Sports Betting: How Do I Get Free? (Part 4 of 4)

In Accountability, Addiction, Articles, Faith Journey, Sports by Chris Walker

This is the final article in our 4-part series on sports betting. Check out our previous articles “Sports Betting: What’s Going On?”, “Sports Betting: How Big a Deal is This?”, and “Sports Betting: What Does the Bible Actually Say?

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was an English novelist famous for writing The Jungle Book series in the late 19th century, as well as many other poems and short stories, including a well-known poem called “If—,” excerpted here:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss…

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Let’s acknowledge first that The Jungle Book is a beloved classic of childhood literature.

Let’s acknowledge second that famous English writers who create classic childhood literature can sometimes have foolish ideas about gambling, recovery, and Manhood.

Back in our first article, we touched on several stories of men who have walked through the devastating grip of gambling addiction, with the new added wrinkle of legalized sports betting wreaking havoc. In our second article, we looked at the scope of how massive and destructive sports gambling has become, and in our third article, we took time to walk through what Scripture has to say on the matter.

One common theme for the men we met in our first article was that they all started off small, with reasonable amounts bet on occasional wagers. The thrill of seeking more caused that dopamine grip to lay hold of them, causing widespread damage to all aspects of their lives.

Warning us about the potential dangers of alcohol, Scripture says:

Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup,
    when it goes down smoothly!
In the end it bites like a snake
    and poisons like a viper. (Proverbs 23:31-32 NIV)

Although specific to alcohol, the principle here certainly can apply to other matters, too.

We are to beware of those things in life that entice us and offer temporary pleasure but ultimately bite us in the end.

Sports betting would undoubtedly fall into this category.

But what can we do if we have been bitten? What steps can a man take if he finds himself stuck? In opposition to Kipling’s poor advice above, we suggest a different route that godly men can take:

1. Godly men make an honest assessment and weigh the cost.

When it comes to judging the good from the bad, the true from the false, Jesus uses this analogy: “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire,” (Matthew 7:17-19 NIV). What is the fruit of our actions? What are the results of our wagers? What consequences are arising from our decisions? We have to start here.

2. Godly men have integrity concerning themselves.

Proverbs says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity,” (Proverbs 11:3 NIV). We need to be truthful with ourselves, and truthful with others in our lives. Whatever we are hiding in the darkness will continue to trip us up. Self-deception (marked by excuses, justifications, and full-out lies) is a common part of our sinfulness, but we must have the courage to expose it. Whatever we are hiding, we know we are hiding it because it is not good. Godly men value honesty and are honest with themselves.

3. Godly men dig deeper than the surface.

Proverbs also tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV). We may know an action is wrong, but what we really want to do is start to figure out why we are doing it. This can lead to understanding and healing as we invite the Lord into the why. What is sports betting giving me? What does my heart actually desire that this is a substitute for? What am I trying to cover up or distract myself or numb myself from? Why is this something I am leaning on? These are not easy questions, but maturing men are brave enough to ask them. We pray the prayer of the Psalmist:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)

4. Godly men ask for help.

James wrote, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10 NIV). Humility is one of the toughest things a man can seek, and asking for help is one of the toughest ways that we seek it. We do not like to look weak or admit we were wrong or that we need assistance. But such attitudes are not the way of Jesus. We are told to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NIV). This means we are present to help others in their struggles (most guys like this part), but it also means that we must ask others to help us in our struggles (fewer guys like this part). You are not meant to carry this alone, and it is very possible that the grace of God is waiting to meet you, not on your own, but when you share yourself with people you trust. This may include professional care (some helpful links are below), and there is absolutely no shame in that. Brave men ask for help when they need it, and they set a good example for all of us when they do.

 

Each generation has new struggles they must grapple with in church and culture, and sports betting is one of ours, in our time. We seek to be men who are free of any addiction and who “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV).

Jesus has come to bring us to freedom in every way and to the fullness of abundant life (John 8:36; John 10:10). He has created everything from nothing and sustains it all without effort; nothing is too difficult for Him (Jeremiah 32:17). Our prayer is that men everywhere will find healing and wholeness in Christ, and that they will seek the Lord and the freedom that is available in Him.

If you or someone you know is struggling with sports betting or any other gambling-related issues, here are some helpful resources (some are Christian, some are not):

Celebrate Recovery

Crossroads 24/7 Prayer Line

Gamblers Anonymous

Wellness Together Canada

Canada Safety Council

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction

About
Chris Walker
Chris Walker is the Content Editor at Impactus. He was a pastor in the local church for over 2 decades, and has served in a variety of ministry roles, including as a columnist at Patheos. He desires to see men filled with God's Word and His Spirit in order to fulfill His call for their lives. Chris is married to Sarah with two children, and lives in the Windsor-Essex region of Ontario.
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Chris Walker
Chris Walker is the Content Editor at Impactus. He was a pastor in the local church for over 2 decades, and has served in a variety of ministry roles, including as a columnist at Patheos. He desires to see men filled with God's Word and His Spirit in order to fulfill His call for their lives. Chris is married to Sarah with two children, and lives in the Windsor-Essex region of Ontario.