January 19, 1999
Will the VLT question ever be settled? A provincial vote recorded public opinion but somehow the matter is still up in the air. Human rights continue to blur the issue.
Rights, a worldwide hot topic, spans the extremes. For instance, minority groups cry for the right to be heard and teenagers demand the right to drive the family car. Women ask for equal pay for equal work and my grandchildren each want the right to the TV remote. Criminals ask for the right to vote and dissatisfied spouses think they have the right to be unfaithful. Writers demand their copyrights and everyone wants to stand at the front of the line.
Which demands are legitimate? How can anyone know? In many cases, if all are equally valid still some must give in to others. So who decides which rights take priority?
It is irrational to give looters the right to enter broken windows and take what they want whenever they want it. It is also irrational to give angry people the right to express their feelings by spraying a shotgun in a school ground. Is it irrational to give people the right to gamble?
Of course playing VLTs is not the same as stealing or killing but excessive or compulsive gambling takes a toll on innocent people. How much is excessive? Can human rights have limits in this case? Is it possible to agree on what those limits should be?
Endless questions with debatable answers should make us ask what God says but the Bible says nothing about VLTs and very little about gambling. It does mention human rights.
God defines rights and freedom far differently than we do. While He allows us choices, He does not define that freedom as a right to do whatever we want. Instead, He says “not all things are beneficial.” In God’s mind, making choices is a privilege, a responsibility, even an opportunity. He also says if we think we are free to fulfill our own wants, we are actually slaves.
How can this be? To understand God’s perspective, we have to realize that the essence of sin is selfishness. When we do our own thing contrary to the commands of God, we sin. The New Testament book of Romans asks, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey . . . ?”
God says: choose to either serve Him and be free to become all He intended when He created us, or choose to be a slave to ourselves and sin. This is strong talk, but He gives no other options.
Slaves are unpaid workers who cannot say no to their boss. This sounds like a person addicted to gambling. VLTs rarely pay back the people who use them. Instead, they are designed to make a profit. Not only that, they rob people of discernment. In thinking they are doing as they please, gamblers are actually in bondage to an expensive, thrill-seeking habit they cannot break.
Families of gambling slaves also pay the price of this so-called “freedom.” They lose their “rights.” Money for their groceries and utility bills is spent on “roads, education and health care” or it goes into the pockets of whoever owns the establishments that house the machines.
You and I also pay a price for this “freedom.” Our taxes go up because families draw more deeply from social services. Gamblers who want to quit need therapy too, and someone must pay for their increased needs. We also pay in pain if the addicts are people we love.
Those who make money on the machines are caught in a “love of money” trap that the Bible calls the “root of all evil.” They cannot set themselves free and will eventually “pierce themselves with many griefs.” This demand for “rights” is costly and deceptive, not true freedom.
Freely giving everyone the “right” to gamble results in huge losses. Everyone is trapped by one side of it or another — and everyone pays a price.