WHILE I was still pretty young, I can remember, I went to a candy store with my family. We were each given a penny for the gum machine. Both of my sisters put in their money and out rolled striped gumballs. The clerk told us that if striped gumballs came out, we would also receive free candy. My sisters gleefully showed their striped gum and picked out their candy. But when I put my penny in the machine, out rolled a plain ordinary gumball. After pleading for a few more pennies, I ended up with a handful of plain ordinary gum. I was pretty disappointed. It didn't seem fair.
Over the next few years, I would recall this event from time to time and wonder about it. At one point, however, I asked God what the lesson was. The answer was startling to me: I had been gambling. And, as I thought about it honestly, I had to admit that my motive for putting all those pennies in that machine had been to win the candy. I had been depending on chance to receive something. It was a valuable lesson!
In the lure of gambling we are led to believe that we can gain something beneficial, that taking a chance can be a good thing and, if nothing else, that it can be exciting and fun. On the surface this rationale makes gambling seem very benign. But closer examination reveals a dangerous trap. Gambling tricks us into believing that good is limited and that we need to take chances to obtain it. If we fall for this wrong concept, we are falling down to--worshiping--a false god. And we are liable, as a result, to lose our self-respect, self-worth, and confidence.
The world would have us believe that chance, luck, accident, and so forth are a natural part of our lives. When we understand that God is all-powerful, ever-present, infinite unchanging Love, however, we learn that divine Love protects and cares for each one of us every moment. We can depend on this love, certainty, and reliability of God to care for us because we are all His dear children. God would never subject His creation--including us, His children--to destructive el-ements in any form. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, assures us in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Accidents are unknown to God, or immortal Mind, and we must leave the mortal basis of belief and unite with the one Mind, in order to change the notion of chance to the proper sense of God's unerring direction and thus bring out harmony'' (p. 424). As God's children we possess the strength, authority, and intelligence to resist all that would urge us to depend on anything other than God, infinite good.
I was never tempted to gamble after my childhood experience until one day when a friend who had been on vacation described what fun he'd had gambling. He wasn't trying to win, he said, only to have a little fun. It sounded suspiciously reasonable. What could be wrong with having a little fun? Well, later, when our state's lottery prize had accummulated to a very large amount, and everyone was buying tickets, I found myself almost swept along into the frenzy of buying tickets. It would be just for fun--wouldn't it? But something didn't seem right, so I turned to God in prayer. In the book of Daniel (see chap. 3) we read that King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden image and proclaimed that all people must bow down and worship it every time they heard a certain kind of music. If they didn't, he would have them thrown into a very hot furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego courageously stood for what was right--to have but one God. They refused to bow down to this idol, and so they were thrown into the furnace. God protected them, and they were able to walk unhurt from the furnace. The Bible points out that not even ``the smell of fire had passed on them.''
Suddenly, things became very clear to me. Spending even a small amount on a lottery ticket for any reason was bowing down to the belief of chance. To bow down to this god of chance and break the First Commandment to have and worship one God was not ``fun,'' nor was it something I wanted to do! I no longer had the slightest desire to gamble.
Godliness with contentment is great gain. . . .
They that will be rich
fall into temptation and a snare,
and into many foolish and hurtful lusts,
which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money
is the root of all evil:
which while some coveted after,
they have erred from the faith,
and pierced themselves through
with many sorrows.
But thou, O man of God,
flee these things;
and follow after righteousness,
godliness, faith, love, patience meekness. . . .
Charge them that are rich in this world,
that they be not high-minded,
nor trust in uncertain riches,
but in the living God,
who giveth us richly
all things to enjoy.
I Timothy 6:6, 9-11, 17