TICKET TO PERPETUAL FAME

“Do you absolutely have to go out this evening, Gwen?” Dave asked as he watched her wipe off the counter.  “Seems like the girls expect so much of you: baby showers, bridal showers, Tupperware parties, candle parties, card parties, someone in the hospital… someone’s husband, mother, or sister in the hospital.  I hardly see you anymore.”

Gwen felt a stab of guilt over the long list of excuses she’d given him.  This was so hard on him, too.  Things just had to change.  “I’ll wipe everything off my schedule and stay home every evening next week.  I promise.”

“You said that last week, too, remember?  So you’ve been gone two evenings now and it’s only Wednesday.”  His tone was suspicious.  “Gwen, tell me the truth…  Is there someone else?”

“No, Dave!  Please don’t think that.  I love you.  I’d never want anyone else.”

“But there’s something else,” her conscience nagged.  Oh, shut up!

Dave put his arm around her.  “I hope not.  But I had to ask; I’d rather know the truth than wonder every time you go out.”

Another stab from her conscience.  “He’s been such a good husband.  How can you do this to him?  How can you do this to yourself?”

How did I ever get into this in the first place? she asked herself reproachfully.

“I’m sorry, Dave.  I’ve been too busy lately.  I’ll cut my visit as short as possible tonight,” she promised.  “There’ll probably be a lot of family at the hospital and I won’t be able to stay long.”  She winced inwardly; she was getting too good at lying.

“By the way, has there been a bank statement lately?  Seems like months since I’ve seen one.”  The tension had gone out of his voice; his question sounded innocent.

Gwen broke out in a cold sweat.  Please, let’s not go there.  “I guess I have a few sitting in my office…  I’ve been studying them and…forgot to…  I’ll bring them home as soon as I think of it.”

“Well, yeah.  Please.  I want to see them, too.  A person likes to know how much money he has.”

Oh, no you don’t, Gwen thought grimly.

I need to write up another loan, she decided.  I need to put money back into the account before I bring that bank statement home.  But how was she going to pay back the loans she’d already taken out?  The question gnawed at her as she put on her coat.  She felt so guilty for doing this to him.  It had to stop – soon.

“ Good bye, sweetheart.  I won’t be long tonight.”  She gave him a kiss on the cheek.

He responded with a big hug.  “I do love you, and I don’t want to lose you.  Please make some time for me in your life,” he said soberly.

“Gwen, you have got to get a handle on this,” she scolded herself as she backed the car out of the driveway.  “This just can’t go on!”  She thought again of their overdrawn bank account, the loans she’d taken out.  As bank manager, she’d okayed them without any of the other staff catching on, but how long would her luck hold?

Yes, she’d sidestepped the bank statement issue for several months, but sooner or later Dave would insist on seeing it.  Someday the bank would do an audit and find out that those five borrowers hadn’t paid a penny on their loans – that they didn’t even exist.  Then where would she be?  A tsunami of impending disaster loomed over her, ready to crash down any day.  She had to beat this thing!

“Oh, Lord, just one big win and I’ll pay it all back!  Please let it be tonight,”  She prayed as she turned her car into the casino parking lot.
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While the above conversation is fiction and names have been changed, the situation was too true.  Eventually “Dave” did demand to see the bank statements.  Eventually the bank did that audit and found out about the bogus loans.  “Gwen” promised to quit gambling — and for awhile she did manage.  But the casino pulled her back.

One night as she was standing at a slot machine, she got a funny feeling, like she was being watched.  She whirled around and there was Dave.  He made it plain that this was the end for them.  Gwen finally faced the fact that she was hooked and went into treatment for her gambling addiction.  Amazingly, their marriage survived.

Some time later Gwen shared her story with a reporter in hopes of warning others about the pitfalls of gambling.  She admits that she was addicted from the first time she entered a casino.
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One day back in Montreal we visited with a financial consultant.  Our conversation drifted to the area of gambling and he told us that he considered gambling a corruption of society.  Judging by the social problems it brings, we must agree.  Studies have proved that people who can least afford to lose money are gambling away the grocery money.  People who “win big” at lotteries and sweepstakes often end up bankrupt within a year.

The government has seen the need to set up addiction counseling for people who get hopelessly hooked.  Intelligent, well-educated people get snared in this just like the poor and illiterate.  Addicts like Gwen turn to crime, embezzlement and deception to secure their gambling money.

Can Christians gamble?  Should they?  What does your conscience tell you?

Can we consider the evidence above and still say gambling is an innocent pastime that some people just get carried away with, or is the whole system inherently evil?  Considering the danger, does God smile benignly at His children frequenting the casinos or lottery ticket sellers?  Or is gambling the devil’s game that Our Heavenly Father wants us to have no part in?

Part of society’s problem nowadays is that our culture has rejected the idea of the devil.  People still understand–and are fascinated by–evil.  Vampires and zombies are big hits these days.  Society is intrigued by the occult, witches good and bad, the communication with the souls of the dead.  But people have a very vague concept of the enemy the Bible warns us about.

Satan has done a snow job on western civilization; even Christians have switched their message away from warnings about demonic interference in favour of “God loves us all.”  Yes, folks may like to pass off responsibility for their bad choices by saying “the devil made me do it,” but do we honestly believe there is a supernatural being who can –who does– speak to us and influence us?  Whose goal is our destruction?

Do we as Christians grasp the reality of spiritual warfare that Paul writes about in Ephesians 6:12?  Do we understand that there are forces and powers in this world, of this world, that are “earthly, sensual, devilish”?  More particularly, that to avoid being ensnared by the devil in the lusts of this world, we need to “touch not the unclean thing.”  Are we concerned enough about the danger of committing spiritual adultery?

God has not left us without help and guidance in this alluring, deceptive world.  There are a number of scriptures we can use to judge that which is good and acceptable in His sight.  In James 1:13-17 we read that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.”  Can something that produces such sad results be from above?  Jesus asks his disciples, “Can men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Gambling, with its promise of big money, opens itself to criminals and cheaters.  Some, like horse racing and boxing, have been corrupted by doping or laming horses just before the big race, or rigging fights.  Gaming fights, like the pit bull fights that are increasing in popularity in the US, are so cruel.  Some dogs are horribly mistreated to make them vicious.  They are again mistreated or executed if they lose fights.

Gambling is a system of this world, subject to the corruptions of the “prince of this world.”  He shows no mercy; neither do some of his subjects.

Matthew 7:17-20 tells us that “every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.   Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you…” 2Co 6:17  See also Ephesians 6:12.

You can be sure that if you as a Christian meet the devil at his gaming tables, you’ll lose more than just your shirt.
To be continued….