In the course of one short evening, I turned $5000 into $65,000. After trying my hand at craps and blackjack, I settled in at the poker table. Up until then I was just about even. But by the time the table closed, I was rich! Well, so to speak.
The money wasn’t real. We were attending a benefit for the Southside families who care for children with special needs. The theme was a casino night and everyone was given “$5000” when they entered. From there you were on your own. When I sat down at the poker table I felt more comfortable. After all, I had played a couple of times on my phone. I won the first hand, surprisingly. But it was the final couple of hands that put me on top of the table. I took the risk. I gambled my winnings and it paid off. Well, so to speak.
I didn’t actually win anything. I walked away with the exact amount of money in my wallet as when I entered, $11.23. But it did make me think. I had thrown caution to the wind and trusted my instincts. I had gone all in. Had I lost I would have been left penniless. Well, so to speak.
Here’s the thing. I was just playing. It was just for fun and the chance to care for some very wonderful families. The outcome had no lasting consequence. Others, however, are playing for keeps. In our world, even in our community, there are those who are gambling something far more precious than tokens. They are gambling their lives. Apparently their instincts are telling them that they are good people. At least, good enough. They claim a belief in God but show it in no visible way. They don’t make worship a priority. They don’t love and they don’t serve.
Their gamble is that own goodness will suffice when God calls this game to an end and ushers in the final, and ultimate decision on who are winners and who are losers. It is a difficult subject. Judgment. I am fully confident that those in Christ face no condemnation (Romans 8:1). But I am concerned that there are many who gamble that their relationship is sufficient and that they will not be the ones to whom Jesus someday says, “I never knew you (Matthew 7:23).”
Funny thing, as I sat at a make-believe poker table my heart began to race. I suppose I had some of the feelings of a real gambler. I will never know! And then my heart raced even faster as I thought about those who are gambling with their lives. Those who are placing their bets on a God whose love is so great he won’t really separate himself from them. I suppose that is possible. I suppose that even though God is absolutely consistent, he does have the right to change his mind. However, his mind is clearly revealed in Scripture and though his grace is great, he has clearly marked our pathway home. So that’s just not a bet I am willing to make.
“Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. On judgment day, many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Go away.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)