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'Sure bets'

A Christian Science perspective: A resident of Massachusetts reflects on one town's decision to have a casino.

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Cities and towns strapped for cash. Developers hungry for profit. Residents looking for jobs and economic growth. It’s certainly fertile ground for casino developments and other forms of legalized gambling to take root.

Gambling revenues are often promoted as a silver-bullet solution to endemic community problems and financial shortfalls. But the vision of coffers brimming over with cash makes promises it can never fulfill – lasting satisfaction, freedom from want, and collective progress. There’s no question that the spin of a roulette wheel, either for a town’s benefit or for personal gain, is a poor substitute for genuine hope and aspiration after progress.

The collective wisdom of the ancients in many faith traditions has addressed this money-is-the-answer habit of thinking. Truisms characterizing the fleeting nature of riches, such as “Riches certainly make themselves wings” (Proverbs 23:5), echo down through history and across all cultures. In this vein, it is inspiring to see major faith communities today – Protestant, Roman Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish – take to the streets and airwaves to argue against the expansion of gambling, most recently in my home state of Massachusetts. In Revere, Mass., voters gave the go-ahead for a $1.3 billion casino project. In other Massachusetts towns, however, such as East Boston, Milford, and Palmer, voters soundly defeated pro-gambling ballot questions.

Christ Jesus certainly wasn’t a betting man. Instead, he offered humanity a path of certain progress and happiness, devoid of chance – what some might call a “sure bet.” This path is commonly referred to as the Beatitudes. Each statement includes a magnificent promise, not only for a future time, but in the here and now of God’s presence. Here are several, from Matthew, Chapter 5:

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The noble, spiritual qualities indicated in the Beatitudes, lived individually and collectively, have been demonstrated throughout the ages to bring progress and blessings to individuals and communities far beyond any sums promised on a casino blueprint or convenience-store scratch card. They require us to reach deep into our hearts – not into our wallets – to receive our God-given heritage. There’s no gamble in that.