, all Bets Are Off, and I’m going to use Proverbs 12 verse 11, which I’ll refer to later in this sermon as a kind of springboard, or at least one of the principles that I think argues against the Christian being involved in gambling. Proverbs 12 and verse 11, “He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, but he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.” The word frivolity there could be translated the chasing of a fantasy. I think that’s a good description of gambling. If you gamble, you’re chasing a fantasy, and the book of Proverbs tells us, “he who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, but he who chase’s fantasy is devoid of understanding.” God’s word is telling us this morning all bets are off. Just this past week I read the story of a man who was brought up by his grandmother who was an staunch southern Baptist.
From his earliest years he was basically frog marched to church and the Sunday school, every Lord’s day come rain, come shine. So you can imagine the confusion of this dear woman when he switched to the Episcopal church after he married. In fact, she was so flabbergasted, she cornered him one day and said, “son, what is wrong with the Baptist church?” He answered, “well, when Carol and I got married we flipped the coin to see which church we would go to. Hers or mine and I lost.” In hearing that tale, the old woman replied, serves you right. Good Baptist, don’t gamble.
I agree with that statement. Good Baptists don’t gamble. Good Baptist don’t gamble because they believe gambling to be bad. Without apology they consider and catalog gambling for money as a sin. Gambling as a philosophy attacks the very existence and sovereignty of God, and gambling as a practice attacks God’s sovereignty, wastes his gifts, undermines the virtue of work, causes men to do harm to their neighbor, feeds upon covetousness, breeds crime, ruins homes, enslaves souls, and exploits the weak in our society. No good comes of gambling. That’s why good Baptist don’t gamble. In fact, what’s true Baptist is true of all good Christians in general. My study this week has brought me to see that the Evangelical Church has consistently throughout its history sought to be a bulwark against rampaging and the ruinous effects of gambling.
The church of Jesus Christ, throughout history, has not blinked to see the evil in this practice and has been quick to loudly warn of its immediate and then its ultimate cost. Let me just give you a sampling of the quotes I was able to get together. Tertullian was a church father who lived in the third century and he states concerning gambling quote, “if you say you are a Christian, when you are a dice player, you say you are what you are not for you’re a partner with the world.” Winding forward to the 16th century, there’s no let up with the Christian church’s opposition to gambling, as we can see in this quote from the Protestant reformer Martin Luther. Quote, “no one gambles with another in order to give away to the other what is his own for he could do that without gambling. Nor in order to lose what is his own. Nor in order to seek the gain of the other man as though it were his own.”
That is, this is why gambling is always contrary to love and is motivated by greed because a man seeks to the harm of another what does not belong to him. On top of that, I learned that John Calvin, who established their affirmation in the city of Geneva in Switzerland, he banned gambling from the entire city. In the early days of the United States, Cotton Mather, one of the New England Puritans, preached against gambling as a denial of God’s providential control. Seems to me in the light of the gambling fever that has caught America, that the church needs to find its voice once again.
You and I need to realize this morning that gambling is now America’s favorite pastime. Until a decade ago, there were only two states that permitted the operation of casinos. That’s just 10 years ago. Today more than half the states have casinos and 48 states allow some form of legalized gambling. The epidemic of gambling has now penetrated every corner of American culture with the expansion of state lotteries, casino gambling, and internet gaming.
Let me help you grasp just to set a framework for our thinking, the scope of the expansion of the gambling industry just in the last 10 years. In fact, the statistics tell us that Americans gamble more money today each year than they spend on groceries. In 1970, there was an estimated 1 million gambling addicts in America. Today the number has skyrocketed to between 12 to 15 million and the figure is climbing. If you add the compound impact of that to say near family members or the workplace, it is estimated that gambling, as a pathological and problematic pattern of life, is affecting about 60 million people in America today. That’s six cities the size of Los Angeles. That’s the breadth of this kind of problem.
In fact, I read a paper that was put out by James Dobson’s Ministry, Focus on the Family. He was part of a national commission that showed many, many things in terms of the negative impact and the facts of gambling. He says that there is a mountain of evidence now demonstrating the fact that there is a direct link between problematic and pathological gambling and divorce, child abuse, domestic violence, bankruptcy, crime especially theft, and suicide.
Listen to these words from John Piper, author and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He says this quote “in 2001…” Put your ears on here “in 2001, Americans wagered 57 billion on lotteries, 18 billion on horses and dogs, 592 billion in casinos, 150 billion in other gambling forms.” Did you do the math? $817 billion were spent in 2001 on the issues of gaming and gambling.
He goes on to say this, “this is a blood on American life.” Since he’s in the north of America. He says this, “if you break it down to individuals, say in a state like Massachusetts, Massachusetts sells more than $500 worth of lottery tickets each year for every man, woman, and child in their state. Think how many do not gamble and you will begin to imagine what thousands are thrown away to have a one, two, 135 million chance for the jackpot.”
Studies show us, moving in another direction, that 95% of Americans have gambled at some time in their lives, 82% have played the lottery, 75% have played slot machines, 50% have bet on horses or dogs, 44% play cards, 34% play bingo, 26% have bet on a sports event, 74% of frequented casinos, and 89% approve of casino gambling.
You can see why I think the church needs to find its voice in today’s culture when it comes to the issue of gambling. This fever is spreading like a plague and as a trap and as a temptation, it entices both the young and the old. Gambling is not just the pastime of adults, but teenagers and even children now are being targeted to be captured by its snare. According to the commissioner of that National Commission, James Dobson, he says at 85% of our young people have already gambled on everything from card games to sports teams to casinos to lotteries. Worse is the fact that 15% of them are now developing a problem, an addiction, when it comes to gambling. But it’s not only the teens that are being enticed and gamble. On the other end of the spectrum, statistics are showing that the gambling industry targets their sights on senior citizens, many of which have a lot of disposable capital, who have got a lot of free time on their hands, and so they are good pecking for the casinos.
Martin, our Erwin Lutzer in his book Seven Snares of Satan says this, “casinos hire tour companies to arrange low-cost trips to gather senior citizens from various areas and bring them to the nearest casino. For example, some 9 million people a year are brought to Atlantic City by casino buses, and Sunday is their busiest day of the week. Many seniors who have been lured there by the fantasy are ashamed to come back to church. There are some 600 casinos in 26 states.” He then quotes a Pat Fowler, the executive director of the Orlando based Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling who says quote, “who else will pick you up at your home, take you to engage in an exciting activity, in a safe environment, give you lunch, call you by name and make you feel important? Our society sees seniors primarily as disposable and this industry has picked up on that.”
A casino in Iowa gives older club members a 50% discount on their prescription drugs. They’re trying everything and anything to push people through the doors of casinos. This is a tremendous trap. It’s a tremendous temptation in our culture and therefore I want to address it because the Bible does not stutter or stammer when it comes to this issue. I hope to give you six principles, but I believe will challenge you should you have not concluded that gambling is bad. I’ll give you six principles that I think will convince you if you’re open-minded at all, that gambling is a bad bet. That a Christian worldview is concerned that all bets are off.
Now let me say this, there is no 11th commandment in the Bible when it comes to gambling. It is hard to find one verse that directly speaks to the issue, but that doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t speak to the issue. There are principles, there are patterns there many issues the Bible doesn’t deal with directly. But I think if you look at patterns and principles in the word of God, you’re going to see that the Bible, God’s word, diametrically opposes the idea of luck, the wasteful use of God-given resources, the exploitation of the poor, and material obsession on the part of people. We’ll also see that this is a sin that multiplies itself with other sins.
Right. Before I give you two principles this morning, I want us to look just for a few moments and you’ll, you’ll want the track with me on this. I want us to consider what gambling is not, and what gambling is. I’ll try and give you a definition. I’ll give you an original one from myself, but I’ll give you a better one from a couple of Christian authors, but let’s just start just for a few moments by way of further introduction, considering what it is not.
