The following article was written by Mr. A. Van der Broek of Stapleford Abbots and published in the February 1951 issue of Progress, the monthly magazine of Romford Congregational Church.
We have heard and read a great deal about gambling lately. I hope we have all thought about it a good deal, too, because it is much more satisfactory if we can after due consideration come to an independent opinion from within rather than rely on others to solve these questions for us and to advice us on these matters.
There are many sides to the problem. Let's look a moment at the practical side first. Its usefulness. Or its wastefulness. Useful only as a source of excitement perhaps and by the way very useful and profitable of course to the promoters. But in its nature, a most wasteful pastime. Of every £1,000 paid by the public in entrance fees or whatever you may call it at least £100 is lost in running expenses, advertisements, salaries, printing, postage, office expenses, etc, etc. And the next week we have the same thing all over again. Therefore in order to gamble with £1,000 it costs the nation nothing less than £5,200 per year. This is not taking into account the loss of energy both by the public and by the staff which are helping to run the show. If all this consuming energy was turned into producing energy it would most certainly make a good deal of difference in our cost of living.
Now let us consider the education or intellectual value of gambling. Crossword puzzles have a good deal of educational value but does the filling of football coupons stimulate anyone's intellectual aspirations? I am told that it really does not matter much whether you understand football or not. You can buy a special guide every week which gives you all the answers and you just copy them out. And judging from paper reports, well I believe the less you know about it and the less you expect from the results, the luckier you may be. To pin one's hope week after week on something the results of which we cannot materially influence must be in the long run damaging to a person's will, creative efforts and general intellect.
This in turn may have damaging psychological repercussions. Continual disappointment is a potential danger to a person's mental stability.
Now I would like to look at the question from a Christian or Biblical point of view. Has the Christian any special considerations when weighing up the pro's and con's of a particular question? I think he should have. I know it is not an easy thing to reckon with nor is it a very popular theme to touch, but should we not first and foremost ask ourselves the question whether or not anything we do is to the honour of God? Listen to St. Paul's advice in 1 Cor. 10:31: "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the Glory of God." The question, then, we have to ask ourselves is: Can gambling be used somehow to the honour of God?
Or take another ruling from the New Testament, Romans 14:23: "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." If we have faith in God is there any room for gambling?
Now both these questions can be ridiculed quite easily. Yet I think that before we make up our minds definitely about gambling and any other thing for that matter, we do well to remember that our relationship with God places us in a very special position when we consider such questions, and let us not forget that we will have to give an account of all our deeds to God.
The reason why, and the purpose whatfor, are two dominant facts to consider when weighing up whether or not we can agree to "gambling".
You will now be able I think to see clearly the difference between a raffle in a church bazaar and the football pools, horse racing and suchlike. After all it is quite obvious that the buying of a ticket in a raffle at a church bazaar is not done for personal gain but only to help the work of the Church. It is equally obvious that the person who gambles on dog races or on the Stock Exchange does so for personal gain. (Legitimate trade in stocks and bonds cannot be identified with gambling).
Now, when the Wednesday evening fellowship discussed gambling, one of the members of the brains trust pardoned a person for gambling because it was the only possible way for that person to ever stand a chance of obtaining enough money, to help his or her invalid mother. Well, then, this sort of gambling would seem to fall under the category of gambling not for personal gain and could not therefore be condemned. Another question arises, however, namely, is there no other way in which this unfortunate person could be helped? Surely it is a very bleak and poor outlook if she has to wait for the luck of the person who has taken pity on her.
And we could not possibly pardon gambling because in one or two cases the reason is not personal gain but the desire to help the unfortunate.
In our church such cases would be brought to the notice of the League of Good Samaritans and the person concerned would not have to wait for the lucky result of a football pool before receiving help, I feel sure!
Another reason why we should say no to gambling is that the possibility of easy personal gain is a temptation to many a person to endanger or risk funds which are necessary for the well being of one's dependants or even worse than that - lay hands on funds which do not belong to the person who gambles with these. And if we allow gambling we are in my opinion in some measure responsible for the sin of others in the direction. This is of course only an opinion. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind, but in order to be fully persuaded let us consider the question from as many angles as seem opportune. And please do not forget the younger people are looking to us for guidance and counsel. Shall we think twice before we lightly dismiss the question with a "can't see anything wrong in it?".
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon