A Good Bet

September 3, 1999

1 Corinthians 2:14 – The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (NIV)

What is a good bet? Despite the Presbyterian stance being "unalterably against gambling in all its forms", many churches use draws and bingos to raise money. A friend suggested that I might organize such an event to be a positive expression of the Christian faith. That got me thinking.

I planned the "Good Bet" Draw. The prizes would have good connotations. All of the proceeds would go to charity. Tickets would be free, one per person, with an optional donation, and a Bible verse and church logo would be printed on the back. This seemed entirely good; no one seemed to lose. Our charity wins because of the money received. The donor prospers by feeling charitable, and maybe winning. And, who knows? The ticket might bring in a new church member! What could possibly be wrong or bad? Everything was geared to a positive attitude, every item under control — except one: the customer. What would attract customers to our "Good Bet" Draw?

The draw would attract people precisely because they hoped to win some great prize, at the expense of all the other players. The activity of the draw itself promoted the idea that gambling was right, and that we should all participate because of the great good that it is. Sigh! That was not a message I wanted to promote, but it seemed inevitable. Having seen gambling as a suspiciously ambiguous activity, my conscience troubled me to consider how my draw might influence others. It would undoubtedly undermine the spirit of charity, of giving because giving is right, by playing on my customers' hope of selfish gain. It would also provide an ambiguous moral example. And all to gain a little money for the church. How insignificant that gain seemed in comparison to the spiritual loss of promoting selfishness. Oh! how Jesus works to rescue even a single soul! I began to realize that I couldn't put on a "Good Bet" Draw.

Prayer: O God, help us grow in discernment and understanding so that your hidden thoughts are revealed to us, and we may ever walk in your good pathways. Amen.

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About the author:

Michael Ames
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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