If you’re in Australia, chances are you will, along with the majority of the nation, “Stop” at around 3:00pm AEDST to watch the Melbourne Cup horse race. Whether you care for horse racing or not, you’ll probably watch it. Most of us will not be able to avoid it. Workers are given time off to gather in front of the television, students, if still in school, pause to do the same. In some parts of the country the entire day is a public holiday. You might even detest the idea and not give a toss 😉 about the race. But I bet 😉 you know it is on.
It is in many respects as much a public institution as some of the national religious and public holidays. Throughout workplaces and schools, sweeps are run, where, usually, by way of random allocation, entrants are given a horse for a small fee of maybe $2-$5. If your employer is particularly fortunate with their winnings, it is not unusual to be given the rest of the day off, to celebrate!
By the time you have read this you have probably already decided to enter one of those sweeps or even had a little flutter. Based on some reports the takings from punters in recent years has increased alarmingly. 2009 the Sydney Morning Herald estimated takings exceeded $143 million in Victoria and New South Wales. The 2011 estimates were $280 million plus another $100 million on the track. 2013 expectations were thought to exceed $800 million. These increases are occurring the same time our national household debt levels have grown to 180% of annual income. So, while the nation parties on, families are destroyed.
The premise of gambling is trying to get something large for a disproportionately small price. The idea is that you make a bet, and not have to work to earn the same amount. What might take several days, weeks or months to otherwise earn or cultivate, can be gained in a matter of seconds, simply by placing a well-timed bet on the right horse (in the case of the Melbourne Cup). It doesn’t take much to argue yourself from there into the place that by increasing the bet, you could increase your winnings, and if you win enough, you might never have to work again. Obviously, not everyone is consumed with, or tempted by, an addiction to gambling. But for those that are, even a sweepstake entry can prove to be a deadly distraction. So, in wisdom, we must be careful how we represent and take part in the good fun of our nation’s (arguably) favourite past-time.
Speaking to Christians for a moment, if, by entering a sweep, you communicate that your sustenance and hope for provision is elsewhere than in what God has provided, you may find it difficult to convincingly discuss your faith in Jesus and why he is exclusively enough for spiritual salvation. What would you truly prefer? That God dealt with you randomly by way of spinning a wheel, drawing lots, or let the roll of a dice determine our eternal fate or via his deliberate intention to set his love upon us and show his grace to us via Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection?
Gambling is emotionally charged controversy that provokes passionate advocates both for abolition and enjoyment in moderation. I hope you consider carefully how you will “profit” from your little flutter compared to finding your passion in Christ. How about you take the money you were going to put into the office sweep or on the race via a betting agency and give it a charity organisation that provides debt relief for struggling families. Invest in your community and not try to rob from it.
Don’t throw away your money. More than a horse race is at stake. Pray to God with the Psalmist:
Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Psalm 119:116 NIV
If you’re struggling with gambling addiction or need help with debt counselling consider contacting some of the below organisations.
Gamblers Anonymous http://www.gansw.org.au/ or phone: 02 9726 6625
Salvation Army – Moneycare (Parramatta) phone 02 9633 5011
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