the line wasn’t that long but it was not moving so I was both bored and in a hurry at the same time. (but I often operate in “hurry mode” so that’s nothing new) lacking a magazine display to catch my eye and help me to pass the time by reading the headlines, I eventually noticed a brightly lit screen at the counter near the register, advertising the lottery. Pictures and words flashed as the screen displayed ads for different jackpots, rotating through a sequence of ads and then starting over again.
It was at this point that one particular lottery ticket ad caught my attention. It displayed the amount to be won, odds of winning, number of winners at this location in the past etc. It all looked so glamorous and exciting. It all looked so possible. And there in the middle of the screen, in big, bright, bold letters were these words, “Gamble Responsibly – Gamblers’ Addiction Hotline ___ ___ ____.”
So there it was. The very same neon sign that was inviting, encouraging, yes even enticing me to buy some lottery tickets, (to gamble) was also providing me the number to call to get some help should my gambling become an addiction. The cause and the cure together on the same sign. How convenient! How thoughtful of the lottery people! Were they in essence saying, “we know this might ruin your life even though it looks like fun now, so we want you to call this number, not us, when your life falls apart and you are bankrupt.”
This contradiction stuck with me as I left the store. The same slick, shiny ad that promised me a chance at a richer, brighter future also predicted that I might need the help of a hotline if I purchased their product and oh so thoughtfully provided me with the number they knew I would eventually need.
“Gamble Responsibly” is an inherent contradiction. Gambling by definition is taking a chance, risking something in the hope of gaining something more. It is risky behavior, which is why people find it so exciting. Risky behavior is the opposite of responsible behavior, so by definition there is no such thing as “responsible gambling.” If there were, it wouldn’t be gambling, it would be a routine purchase of a sure thing. If I am gambling, I am taking a risk – whether a small one or a big one – but a risk nonetheless; so I am not being responsible. I can’t be both responsible and risky at the same time. This is the contradiction that leads to my conviction.
Life is full of contradictions. I am full of them myself I realize as I eat my high calorie dessert and drink my diet, zero calorie soda. So much for consistency. I stand corrected, convicted by the contradiction of my own actions.
And that’s not the only contradiction that convicts me. Luke 6:46 asks the question of me, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” I live out that contradiction in my life all too often. If I say that Jesus is the Lord of my life, then I must do things His way rather than relying on my way, which is often self serving instead of serving others. I can’t say that Jesus is Lord of my life and then refuse to follow His directions, but instead “lean on my own understanding.”
There is no escaping the contradiction of the following words; “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21)
The contradiction of someone claiming to love God but hating the people around them, is quite convicting. Just as I can’t gamble responsibly because that’s an impossibility, I can’t love God and hate other people at the same time. It is an impossible contradiction that convicts me to my core every time I find myself attempting to do just that. The conviction is that I am a liar. I am a liar if I am saying I love God and then living in a way that is not loving towards others. I can’t live in a way that does not support my claim of loving God.
The contradiction of words versus deeds is always very convicting. There are these words in James 2:14-17, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?”
The contradictions in the following words of 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, are also very convicting. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.”
And finally Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” A contradiction that convicts me every time.
sincerely, Grace Day