WHERE I live, gambling is a growth industry. With the growth of gambling comes addiction. Gamblers Anonymous meetings near one casino, for example, have seen attendance climb from a dozen to as many as forty people.
The effects of compulsive gambling on families are disastrous. College funds may be lost, infants deprived of food, marriages destroyed. A survey of compulsive gamblers indicates one result: 69 percent of those who responded had considered suicide, and 17 percent had actually tried to end their lives.
As tragic as compulsive gambling is, moderate gambling takes its toll, too. Any gambling robs us of spiritual as well as human resources. God is not a gambler, and neither are His children. To perceive the rich blessings God is giving us, we need to avoid even the slightest desire to find entertainment or profit in gambling. Gambling is like having another god. And, as Christ Jesus warned, ``No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon'' (Matthew 6:24).
Why does anyone gamble, when the results are so devastating? Many would answer, ``It's fun,'' or, ``Betting on the outcome makes the game exciting,'' or, ``Somebody has to win the jackpot, why not me?'' As a high-school student, I said some of the same things. With my first quarter in a slot machine I hit a jackpot. Nickel and dime wagers made high-school basketball tournaments exciting.
When I took up the study of Christian Science and began learning more about my relationship to God, I started wondering if my ``innocent fun'' was really so innocent--or so fun--after all. I learned my true identity is spiritual, not material--subject to divine, not human, demands. The man of God's making is already complete. I soon realized that chance is not part of God's plan for me or anyone. The good God has for His children--for you and me--is more abundant, more secure and reliable, than the roll of dice or the chance winnings of a lottery ticket. The way to find happiness and prosperity and genuinely satisfying ``action'' is to turn away from matter to Spirit. Spirit, God, gives us abundant spiritual ideas, and these supply all our needs!
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, says: ``God is Love. Can we ask Him to be more? God is intelligence. Can we inform the infinite Mind of anything He does not already comprehend? Do we expect to change perfection? Shall we plead for more at the open fount, which is pouring forth more than we accept?'' (p. 2). A key point for me here was that God, through His love for us, is already providing all good. There is no need to gamble to find satisfaction or supply. As I learned to love God more, the desire to gamble even in a small way naturally fell away. The excitement I'd seen in gambling was gone. Drawing away from God, as we do when we put our trust in material pleasures such as gambling, hides God from our view and we thus lose the rewards of loving Him. That's certainly not my idea of fun!
So the answer to the question ``Why gamble?'' is: There is no reason to gamble and many reasons not to. Lasting pleasure and profit simply can't be derived from matter.
If you're trying to stop gambling, you can call on God, as I did. Loving God frees us from even the slightest desire to gamble. The writer of James in the Bible puts it this way: ``Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you'' (4:8). God, like the loving parent He is, is always present and loving us. We need only turn to Him, and put off our trust in materiality, to find Him caring for our every need. We need not--and cannot--improve on His work.