Last night, I had made eight not-so-serious predictions prior to the Super Bowl on Twitter. After, I jokingly tweeted: "Only two of my eight predictions for the #SuperBowl were correct. #fessingup #whyidontbet". An old friend responded via private message asking why it is that I don't gamble. I thought I'd share some of what I responded:
First of all, as with most things these days, I claim the spirit of Romans 14 in this. You asked my thoughts, so if you hear any legalism or forced piety directed at you within my response, check your filter. In other words, my conclusion on this is a non-essential and I'd be happy to sit at the table of Communion with someone despite our disagreement on this (and an ever-increasing list of other things).
There have been very brief times in my life when I've toyed with the notion of gambling. I've had some success with Blackjack and variant forms of online Poker. I believe that with patience and the proper amount of time spent, I could be a decent gambler and bring in more money than I'd lose. I can imagine myself being able to do that and while it may sound cocky, I generally believe it to be true.
But in the end, I see gambling as just another form of taking other people's money.
I'm less concerned about becoming addicted myself (I do believe that is a possibility for anyone, though not a certainty for everyone). I'm more concerned that if I did indeed win, I'd simply be profiting from the impulsivity and addiction of others. That doesn't jive with my understanding of Christ. Even (and especially) when I win, I'm just contributing to the system. Put differently, gambling is just another way to confess my faith in power, specifically, the power of money (but also "winning" and "thrill"). That's something I'm trying to avoid as I try and understand the self-emptying of Christ.
Most people waste money in one form or another, and I am no exception. Sometimes I take my kids on the carousel. It costs $2.50 or so. I'm basically paying for the brief thrilling experience and - if I'm lucky - a small memory, because the money and the moment are both gone almost as quickly as a round of Blackjack. I could see how some say the same of gambling - they enjoy the thrill. I can understand that. But the overall picture I describe in the previous paragraph is enough for me to avoid this as a whole.