Let me say this, that gambling is not the seam as casting lots. This is a question you’ll get. Well, someone will say in defense of gambling, “well you know what? Didn’t they cast lots in the Bible?” And we know that lots in the Bible were dice like things that were made out of the knuckle bones of animals, probably sheep and why they were used outside of the Bible for games of luck and chance. We do find them used in the Bible, but you need to be honest with the word of God. Don’t stretch the text. Don’t make the word of God say something it doesn’t. You see there’s acts of Jesus and there’s [inaudible 00:13:52] of Jesus. [inaudible 00:13:52] Jesus is wonderful things in the Bible I see most of them put there by you and by me. Let’s do some acts of Jesus. You’re going to see that lots were cast but they were used in the decision making of God’s people.
In 1 Samuel 10, verse 20 to 21, they were used to select Saul as king in Numbers 26, 52 to 56, they were used to determine the division of the land of Keenan for the people of God. Interestingly, you’ll find it used in the early part of the New Testament in Acts chapter one verse 21 to 26 lots were cast to choose Mathias over Judas who was being replaced. Lots were cast both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, but they were consistently cast simply as an act of decision making, because Proverbs 16, verse 33 says, “the lot is cast into the lap but its decision is from the Lord.” It was an ancient practice used to make decisions. It was a decision that recognized the sovereignty of God even in the lie of the lot. Probably more akin to what we would something like the pulling of straws.
Interesting thing is that after the coming of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, the completion of the cannon, we read nothing of the casting of lots after Pentecost because we’ve got the full revelation of God’s word. We’ve got the companionship and guidance of the Holy Spirit, but the point I simply wanted to make should someone make that fallacious argument, your answer to that is of course there were casting of lots almost like the ruling of dice in the Bible, but there is not one verse in the Bible that shows that either a believer in the Old Testament or the New Testament cast lots for the gain of money through gambling. It was simply used as a decision making process which became redundant following Pentecost. So gambling is not the same as casting lots.
Secondly, this is an important one, gambling is not the seam as taking risks. I want you to understand that we’re not against taking risks as Christians. In fact, life is full of risks. No man knows what tomorrow will bring, and the Bible is not against even investing with risk involved or insuring yourself against possible risks. We see in the parable of the talents the Lord Jesus Christ was not against servants taking what had been given to them and as good stewards investing it and getting return on that money. In fact, this condemnation is for the servant who idly sat on his money. There’s so many things in life that are full of risks.
Farming is a risk. The Bible doesn’t condemn farming. The farmer takes his seed, picks his field, sows it, waters it, tends to it, hoping that there won’t be a blight, hoping that there won’t be an early storm before the harvest is brought in. There’s risks involved in that. A farmer’s fortune and future sometime rides on a harvest being brought in at the right time. Life is full of risks.
In fact, you and I could spend our money on a good education in a good school for a particular job in a very narrow market and then the economy changes or the job trends change, and after four years you’ve invested money in a job that’s not as profitable and as necessary as you thought four years ago. Life is full of risks and some people will point to that fact and say “then pastor, what’s the difference between gambling and investing in the stock market? Is that not a risk? Yeah, both are risks, but there’s a great difference between those two risks when it comes to the stock market, there is risk involved. You can lose money on the stock market, but time has shown us that more people gain and prosper in the stock market than lose.
You can compare that the gambling where most people lose and a very few gain, but that’s not really the argument. The argument is I can look at a company, I can look at its past track record, I can look at the stability of the economy, I can get insight from investors and money managers, and I can make a calculated decision that will involve some risk to put my money at a certain company. But the difference is this, I apply my mind to that. I have to research. I have to weigh things up. There’s a cognitive process involved. There are also… The risks have certain controllable elements to them, predictable factors to them. That is not the seam as me putting 50 bucks on a craps table and waiting to see how the dice roll. I have no control over the role of the dice.
