Pew Sermon for Sunday 2nd October

Are you a gambler?

How often have you heard the phrase ‘if I were a gambling man’ (and it usually is a man, in my experience) with the speaker going on to cast their totally redundant bet or guess. Redundant, because they have no intention of risking their money to back it up!

Well, I am certainly not a gambling man – at least I don’t think I am. The thrill of the chase simply does nothing for me, and I am perfectly content if any old horse wins the race safely and securely, and gets duly pensioned off to the nearest paddock, with an extra lump of sugar.

Gambling, of course, is an addiction, and like all addictions, causes much harm. But for me, even more scary is the cold-blooded gambler of a non-addictive nature who, knowing the odds are against him or her, doubles the bet. It is this type of gambler that may require closer attention:

Are gamblers logical players? Do they calculate the odds mathematically, and play those odds, never getting carried away with the excitement of the moment? That’s the cold, professional gambler, who knows when to start and stop. Or are they in it for the thrill and the entertainment? Do they let their heads rule their hearts? Do they then not know when to stop?

There is much talk of ‘doubling-down’ in our newspapers and media. And it’s an interesting term to discuss:

Apparently, in blackjack, after an initial show of cards, you can ‘double down’ – that is, double the bet by drawing one more card only. But you must draw it. Mathematically, you are unwise to double-down unless you already have 10 or 11, as the chances of getting a further 10 (to = 21) are about 30.7%. And to me, 30.7% is not all that secure. But then, I am an accountant.

Imagine the player, if you will, who doubles down with an existing hand of less than 10. The possible rewards double, but so to the changes of losing.

Thrill of the chase? Is taking a risk, entertainment? Or stupidity?

Well, it depends on your point of view.

Your chances of winning the National Lottery are currently 1 in 45 million. There is more chance of you being canonised into sainthood by the Catholic Church (1 in 20 million) and you are more than four times more likely to be struck by lightening (1 in 10 million). But for £2, people reason, “I might win the jackpot”. Yes, you might. But your chances of having identical quadruplets is three times higher (one in 15 million).

Is President Putin a logical player? That is the question that has baffled the West for decades. If yes, he won’t go for broke; he won’t double down on a losing hand. But I think we are beginning to realise the final answer to that question.

Is the new Government doing the same thing with the economy with their tax cuts and borrowings and economic liberalisations? Many say yes, from both sides of the political divide.

Why gamble unless you have an existing hand worth at least 10 or 11?

No idea. I guess, people just go for broke for all sorts of reasons, and hang the consequences.

Not for me. The once certainly in a world of uncertainly is our faith in God, and in Jesus Christ, and of His great love for us.

Why gamble, when you can have the real thing?

May God keep us all safe in an uncertain world.