Tag Archives: glory

The Gloom and the Glory

Christmas is meant to be a joyous time. It’s hard to get away from people without them saying something like, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” But what about those who can find no reason to be merry or no motivation to be happy? Solomon wrote, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda,” (Proverbs 25.20, ESV). In other words, pressing a person to be happy, whether through song or through words, can be cruel like stripping them of their coat when it’s freezing outside, or even irritating and explosive.

It isn’t that people don’t want to be happy during the holidays; it is that there is so much going on in their hearts and minds that it makes Christmas a time of darkness rather than of light. Real life isn’t like the Hallmark Christmas movies. Things don’t always work themselves out by Christmas morning. Peter doesn’t always make it home early to make some Folgers coffee that wakes up the family.

Widows and widowers have lost their life-long spouse. Parents have lost their children. Children have parents who are oversees fighting wars. Families are homeless. Families are watching loved ones fighting cancer or some other disease, hoping for one last Christmas. Fathers and mothers are without a job and cannot afford even the meagerest of Christmas gifts for their children. Families are torn apart because of harsh words spoken years ago or even just yesterday. Many are dreading visiting family knowing that someone they love will be passed out drunk before Christmas dinner is even served.

If we were to stop and think for a moment, we’d realize that these are the people are the people who can really understand Christmas the best. Who better to understand the marvel and beauty of light than those who are in a dark place?

Today is the first Sunday of Advent; it is a time when we remember what it was like to expectantly wait for the coming of the Messiah, not knowing when it may be. Today we have a date in mind when expectation will cease and celebration will begin: December 25. There was no such date for the Jews. Their date was simply known as “someday.” From the time of Adam and Eve, it was “someday.” Through the time of Abraham, Moses, and David, it was always “someday.” Someday never came though. Solomon took the thrown. After Solomon, Rehoboam split the kingdom because of his hubris. Jeroboam immediately led the northern tribes into idolatry, while the southern two tribes we less idolatrous. The northern tribes fell further and further into disarray as king after king lost control of the country. It was to these people that Isaiah wrote in the ninth chapter.

This morning we are only looking at the first two verses in this chapter. The first reality that we look at is the gloom of the people. As we get into more of the history of those to whom Isaiah wrote, we will see that they indeed lived in great darkness. The second reality is the glory that was promised to come to those who lived in gloom. Finally, we will see the gospel of hope. The gloom, the glory, and the gospel.

Sports-Betting: Coming Soon to Your State

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) law, which basically made it illegal to have any type of legalized sports betting in any state, with the exception of Nevada.  However, New Jersey’s law-makers, asked why Nevada got to have all the “fun,” and filed suit.  They won their case, as the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, stated that it was not Constitutional to allow only one state a privilege that it did not allow to the other 49.  The justices did not make law in this case, but simply decided if the law was Constitutional.  Justice Alito stated that it was up to Congress to regulate it fairly, but that if they decided not to take action, then the states got to do so.

Sports betting is a lucrative business.  Billions of dollars in revenue are made every year through it (or should I say: billions of dollars are lost every year through it).  Many who were not tempted to even attempt this type of gambling, will now have that temptation right at their fingertips because it will be so close to home.  That means that even more billions of dollars will be lost, or revenues gained (if you’re the state).

But what does the Bible say about gambling?  It actually doesn’t give any instruction or commands that are directly related to it.  However, there are some principles that do.  When putting the principles and/or indirect instruction/commands together, we see that gambling is wrong.

The first question: why do people gamble in the first place?  The number one reason people gamble is to make money, and hopefully a lot of money.  Of course, it goes straight to the heart of the matter when we see Paul has written, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.  It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs,” (1 Timothy 6:9-10, ESV).  The number one reason people gamble is to get rich, and to get rich quick.  They love money and love what money can do for them.  That love is the root of all kinds of evil.  Murders, divorces, thievery, embezzlement, prostitution, etc. can often be traced back to one’s love for money and what it can buy.  If a person’s gambling happens because they want money, then it falls within these parameters included in “kinds of evils.”

But perhaps they do it for the thrill.  That’s the other reason behind it.  They couldn’t care less if they won.  I’m less likely to believe this, but okay.  The person isn’t using their grocery money on lottery tickets or horse races or slot machines.  Just a couple of bucks here and there, just for the thrill.  Is it any different than renting a movie or going to Six Flags?  Perhaps not, but what if you were to find out that lotteries, casinos, and sports betting are designed to take advantage of those who cannot afford it?  Like so much pornography that is online that exploit young girls and women, so the lottery, casinos, and sports betting is designed to exploit the poor.  They give them hope, build up their confidence, and outright lie, to gain the money of those who need it most: the poor.  Like the porn industry, they make promises they can’t keep, and ruin individuals’ and families’ lives in the process.  One who seeks to live by the second great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, will not be complicit in their exploitation.

Of course, the argument is made then, that no one should be putting money in the stock market since money is lost and gained.  Hey! Even life is a gamble.  These are silly straw-men arguments.  The stock market is not gambling.  It has its gains and losses as any business would, but it has never bottomed out.  What is lost is generally gained back without having to throw good money after bad.  There has never been a time when every business in the stock market closed shop and went bankrupt.  Plus, Christ calls on us to be shrewd with our money, to be good stewards, and even to look to make interest on it if we can.

In life, we are to trust our sovereign God.  He is in control of everything.  “The lot is cast into the lap, but its decision is from the LORD,” (Proverbs 16:33, ESV).  Often people will use this verse to prove it is okay to gamble.  But that was the opposite of Solomon’s point.  If you do it, you believe it to be chance.  Yet it is God that determines if you win or lose.  He is in control of your life.  There is no luck.  No chance.  Don’t live as if there is.

That last thing I would say about this is that our chief-end as man-kind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Is it truly possible to gamble and give glory to God?  “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV).  Yes, we could say that about anything, and we should (as that is the point).  But here, in this article, I ask the question as it pertains to gambling.  Can we gamble in an effort to satisfy our love of money to the glory of God?  Can we gamble with its exploitation of the poor and our complicity in it to the glory of God?  Can we live as if there is luck rather than a sovereign God to that same God’s glory?

I’d venture to say we cannot.  Thus, gambling is sin.  And we must avoid it at all costs (no pun intended).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.  Leave me a comment below.