I do not have to use my mind. I do not have to use the sermon. I do not have to take in the council of others because the role of the dice or the turn of the river card is absolutely random and indeterminate of, and so it is not the same to say that investing in the stock market is the same as gambling in some Atlantic City casino. Gambling is not the same as casting lots and gambling is not the same as taking justified risks either in terms of insurance or investment. You’re comparing apples with oranges, which brings me to give you a definition of what gambling is, I took this from Kenneth Cancer who used to be the editor of Christianity Today used to teach I believe at Trinity Evangelical School in Deerfield, Illinois. He says this, “gambling is an artificially contrived risk taken for selfish gain at another person’s expense with no constructive product or social good as its goal.”
Irwin Lutzer defines gambling quote, “stealing by mutual consent.” And this is my definition, gambling is an unnecessary risk, with money that is not ultimately ours, in games of chance, for the purpose of bettering ourselves at the expense of our neighbor. Gambling is an unnecessary risk, with money that is not ultimately ours, in games of chance for the purpose of battering ourselves at the expense of our neighbor. Gambling’s wrong and it does wrong.
Now let me give you six principles. We’ll just look at two this morning. I’m going to take these principles from the book of Proverbs. You could find these principles anywhere in the word of God, but since we’re in the book of Proverbs, I was able to find these six principles in the book of Proverbs that I think argue against gambling both as a recreational activity and some kind of social pattern that government should endorse.
Number one, providence argues against gambling. Providence argues against gambling. This is probably the greater argument here. This is the number one argument I have against gambling. This is where for me, the controversy starts. In fact, the whole issue with a Christian and his view or her view of gambling is right here at a philosophical level. The fundamental Christian objection to gambling is this. It represents a view of the world that denies the providence of God.
Think about the worldview of the gambler either consciously in the part of some or unconsciously in the part of others. Nevertheless, if they give themselves to games of chance, they have a certain worldview that assumes a world of indeterminate and random chance, and in this world the chief virtue is luck. The gambler wants Lady Luck to shine down upon him or her and they know that Lady Luck doesn’t exist. It’s simply a person. It’s a personification of the idea that, you know what, if you’re in the right place at the right time, maybe the dice will roll your way or the cards will randomly turn to your advantage and you’re hoping that luck, this impersonal force and principle in life will work to your favor. That’s their worldview. We don’t believe in luck right.
Now, sometimes that word escapes from my lips or your lips, but we don’t believe in luck as an impersonal force. I think if we use it and I’m trying to eradicate it from my vocabulary, but I know that sometimes at escapes from my lips or your lips and we mean no harm by it. But we don’t believe in luck whatsoever. We don’t believe that something happens to us randomly, fortuitously. By happenstance, but this is the worldview of the gambler.
In fact, track with me here for a few moments. Gambling is based upon a view of the world that’s humanistic and evolutionary. In fact, I would argue that said gambling is simply an extension of the philosophy of evolution and if you think about it, evolution is a doctrine that believes that we got here by chance anyway. Right? By chance. There was a chemical combustion over millions of years, just things coming together randomly and life was formed and then it began to evolve and went up the food chain. Randomly, by happenstance. Evolution has a view of life, we’re here by chance anyway. If you think about it, the gambler is heartened by the odds of the Big Bang theory and if we got here by chance, if you think about it, then you stand a half decent chance and maybe winning the lottery someday or getting the card you need to get your royal flush. Gambling is an evolutionary idea.
Luck for the gambler and for the evolutionist is a principle of life. It’s a worldview. He believes in luck and he reckons on chance. That’s where his hope is. That the gods of luck will work to his favor. Now, in contrast, the Christian worldview, our perspective on that is on the other end of the spectrum. We believe as the Bible teaches that there is a sovereign God who works actively over all events, over all persons, and over all time. We believe that the Bible chokes to death the idea of luck. Listen to some verses in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 16 verse nine, “a man’s heart plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.” We act but God rules or overrules our actions. He either directly endorses them or he indirectly uses them. If they are good actions, he will directly use them for good purposes. If they’re bad actions, he will indirectly use them for good purposes. As in the case of Joseph, you meant that for evil, God meant that for good.
