Points to Ponder: What's the Cost of Free?
Points to Ponder
What's the Cost of Free?
Since we moved to Laurel I think we have "won" 45 free trips to Orlando, Florida. I'd come home and find a message on the answering machine waiting to bestow good fortune upon us. Wow, a FREE trip, FREE vacation, in sunny Florida--imagine that! Every week, (just about), we are getting these calls. Of course there is a "catch", some presentation to sit through, or whatever; but the concept of FREE is the draw.
We all like getting something for nothing. There is a similar sense of victory when you use coupons and get great deals at the food store. Two for one at a nice restaurant is a good time too. But what a sense of victory if you can get something for nothing--or win a million dollars with a one dollar ticket; it is alluring. Some of us buy stuff we do not even need just because we got a "good deal"; we come away with more than we actually paid for.
So, my 45 free trips to Florida have come to beckon me. Imagine FREE, something big for nothing. I haven't accepted any of them, but you know that thousands of other folks do. These companies would not keep trying if it didn't work. You also know that none of this FREE stuff is really free--some of those "lucky" winners are going to buy something, and the cost of their freebie will be part of the price they pay.
Some politicians and business people think the state budget can be funded by tapping that human desire for getting something for nothing--of paying little to win BIG. We can see how the lottery has expanded because of this; and the great windfall that has come to the public schools as a result (well that's what they SAID it was for). The desire to make quick money sells lottery tickets. The millions of losers fund the big prizes for the few winners, but it's that desire that drives them on. The accumulation of losses is clouded over by the vision of winning big or the self-deception that it is just "fun" to throw your money down (and away) for a chance to win.
Why is gambling wrong? If it is done in "moderation", as they say, and just for a little fun, is that so bad? Shall we say that any sin, if done "in moderation" and just for fun is good? In order for those moderate gamblers to have their good time, there needs to be a multitude of losers on a regular basis. Your fun is funded by their losses. To that you may say "So what? It is their choice and their money." Yes, and I suppose this is the dilemma.
We are a free country in which people have the right to make stupid decisions, even bankrupt themselves if they want. Okay, but are we sure we want to fund our state's budget (particularly our schools, as some propose) on the collective stupidity of moderate sinners who are just having fun? I do not mean to be insulting, but if you read the studies and if you talk to compulsive gamblers themselves you will find there is nothing wise or smart about gambling. Plus, by one's participation, even though it is moderate, a business is created which causes problems for which we all pay. Las Vegas casino owner Bob Stupak said, "We target everybody. That's the business I'm in. Money's money. What is the difference if it is a Social Security check, a welfare check, a stock dividend check?" (quoted from Attorney General J. Joseph Curran's report on the Impact of Casino Gambling on Crime p.28) For citizens who really want to ponder on whether gambling is a good idea, check out Attorney General Curran's report, "The House Never Loses and Maryland Cannot Win: Why Casino Gaming is a Bad Idea".
Since the ill effects of gambling are often not immediately seen, it appears to be easy money; a fool's tax paid by the willing. The broken homes, increases in crime and suicides committed by the desperate, and the bankruptcies and divorces are all easily hidden statistics. Those whose livelihoods and lives must be sacrificed to make this thing work remain nameless. They are quietly absorbed into the social service system or the prisons--out of sight, out of mind. Political leaders have already promised to set aside some of the profits to care for the victims yet to be; and that is acceptable, unless of course it is YOUR family who will offer up the sacrifice.
Gambling is wrong because it requires exploitation of the weak. Is it ever right to knowingly exploit others for profit? Can good come from something evil? The desire to win money is the engine that drives gambling. Scripture warns us about that engine:
"People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wondered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (I Timothy 6:9-10 NIV)
Every study on gambling has proven the above words to be true. Data from the National Gambling Impact Study and other experts indicate that legalized gambling leads to increases in divorce, suicide, homelessness, and violence. The increased social costs to taxpayers averages at $3.00 for every $1.00 generated through gambling. Why then is this a good idea?
To the Church I ask, How will this proposal by government leaders honor God and serve people? If you are buying lottery tickets or play slot machines, or in other ways toy with the idea of winning big, how are YOU honoring the Lord and loving your neighbor? If this IS the right thing for our state, how in God's name is that so?
This column can be found on the web at: www.fumcl.org and is downloaded for your reading pleasure. Pastor Whitmore is not affiliated with Picket News, nor does he submit any material directly to our publication. We regularly reprint interesting articles found at his public domain Web site and encourage all readers to visit this site to enjoy similar material.