Don’t Bet Your Life on It
By David Faust
Greed is a weed in the garden of the soul. Have you noticed how gambling companies, sports leagues, and media outlets have joined forces to promote sports betting? Over the last four years, U.S. dollars spent on sports betting have increased dramatically. The amount wagered by sports gamblers now exceeds a staggering $7 billion per month.
Here’s how Bloomberg.com described the trend in a December article called “The Sports Gambling Gold Rush Is Absolutely Off the Charts”:
Legal sports betting in the U.S.—once confined to Nevada—has gone mainstream. Since the Supreme Court in 2018 ended federal bans on the industry’s expansion, dozens of states have legalized it, and a multibillion-dollar betting boom is afoot. . . . As betting expands, the boundaries that once separated gambling from sports media and professional sports leagues are disappearing. Digital apps make sports betting possible on mobile devices, which gives it a foothold across America and threatens the business of brick-and-mortar casinos. And this is only the beginning; the industry is poised for explosive growth.
The authors noted,
The Puritans believed gambling was sinful. And for much of U.S. history, that cultural disdain prevailed. . . . But the expansion of state lotteries and legalized casino gambling over the past several decades, along with greater cultural permissiveness toward many activities once seen as vices, has made gambling ubiquitous today.
BIG BARNS, SMALL FAITH
I’m a sports fan, but I’m alarmed by the swift expansion of sports betting. Gambling is addictive and it threatens the integrity of athletic competition. Small bets might seem like harmless fun, but can anyone seriously argue that the massive growth of the gambling industry is improving our society? Whenever we try to get something for nothing or rely on luck instead of the Lord, something is seriously wrong.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 cautions, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.” Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). To illustrate his point, Jesus told a parable about a rich farmer who made three big mistakes:
1. He overestimated his earning capacity. He assumed that a huge harvest one year guaranteed big harvests every year, so he built bigger barns to contain the expected yields. But things don’t always turn out as planned.
2. He misaligned his priorities. His goal? “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But there are more noble purposes to pursue.
3. He overestimated his lifespan. When he died that very night, his big plans would quickly fall apart. Someone quipped, “Americans seem to think death is optional.”
Big barns don’t matter if our faith is small.
WEED OUT GREED
To avoid the mistakes made by the rich fool in Jesus’ parable, here are three ways to counteract greed.
1.Recognize it. It’s rare for anyone to confess the sin of greed. It’s easier to see it in others than to see it in ourselves. We secretly judge what our neighbors own and buy, while rationalizing our own indulgences. As with other sins, victory over greed requires sincere repentance and confession.
2. Replace it with gratitude. Instead of being greedy, let’s be thankful for what we have.
3.Redirect it toward generosity. Instead of accumulating an endless stash of things for ourselves, let’s make it our goal to “excel in this grace of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
Personal Challenge: Ask the Lord to shine the searchlight of his Spirit on any bit of greediness in your heart. Decide that you will fight against greed, replace it with gratitude, and be generous with what God has provided instead of always striving for more.