There is not a follicle on your head or in my head that falls to the floor, but God doesn’t know it. There’s not a sparrow that falls to the ground, but God doesn’t know it. Proverbs 16 33 recorded it earlier. The lot is cast into the lap and its very decision is from the Lord. Even the role of the dice, God governs. And in here we’re not talking about gambling by the way. We’re talking about decision making.
One other verse in proverbs is Proverbs 21 verse one, the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord like the rivers of water and he turns it wherever he wishes. The image there is an agricultural one of how farmer would dig these water trenches and he would direct the flow of water along these water trenches down to his vines or whatever he was growing, and the Bible is saying here that there is a sovereign God over all the sovereigns of this earth and he turns their heart whatever way he wants.
There is a God in heaven who does whatever pleases him. As an example of what we’re talking about, Psalm 103, verse 19, here’s what we read. “The Lord has established his throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all.” Do you believe in luck, in chance, in happenstance? I don’t. I can’t. The doctrine of our sovereign God teaches us that God rules or overrules all things. Hebrews one, three, “he upholds what all things by the word of his power.” Romans eight verse 28, “he works all things together for our good.” John one verse three. “There was nothing mead that he did not make.” And I think that one of the verses that a closer and a clincher on this is Ephesians one, verse 11, right, these verses down. These will help you argue against the whole idea of luck and happenstance.
Ephesians one 11, Paul’s writing to the church at Ephesus. He says, “in him also, we have obtained an inheritance being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the council of his will.” The verb there “works” is in the present tense it means to continually work to go on in that activity. The verb there is teaching us that God is in charge of all things at all times. He does not get things started and then lets them go on their own. He is consistently, actively, involved in our world and in our lives. Everything that happens happens within the determined will of God and the idea of luck and the philosophy of chance and the doctrine of evolution rob our God of his glory and does not ascribe to him and attribute to him all the things that he does in our lives.
There are no accidents when it comes to the Christian’s life, only appointments. And so this whole idea of luck and chance is simply another word for human arrogance and the outworking of an unregenerate mind that is at enmity with God that imagines that it can deny the very existence of God.
Listen, gambling is not a harmless pastime. It is a philosophy of life that seeks to plunge a dagger through the heart of Christian theology. Gambling and superstition go hand in hand and no Christian should want to have a hand in that marriage. One cannot be a theist and gamble because the very idea of luck and chance flies in the face of our understanding of this world and God’s governance of it.
Let me take you to a verse I think rather challenging. I was greatly helped, I want to attribute this to Rex Rogers who I don’t know if he still is, was one time president of Cornerstone College up in Grand Rapids. He’s got a great book on gambling. You want to get your hands on it if this is an issue you know someone’s struggling with. It’s called Seducing America. Is gambling a Good Bet? Rex Rogers and in his book he takes us to Isaiah 65, get your Bibles and mark it and go to Isaiah 65 and verse 11 and 12.
Isaiah 65, 11 and 12, but you… God is speaking of Israel here, “but you are those who the Lord who forget my holy mountain, who prepare a table for God and who furnish a drink offering for many. Therefore, I will number you for the sword and you shall all bow down to the slaughter because when I called you did not answer. When I spoke you did not hear but did evil before my eyes and chose that which I did not delight in.” I want you to ring, and there’s nothing wrong with marking your Bible. Ring the word God and the word many in verse 11. And if you’ve got a wide margin Bible or a good study Bible, you’ll realize that these are two Hebrew terms and one means good luck and one means bad luck.
You say, “pastor, what’s going on here?” Here’s what’s going on. This is a time in Israel’s history when they’re apostatizing, when they’re compromising theologically, when they’re becoming corrupt socially and morally, and here’s what’s happening in the life of Israel. They have forsaken God. They’re not going to up his holy mountain to worship him when he calls. They don’t answer. When he asks for their support, he doesn’t get it. They are spreading a table. They are involved in feasting and worshiping two gods, God and many, the gods of luck and God says, “I am going to come among you and I’m going to judge you, punish you.” Why? Because they’re attributing anything that they enjoy in life to the gods of luck and that flies in the face of a biblical understanding of God and his goodness and mercy toward us.
