IN recent years, many states have turned to lotteries to raise money and keep deficits down. Millions of dollars are wagered each week in numbers games that are supposedly beneficial. But are they?
The suffering that gambling ultimately causes is far greater than the benefits it seems to confer. Gambling can become habitual and debilitating. But there is an even deeper problem: gambling tends to obscure our relationship to God, to the only genuine source of our well-being.
The Bible teaches that God is wholly good, the one universal Love and Lawgiver who cares for each of His children impartially and abundantly. The prophet wrote, ''The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.'' n1 And referring to God, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: ''Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.' '' n2
n1 Isaiah 33:22.
n2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p.13.
Christ Jesus showed that an understanding of this truth enables us to demonstrate it. When he sent Peter to find tax money in a fish's mouth, n3 the Master wasn't depending on a stroke of unbelievably good luck. He understood God's provision for every need.
n3 See Matthew 17:24-27.
When we look to God's care, we're blessed, and so are others. Yet the visible benefit is only a symbol of a deeper change.That change is the increased awareness of God's tender presence and of man's actual, spiritual nature. This perception is an aspect of the kingdom of God within us. The kingdom within is the consciousness that man is in reality the perfect child of God, not a struggling mortal. It includes the feeling of being cared for beyond any human support. This kingdom is discerned in moments of salvation, in which human character becomes more Godlike and materialistic thinking lessens. In a sense, this is the most important occurrence on earth.
Jesus promised that signs would follow these touches of spiritual awakening. Our needs are met. Our health is restored. Our relationships are harmonized. But the most important part by far is the touch of the Christ that purifies.Gambling is a tragedy because it would set aside all this. It would dull our spiritual sense by focusing our thought too much on material goals. It is not just a matter of a dollar or two a week. It is a matter of whether material or spiritual values will be our first love.
Might it also be a matter of whether we are spiritually awake? Are we thinking about the wider implications of what we do, or are we just going along with popular opinion, which is often subtle, unquestioned, even festive? On the main corner of our city recently were two smiling, attractive young people wearing straw hats and waving red, white, and blue pennants while they passed out information on a new lottery game.
But this is no game. It hammers on human thought until people laugh while they give out their dollars. The other day at the supermarket a woman said, ''I don't know why I waste my money on these things.'' Yet she did. Many don't want to discuss deeper issues about gambling but do want to be left ''free'' to continue on the way that seems so merry. It reminds one of the man ''with an unclean spirit'' who said to Jesus, ''Let us alone; what have we to do with thee . . . ?'' n4 But Jesus did not leave the man alone. Through his great Christly compassion he healed him.
n4 Mark 1:23, 24.
Could this be the instruction needed by those who do not gamble but who long to help awaken society from this destructive habit?Perhaps they're being called on, not to be smug or self-righteous, nor on the other hand to be too humanly sympathetic, but rather to be alert and compassionate in a Christly way.
The Christly way does not ignore human needs. It may lead us to serve in some responsible civic program to help gamblers. That is an individual matter. One universal ingredient of Christliness, however, is spiritual sense, the ability to perceive man as God's child, to see beyond appearances to the truth of God's creation as spiritual and upright.
But can we do this? A child laughingly said to her dad one day, ''The trouble with you is that you can tell when I am not telling the truth!'' We all have the innate spiritual sense to discern between the true and untrue, to discern the reality of man as the child of God.
This spiritual sense is a great blessing. It can do more than anything else to awaken human thought from the cycle of material goals to an eager desire for moral and spiritual values. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve, Matthew 4:10