By Dr. Harold Sala
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7
When David D’Alessandro bought his twenty-year-old son a car, the young man asked, “Dad, what kind of a car did your father buy you?” D’Alessandro said he hadn’t thought about that issue for thirty years, but then it came back with all of the ugly memories attached. “My dad didn’t buy me a car, son,” he said, adding, “he stole it!”
Remorsefully he explained that his father was addicted to gambling, and that he was deeply in debt to the loan sharks who were threatening him with physical violence if he didn’t pay them, so his father took his car, forged his name on the registration papers and sold it.
“For a year,” D’Alessandro said, “I took a city bus to college until I could earn enough money to buy another car.” His father’s addiction to gambling “left a trail of deceit, pain, and betrayal.” His dad had an IQ of 165. He was a Phi Beta Kappa who taught school and ran a family business. But he ended up losing. Says D’Alessandro, “He lost his job, his freedom (jailed for forging checks), and his wife. We lost our grocery store, our apartment, our friends, and our dignity.” (“The Ugly Side of Gambling,” AFA Journal, June 2003, p.11).
That’s the ugly side of a vicious habit which becomes a terrible addiction that destroys as certainly as drugs and alcohol. If you gamble occasionally, better ask yourself the following ten questions:
- Have you ever gambled longer than you had planned?
- Have you ever gambled until your money was entirely gone?
- Have you ever lost sleep over thinking about gambling?
- Have you ever used your income or savings to gamble while you let bills go unpaid or used money your family needed, thinking you would win big and pay everything back?
- Have you tried to stop gambling and failed?
- Have you ever broken the law or thought about it to finance your gambling?
- Have you ever borrowed money to gamble?
- Have you ever felt depressed or suicidal because of your gambling losses?
- Have you ever regretted what you lost gambling?
- Have you gambled in an attempt to get money for legitimate family needs?
If you answered “Yes” to any of those ten questions, you have a problem and are on your way to addiction if not already hooked. (Adapted from www.ncpgambling.org/10questions.htm)
The ugly side of gambling is denial, the refusal to admit to an addiction, and the belief that you are smarter than the next guy and can beat the system.
On occasion, I’m asked, “What does the Bible say about gambling?” You won’t find a prohibition against gambling in the Ten Commandments, but if you take seriously what the Bible says you quickly recognize that it violates a basic principle: You reap what you sow. You plant and cultivate a crop, then reap the harvest, but when you take your neighbor’s harvest, he goes hungry. The dark side of gambling violates the fact that hard work is rewarded, and that your gain is someone else’s loss.
The idea of something for nothing is as old as the human race itself, and anthropologists have learned that gambling, along with drunkenness and immorality, has infected humankind from the beginning of history.
“Gambling builds its army of slaves one by one,” says David D’Alessandro, “and that pathetic army of men and women, always hoping to win the big one, rarely counts the cost in human suffering, in neglecting their families, in throwing away what has taken years to build.”
A closing thought: The dark, ugly side of addiction can be broken, with God’s help, and the help of counselors and professionals. It begins when you admit you are addicted and need help. It’s a choice you make which is no gamble.
Resource reading: Galatians 6:1-10.