Today’s question is a dandy (my pastoral way of saying – OH. MY. GOODNESS).
In order to protect confidences, I am going to do my best to present the question in a vague manner while getting at the root reason for the question.
“If it’s wrong to gamble, why is it okay to spend so much money on food?”
In other words: “If it’s wrong to ‘waste’ money on blackjack (or something similar) where you only ‘lose’ say $35 twice a year when you play it – why is it okay to spend (‘waste’) a lot more money at nice restaurants several times a month? Isn’t that a waste of money too?”
Let me put it yet another way:
“How come in church gambling is looked down upon as a sinful ‘waste’ of money while eating out at nice, expensive restaurants is practically given a free pass – if not even encouraged? What’s the difference in the ‘sinful waste of money’ factor?”
See. Told ya. This one’s a dandy. In fact, I am going to divide the answer into 2 days.
The person who sent me this question had been out of town a couple of days. A small amount of $$ had been spent gambling, yet large amounts were spent eating out. This person wanted to know why gambling is wrong (if it is) and spending mucho $$ on eating out isn’t. Or, is it?
[Editor’s Note: For some, gambling may not ever be an issue. Eating out at nice restaurants isn’t either. So, in case you’re wondering, this is one of those ‘gray area’ questions, that – whether you struggle with these or not – answering appropriately can help you in other ‘gray’ areas that you may wrestle with.]
I answer with a question: Is it biblically wise?
This is my ‘go to’ question. Regarding these areas in particular – always ask yourself – “Is this a biblically wise thing to do?”
Personally, I don’t believe it is EVER wise to gamble for quick money. That’s not to say you will go to hell if you do or have. However, I cannot find any biblical wisdom in it. For instance:
Now – is it wise to put a ‘friendly wager’ (couple of bucks, a coke, etc.) on a golf game (or something similar)? Wow. This gets tough and sticky for me. And there are tons of scenarios that can emerge here.
3 Thoughts for You to Wrestle to the Ground:
a. Don’t be a Pharisee.
It’s easy to get so legalistic on these things. I get that. I are one. When it comes to betting on who buys the Gatorades after a round of golf – be careful and don’t be a Prideful Pharisee and think that if you don’t you are going to heaven and will have a HUGE house compared to the betting guy who probably won’t be there anyway (so you think). Don’t take this so far that it boosts your ‘churchy pride.’
b. Don’t be an Idiot.
It’s also easy to ‘talk you way into’ something small like this and it lead you to do more. For some, playing golf for a coke has no effect on them at all. For others, the spiral of gambling starts down a long, dangerous, slippery slope. It’s like the alcoholic who absorbs himself in a beer commercial. One commercial can spiral him down into a drunken stupor. For him, it’s not wise to watch beer commercials. If you struggle with gambling and are prone to take it too far – don’t be an idiot! Be wise and just don’t do it.
c. Don’t Fool Yourself.
I often hear guys say, “Oh, it’s just to make the competition fun. . . it’s no big deal.” Garbage. I’ve never known a man who plays any kind of sport who needs something to help him be more competitive. It’s in our bones. We want to beat everyone else. We want to win. We don’t NEED anything to help us be more competitive.
Ask yourself over and over and over: “Is this biblically wise?” And then go with your ‘biblically wise and Spirit-directed’ gut.
Now. . . is it ever wise to eat out at nice, expensive restaurants?
My answer? It depends. More on that tomorrow. . .
For now, what would you add to what I have said here about gambling? What would you take away?