If God Gambled, Would He be Good at Blackjack?
April 12, 2017 | by: Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: Theology
What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. Right? Or, to accurately quote the tagline, “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” Usher used the tagline for a song, and of course, those cinematic masterpieces of all time have been inspired by it: the Hangover movies (they’re considered a trilogy now!). As a slogan it’s ingenious for its marketing acumen to attract tourists. It was birthed by the R & R Partners ad agency over 14 years ago with the notion of attracting tourists to the desert oasis for “stuff” other than gambling; just fill in the blanks yourself for what you crave, and you’re off to have your fill.
However, is it true? Well, yes and no. The shenanigans may remain there but the predispositions of your character, your personality, the warts that blotch your life, you still drag back from pseudo-anonymity. You brought wartiness with you, you leave there with it. You hunger for something that nags at the deeper recesses of your soul and you depart to resume your routine life with the beast inside you still wanting to be fed.
I’m intimately familiar with this city of hotels, nightclubs and, especially, gambling casinos. I lived there for extended periods of time in my youthful days. And regardless of what the legerdemain used in a slogan to appeal to people’s cravings, the overriding objective of this artificial paradise is to get you to the casino in order to separate you from your cash.
In the dreams of my youth my ravenous craving was to win a pile of cash. It was kind of monochromatic like the Hangover movies, but my life wasn’t complicated—win lots of scratch, get what I want, do what I want. Straightforward, primal. I self-exiled from Las Vegas many moons ago. However, I believe I’m in the majority by admitting that I eventually left there in the discombobulating agony of defeat after umpteen spells at the blackjack table. Sometimes you’re way up, and then invariably, you’re down. But when the proverbial fat blackjack dealer finally sings the dirge, the lyrics are simple: you loose and you always will because the house always wins. The reason the house always wins is artless: it has more money than you and the gaming rules are designed in its favor. Its reason to exist is uncluttered, binary really: separate you from your money and enlarge its coffer.
And this brings me to my theological “what if” speculation about whether God would have the necessary finesse to pile up stacks of chips for each hand of cards dealt at that felt covered altar. But then I smack myself in the head and realize that there’s no speculation at all when you consider an all-knowing God--the God who created everything that exists outside of Himself; from subatomic particles to the immensity of hurling bodies of matter in an expanding universe. (see blog: 52 Words Every Christian Should Know - Word 4: Omniscience).
God would surely be flawless at blackjack. Why? Because He is the house. He already owns all the “chips.” And since God is the house He will never, ever, loose in His sovereign plan for the universe He created; the plan He designed in His favor, in your favor, in my favor, for the favor of all those who are His. He’s the house, He owns all the chips and He cannot lose even one! (John 6:37-40)
Yet, there’s a colossal difference between playing a card game in LV and what happens in LV. What happens between you and God, between you and Jesus Christ, does, indeed, remain there; wherever that may be and wherever it may happen. For the follower of Christ who has experienced His grace and love, there never was anonymity and the pseudo version becomes an alien concept. (Psalm 139) And here’s the kicker, by sending His Son, the only thing He wants to separate you from is sin and collect you as His chip which spells righteousness on one side and eternal life in God’s presence on the other. Would God be good at blackjack? Well, it’s a rather ludicrous question isn’t it? God isn’t a gambler. He’s in the business of sure things. (Romans 8:28-30) The plan of God’s redemption for sinners who are drawn to Him and respond to Him through His Son Jesus Christ is always a certainty—a holy and divinely stacked deck, if you will. Since Jesus was predetermined to win those who are His, I am deeply comforted to know that I have won because Jesus has won and I am made one with Him. “Blackjack”!
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:6, NIV84)
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.