In 1965, popular singer and actor Frank Sinatra had a hit song featured in the play Guys and Dolls. The song contained this lyric: “If you’ve ever been a lady to begin with, Luck, be a lady tonight!” It was a musical appeal to allow the singer to be a winner in a game of chance and in the “game” of life. Reliance on luck or good fortune is an ancient belief rooted in paganism that has influenced mankind throughout history. Superstitious appeals to “Lady Luck” for success in games of chance and wagers for monetary gain—as well as every other endeavor to which people apply themselves—are almost as old as gambling, itself.
In modern times, the enthusiasm for gambling—now called “gaming”—is enjoying a great resurgence. In the past, gambling was usually a heavily regulated or even prohibited activity in many developed nations. The gates for a huge increase in “gaming” were opened in 2018, however, when the United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, allowing state-to-state legalization and regulation of sports betting. The American Gaming Association reports that sports betting revenue was 93.2 billion dollars in 2022 and the total of all gaming revenue was 240 billion dollars.
In 2022, there were 523 casinos in the United States operated by Native American Tribes, whose tribal lands are usually not subject to state laws prohibiting gambling, in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. The attraction of huge revenues has influenced 45 states to allow casinos, generating 60 billion dollars annually. The proliferation of Internet access has opened a huge market for online betting.
Lured by the potential of winning huge jackpots, the Power Ball Lottery is an outlet for people to appeal to luck. Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands participate in the Power Ball Lottery. In 2021, Americans spent 105.6 billion dollars on lottery tickets.
What does the Bible say about appealing to luck or fortune? This is addressed in Isaiah 65, which shows how God dealt with the sinful nation of Israel; “I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually…. But you who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups for of mixed wine for Destiny… when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my sight and chose what I did not delight in” (vv. 1–3, 11–12, New Revised Standard Version).
“Fortune” (gad in Hebrew) was the Babylonian god of “greater good fortune,” symbolized by the planet Jupiter, also named for a pagan god. Destiny (meni’ in Hebrew), symbolized by the planet Venus, which is named for a pagan goddess, was the “lesser god of good fortune.” Clearly, practices associated with paganism are not pleasing to God. The first of the Ten Commandments is “you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
Later, God warned the Israelites as they came into the land occupied by pagan nations, saying, “[D]o not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way” (Deuteronomy 12:30–31). This principle is emphasized in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the congregation at Corinth: “Therefore my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14).
Biblical principles emphasize productive effort and industriousness as a way of life that provides for the physical needs of individuals and families. “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23). Another gem of wisdom from King Solomon is, “Wealth hastily gotten will dwindle, but those who gather little by little will increase it” (Proverbs 13:11, NRSV). Acknowledging the source of our physical blessings, one should consider this basic principle: “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase” (Proverbs 3:9).
As you focus on your productive effort, remember that luck is not a lady, but a distraction that should be avoided if one seeks to prosper and please God.
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