Without doubt gambling is one of those vices that has its deadly claws in the (future) lives of many. UK statistics revealed a few weeks ago show how despite gambling being illegal for under 18s, enormous numbers of under-agers are gambling online because of the ease in doing so. In fact, because this demographic is particularly easy to target with its shiny video content, gambling firms now have ensured that many children are hooked. Gambling’s reach is ubiquitous and the detritus it leaves in people’s lives makes the moonscape look bonnie. So what can be done to help people in such difficulty, if anything? Should we throw our hands up in the air in despair? Should we be indifferent to any solutions because of the sheer scale of the problem?
To those in the church that say amongst themselves, “they’re lost, there’s nothing you can do to help them”, I call us all to a higher spiritual standard. To work towards legislation that puts serious restraints on the access children have to gambling mechanisms is one concrete way to love our neighbour. Recall that Jesus ranks loving our neighbours as the second highest act we could ever perform in this life (Mark 12.31)! It could be, but doesn’t have to be, evangelistic. Sometimes, oftentimes, loving those around us in society should be done for no other reason than love. However, Jesus pushes our motivation further here. We should love our neighbour to the extent that we ourselves would wish to be loved. That innate human desire that pulses when we’re considered and looked after the way we should is the motivation here.
So I want to rally people in the Scottish Church to think much wider than simply how their own personal soul is doing. Faith, when it is really flexing its muscles, and according to Jesus at least, is when we take that internal motivation of love and make it visible and tangible in people’s lives.
How about we do something about the lure that is gambling in this country and find ways to love others by creating obstacles in our laws that prevent them from destroying themselves and others close to them? How about we make this country a place that takes gambling companies to task over their reckless preying upon vulnerable people to make life difficult for them? I believe we would have a society pushing in a positive direction if this were to happen.
This is faith.
This is hope.
This is love.
Dr Stuart Weir is Director of CARE Scotland