A Theology of Gambling Part 4 – Hope

Part 3

Hope

I am not, in any way, trying to say that these games provide a suitable recreational (or competitive) experience for every person. Like in every other enterprise in the gaming vein, too much of a good thing may prove to snare a person into a cycle of repeated play that doesn’t help matter. The consequences here, however, prove to be much steeper; rather than just time, you also gamble away your money if you aren’t careful! The temptations to bet too much after a problematic goal remain great, and hence the natural Christian aversion to the whole enterprise.

However, I think I finally understand what really make gambling compelling – it is an exercise in hope. We might say, even, that the hope is misdirected towards the gain of money – a particularly American malady if there ever was one. Does the appeal lie in seemingly illicit gains, or the feeling as such? Does the thrill of winning money and the risk of placing down said money provide a feeling of hope that you’ll finally win the big time?

Perhaps, and perhaps not. But the people I know who like to gamble contain some regrets, some inklings that things aren’t as they should be. Gambling, in that sense, become a shot into the darkness, that maybe things will work out. The casino know this, and plays to those ideals, twisting them through an attractive aesthetic appeal that immediately dissipates upon realizing how much money you just lost. All the bright colors in the world can’t fix that.

Or, think of it this way: the setting and the appeal really lie at the crux of gambling’s sinful element – misdirected hope into cash as a savior that can tend towards compulsive and excessive use of monetary funds. The games in themselves? Lacking in actual sinful content. If I play a casino game in the comfort of my own home, one can analyze the games themselves and see them as either a waste of time or interesting games with complexities. But in a casino? They exist to appeal to you, take your money, and kick you out with little to show for it. That’s how a casino works, after all.

Casinos, then, prey on the eschatological hope within all of us, the eternity within our hearts for something better, something more. Even if someone cannot identify why they gamble, that impulse lies at the very base of their mind, seeking an outlet which only the One can provide. As with the lots of old, we desire answers, but we seek them in the wrong places without an idea where to look. That is why the Gospel is so important: it pinpoints what we know, but cannot say straightforwardly, that great hope in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. You know it when you have it (to paraphrase a Supreme Court Justice).

and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain;the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “[c]It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

Revelation 21

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.