THE gambling craze seems to be growing these days like the famous beanstalk in the old fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk. And many folks are getting involved in gambling schemes as fast as they can. Jack encountered an evil giant at the top of his beanstalk. Is the increase in gambling bringing along with it social evils of giant proportions?
Gambling certainly seems to be everywhere. In the United States, thirty-six states now run lotteries. Iowa and Illinois permit gambling on Mississippi riverboats. Several towns in Colorado began operating slot machines in October. And, recently, efforts have been made to allow gambling on ships registered in the United States while they are in international waters.
Those supporting these activities often do so in the hope that gambling will bring them greater income. Individuals want to "win big in order to pay off debts, send their children to college, or live a life of leisure. States want to raise money through lotteries to fund public schools or chip away at budget deficits. Those operating casinos and cruise ships want to earn larger profits. And workers want the jobs they feel the gambling industry creates. But a recent article in this newspaper, reporti ng on the push to legalize gambling on United States-flagged ships, quoted Valerie Lorenz, executive director of the National Center for Pathological Gambling. "The argument is always made that gambling will create jobs, she is reported as saying. "The other side is the increase in crime, addiction, welfare costs, and bankruptcies.
Many would consider gambling a social or moral issue. But we need to take it a step further and say this is fundamentally a spiritual issue. Gambling encourages people to value growth in their bank account and possible instant wealth more than growth in grace or spiritual understanding. But when people look to money and chance rather than to God for happiness, for supply, for peace, they find disappointment.