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.
This isn't new. Christ Jesus counseled his disciples, Matthew's Gospel tells us, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. And we read in I Timothy: "Godliness with contentment is great gain. . . . 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, fa ith, love, patience, meekness.
To someone struggling with economic challenges it may sound impractical to turn from seeking money to seeking to be more righteous, patient, and meek. But actually, turning to God in heartfelt, humble prayer is the most practical thing one can do.
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, explains in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "Are we benefited by praying? Yes, the desire which goes forth hungering after righteousness is blessed of our Father, and it does not return unto us void. And on the next page she adds: "We plead for unmerited pardon and for a liberal outpouring of benefactions. Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have,
and thus be fitted to receive more.
Trusting God is not a gamble. As we turn to God as the source of all real good, He will elevate our desires until we are hungering after righteousness and are truly grateful for all we've already received of God's love. Then we're better able to see and take hold of the new blessings He is always giving His children. Don't make the mistake, however, of thinking there's no work involved in accepting God's blessings. It isn't always easy and it isn't always instant. But trust in God is never a g amble.
On the other hand, simply hoping for good luck is extremely unreliable. Not only that, this actually constitutes a denial of God's constant, loving control of His creation. God is the only true power and man, who is in reality the perfect, spiritual likeness of God, reflects his creator and can never be in want.
In order to experience God's constant goodness, we need to grow in our understanding of the changeless goodness of God, the divine Principle of all true being, who loves and cares for His spiritual offspring. This requires searching deeply into the real nature of God and of man, who is in truth the spiritual idea, or image, of God. We can do this searching in prayer and in study of the Bible and Science and Health.
Then we must bring our thoughts and lives into conformity with God's will, with the truth of being. This means giving up the love of matter or money and yielding up faith in "good luck. It means striving to express God's constant goodness. It's work; but this effort brings reward and lasting satisfaction. It is actually man's true nature to express the unlimited goodness and purity of God, divine Spirit. And making the effort to demonstrate our true spiritual selfhood by living righteously cannot fa il to bless us and those about us.
Isn't confident trust in God and true, steady progress in all areas of our lives more desirable than something as uncertain--in fact, unreal--as what is called "luck? You can count on it! BIBLE VERSE: As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. II Samuel 22: 31.