In my line of work, we have to take frequent business trips. From time to time, those trips spill over into the weekend. This past weekend was one of those times. With my coworkers and I as guests in a faraway city, we did our best to fit in and have fun. One of the ways we had fun was by going to a local casino. (For the record, I don’t particularly care for casinos, but I was doing my best not to be a wet blanket.)
It was about a 30-minute drive from our hotel to the casino. As we got near, we were able to see a true spectacle. The casino was opulent and grand–quite a sight to see. And that was just on the exterior. Inside the casino was even more extravagant.
We stayed at the casino for hours and hours. Along the way, it didn’t take me long to pull away and just observe.
What I saw in that casino made my heart sick.
There were thousands of people at this casino. All them were presumably there to find happiness, but none of them actually looked happy. In fact, most of them looked miserable–especially the older people in attendance.
A recent article from AARP confirmed my suspicions. According to the magazine, nearly half of the 100+ million casino visitors each year are age 50 and older. In addition, they revealed many older adults viewed the casino as a place where they can socialize and escape from loneliness or grief.
And to take matters worse, casino workers are trained to befriend senior citizens and other fragile adults in order to keep them in casinos longer and more frequently. In some areas of the country, casinos even send complimentary shuttles to pick up seniors on the day their Social Security checks arrive.
Does it get any sleazier than that?
As Jesus followers, we understand that casinos only hand out fool’s gold. The Lord is the only refuge that truly satisfies. Unfortunately, so many of us never find this out. Or worse, we do understand but have turned to vices to fill our voids. Luckily, scripture clarifies where our hearts need to be to experience sustaining joy.
Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (ESV)
Psalm 107:9 – For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (ESV)
While at the casino, I made the conscious decision to research good churches for Sunday. Since the internet is a modern miracle, it didn’t take long to find a great church. When I attended the church the next morning, I was not disappointed.
Not only was the Holy Spirit present and in full effect, I noticed something about the people that was remarkably different than the people at the casino the previous day: the people at this church were actually experiencing joy. Did the people have all the money in world? No. All the beauty? No. However, they had Jesus and loved ones; they were truly happy.
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I’m praying for everyone at the casino I visited. And I’m praying for everyone at casinos all over the country too. I know what they’re looking for. They’re just looking in the wrong place.