A few days ago, around 5:30pm, I stopped at a gas station with one of my sons to buy a couple of items. We walked into the gas station convenience store, found our items and got in line to pay. The one young lady at the cash register was busy helping a middle-aged woman. Behind her in line was a middle-aged man who had obviously worked hard all day, as was apparent by his dirty uniform and tired appearance. Behind him in line was an old man, who could barely walk, having limped into the store before us.
The transaction at the cash register was progressing slowly. All of us waited impatiently as the middle-aged women bought one lottery ticket after another. I was tempted to say to the two men in front of me, "What a waste of money," but I remained silent and shared my sentiments quietly with my son. Finally, the women set several twenty dollar bills on the counter to pay for her tickets, gathered them up and walked out of the store. At last the line moved forward.
Next to the counter came the man who had worked hard all day. Certainly, this working man would make a worthwhile purchase. But, to my disappointment, he plunked two one dollar bills on the counter, requested a lottery ticket and walked out, scratching the ticket as he made his way to his truck.
Finally, the old, limping man came to the counter. Again, to my increased dismay, the frail, gray-headed old man put several dollars on the counter and named the lottery tickets he wanted. He gathered them up and slowly shuffled out of the store with his worthless pieces of paper.
As this anecdote illustrates, we live in a culture that is awash in gambling. There is no longer a stigma attached to it. Gambling has become socially acceptable—play the lottery and help support Michigan schools, advertises the State Lottery of Michigan. One can buy lottery tickets at the convenience store, grocery store, gas station, and now from lottery vending machines. Casinos are no longer confined to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, but are found in places like West Michigan and Northwest Iowa.
And the internet has made it possible to gamble in nearly every conceivable way from the privacy and secrecy of our own homes. There is online poker, blackjack, roulette, and baccarat. You can bet on horse racing, greyhound racing, and the most popular of all—professional sporting events, such as auto racing, basketball, baseball, hockey, golf, football and the outcome of the Stanley Cup, Super Bowl, and World Series.
In the past couple of years, daily fantasy sports have become wildly popular, with two competing giants, FanDuel and DraftKings. This form of online betting is extremely tempting to the young men of the church. While it may masquerade as harmless and innocent sporting fun, it is gambling—plain and simple. And gambling is sin.
Gambling is a waste of God's gift of time. It is a foolish squandering of the financial resources God has entrusted to us to use in His service. It is a sinful way to obtain money. God has commanded us to work, and in that way He will supply our needs. Gambling is an expression of greed and covetousness.
"Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase" Proverbs 13:11.
We are excited to announce another writer that is joining the existing pool of writers for the RFPA blog. Aaron Cleveland is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In his writing for the blog Aaron will bring a perspective from the pew. This is his second blog post.