January 28, 1997
The town of Rocky Mountain House has been making headlines. Some citizens are outraged that their community of less than 6000 population has deposited nearly $3 million a year into fewer than 40 video lottery terminals, VLTs for short. These machines are supposed to bring in funds that are returned to the community but in Rocky, the return is slightly more than $52,000. Many are upset over this imbalance and also what gambling is doing to their community.
Gambling can be a terrible addiction, particularly for people working in isolated places. My husband tells of men in a camp construction project that traveled home after they lost their entire pay cheque. What do a husband and father say to his wife and children when he has no money for groceries and rent?
Gambling supposedly offers risks and therefore thrills. Those who do it also hope for the “big one,” the windfall, instant cash, a spectacular prize. Sometimes it happens. However casinos, bingo halls and even VLTs make a profit for the people who run them, not the people who put in their dollars and take the risks.
Rocky Mountain House statistics are one example. If the above figures are correct and if everyone who lived there played the VLTs, each citizen would contribute nearly $500 per year to the machines in order to total the $3 million sent to the government. However, if $52,000 is divided by the same population figure, then the payback averages less than $9 per person.
Putting faith in a machine that promises so little seems illogical but for those who gamble, false hope overcomes logic. Thankfully, we can put our faith in something more sure and have a sure hope, one that will not disappoint us.
If people play the VLT’s because of concern for physical necessities, Jesus said, “ . . . those who not know Me worry about such things but as for you, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
That is an absolute promise made by the Son of God. He invites those who worry about their needs to trust Him, act accordingly and He will make sure they have enough. The Bible says, “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
If people hope for a windfall so they will at last “be somebody,” God promises significance to those refuse to gamble and instead hope in Him. He said to His people, “Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
If gambling is merely a thrill, an exciting thing to do, faithfully following the Lord offers that too. The Apostle Paul wrote of his experiences, which to me are not appealing but to risk-takers, his life sounds like an adventure. Among them he mentions being shipwrecked, spending time in the open sea, being constantly on the move, in danger from rivers, bandits, false teachers, his own countrymen and Gentiles. In all that he experienced, he also knew the presence of God and experienced His power and faithfulness. To those who share that relationship, closely following God is far more thrilling than gambling, even winning at gambling.
If gambling is for that big surprise, an unexpected windfall, then consider the payoff from following Christ. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or family (or gambling or anything else) for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
It may sound risky, but the payoff is guaranteed — because whatever God promises, He delivers!