There’s no such a thing as luck. What have you says Paul that did not receive? God has given us all things to enjoy. Gambling is a kind, says Rex Rodgers, of secularized divination. It’s a tremendous thought. Every casino is like a temple dedicated to the gods of God and many and what right-thinking Christian would identify with something God punished and condemned in the Old Testament and his ancient people Israel. To believe in luck is to believe that God does not exist. For if God does exist all knowing and all powerful as he is, then luck makes no sense. Things don’t just happen. I want you to think that through JC Royal said this, “nothing was too little for God to create nothing too little for him to preserve.”
We believe in an all knowing, all powerful God who upholds all things, works all things together for our good who is working out his own purpose and counsel in this world constantly in all things. When it comes to the future, when it comes to our fortunes as Christians, we trust them to the providence of God and believe that in whatever circumstances we are, we will be content having food and clothing, we will be content. Providence argues against gambling and in a few minutes we’ll deal with the second one. It’s not as prolonged. Remember what I said? That first one I think is the Achilles heel of an endorsement of gambling, but the second one is Providence argues against gambling, prudent argues against gambling. We’ve already noted the distinction between a calculated risk, like investing in the stock market, to unnecessary risk, which is gambling. There is no way to predict in any fashion the turn of the card, the fall of the dice, where that little ball is going to fall on the roulette wheel.
You are giving your fortune and your future over to in your mind absolute random opportunity. Prudence argues against unnecessary risk where there is no controllable or predictable element and as such, it’s foolish. Gambling literally is like taking your money and throwing it to the wind in the hope that some poor man will walk by catch a $5 bill, it’ll get him started, he’ll become a millionaire and maybe 10 years done, then he’ll come back and bless you for the $5 bill caught in the air as you threw it to the wind. You say that’s ridiculous, but it’s the same kind of thinking about going to the casino and putting $5 on the craps table and hoping you’re going to walk out there rich. It’s just silly. It’s irrational. There’s no serious thought involved in gambling. There is serious thought involved in investment. No serious thought involved in gambling. Considering the odds no man in his right mind would gamble.
In fact, john MacArthur in a tremendous message on gambling said this, “that the statistics are so astronomical in terms of your odds of winning that you stand a greater chance of being bit by a shark on dry land.” Let me give you some of the statistics. In fact, the statistics tell us this. The statistics tell us this. That you’re more likely to be murdered on the way to the convenience store to get your lottery ticket. That’s how ridiculous this is, and this is what we’re pinning our hopes on for the education of our children. Here’s some odds of seeing a no hitter at a baseball game, the odds are one in 1,347. Having a royal flush in a poker game, one in 649,000. Having quadruplets, one in 705,000. Being struck by lightning, one in 1,900,000. Winning the California lottery, one in 23 million. Now you’re going to take your hard-earned money and put it in that kind of situation? That is foolish, and the book of Proverbs warns us about being prudent, about being wise.
Listen to these verses in Proverbs 14 verse 15, Proverbs 14, 15. “The simple believes every word.” Okay, if I was to apply that, the simple man believes driving down the 23 freeway and he sees the billboard that the lottery is your ticket to financial security. The simple man believes that, the idiot, the simpleton, the blockhead, reads those advertisements, doesn’t look at the odds and says, “you know what? Hey dear, let’s get a lottery ticket every month. Let’s get a few. In fact, let’s spend a hundred dollars a month on the lottery and we stand a chance maybe of making it good and we’ll be spending the rest of our lives in the Cayman Islands sipping on smoothies and just enjoying life. Oh, that sounds good dear. Let’s do that.” The book of Proverbs says, “you know what? The simple man believes everything but the prudent considers well his steps.”
Prudence would cause you to step back and say, there’s better things to do with my money. One, “I’m not about to give my money to an industry that promotes the whole idea of luck and happenstance and chance.” “I’m not going to go into these modern temples of God and many and another thing dear, we are not going to take our money and throw it to the wind like that.” “You might as well go and get a pair of scissors and we’ll just cut it all up and throw it in the wast paper basket.” “Now, we’ll do better things than that. We’ll either put it in an interest yielding bank account or I have a friend has studied investment all of his life. I think he can give us good advice. There are some risks involved, but you know what? There’s some companies that have just proven themselves to be a good investment over 10 years and I think we could get something back on this money and have a little extra for ourselves and the kids.”
That’s the kind of thinking of prudent man does, but the simpleton believes everything. One other verse in that we’re done is Proverbs 27, 12. Again, just the idea of prudence 27, 12. “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself the simple pass on and are punished.” Just the damage that gambling has done, the prudent man sees that. He sees that in the wake of America’s gambling binge with divorces going up, young people are not as becoming as productive. We’re losing our economic edge among the nations. We’re a nation given to leisure and consumption. Crime doubles in the cities where these casinos come. The poor are exploited. The prudent man sees that evil, and doesn’t get involved in it, but the simple one just buys into the hype, takes money that he can ill afford to give away and goes and spends it on a one in 23 million chance that he’s going to win the lottery.
Prudence and providence argues against gambling. Let me just finish with a thought. I would assume for the most part, I’m preaching to the choir this morning. There may be the possibility there are those in the service this morning who are gambling, and I trust that the warning and the wisdom of God’s word will speak to them and they will turn from that foolish and sinful action recognizing that their trust is not in the turn of a card, but a sovereign God who has unmistakably determined, demonstrated his love and commitment to us in the death of his son, whose character is unchangeable, who can be counted on you, can put your soul, your future, your hope of heaven into God’s hands, those hands that uphold all things and work together for our good all things. Those are a safe set of hands.
But you know what? Some of us are gambling as an extension of just my last point. Some of us are gambling. We’re actually gambling with the most precious thing we possess. Not our money, our souls. I came across a story this week. This is utterly stupefying. In 1982, ABC News carried a story about an art exhibit and that art exhibit was basically a chair and in front of the chair was a loaded double barreled shotgun, and it was set to go off. But the time of it going off was not determined. It was to go off within the next hundred years, but nobody knew when it would go off. Did you know that people stood outside the museum that had that art, if you can call it that, exhibition so they could get their turn to sit in the chair and to look straight in the eyes of a double barreled shotgun queued up and you go, “Pastor, that is dumb. You wouldn’t get me doing that.”
I hope not. I hope not, but I’ll tell you what some of yous are doing. You’re wagering your hope of heaven on your good works. You’re wagering on the thought that you know God’s this benign father figure up in the heavens who will kind of wink and turn his face away at your sin and kind of let you into heaven that way. You’re gambling your future on the idea that you were baptized as a child. And you know what? When it’s all added up, you’re probably seven times better than 10 of your neighbors. You’re wagering your future on that? You’re gambling your future when God tells you to put your faith in the finished work of his son upon the cross when Jesus said, “I paid for your sin debt in full in my blood and in my death and the acceptance of that sacrifice by God has been proved in that I have been raised from the dead and I have been received at the father’s right hand where I will become a representative for any man, woman, or child who will put their faith in me.”
Jesus is the safest bet. He’s a safe bet, if I could use that language and I trust this morning that none of yous are gambling with heaven and hell with your own tailor me ideas of religion. God has given us his word. He has told us what he’s like. He is holy. He will judge sin, but he is loving and gracious and he has provided a way for you and I to have that sin forgiven, but it has nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with Christ. It is not by works of righteousness, which we do. It’s by faith in the mercy of God that will save us. Don’t gamble. I will be at the front. There will be counselors available. We would love to point you to faith in the Lord Jesus.