On a trip to Las Vegas a few years ago, I met Phil Ivey. It wasn’t in a casino, but on the driving range at a golf resort where the poker champion was working on his game in advance of a big-money golf match he had the next day.
We chatted for a short while. And I came away with the impression that he truly was a genuinely nice guy.
Yet, I do not condone what Ivey does for a living. While he’s had a successful career at the poker table – he has earned nearly $14 million in tournament poker, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal – it’s not honorable work.
Now, “honorable” work is not the same as “legal” work. For there are many jobs that are perfectly legal in the eyes of the law – perfectly acceptable to those who see through a glass darkly – that do not honor God.
And professional gambling is such an occupation.
Now I imagine some will quarrel with the assertion that gambling is an unGodly profession but the Scripture suggests otherwise. “Whatever you do,” it advises, “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” We “serve the Lord Christ,” the passage continues. “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs.”
Well, I’m pretty certain the Lord wouldn’t operate a casino. So no one who makes his or her living from gambling can claim to be working as to the Lord. What they are doing is wrong. And they need to come to repentance.
The same goes for any number of occupations.
For instance, abortion doctors kill more than one million pre-born babies each and every year. Such infanticide is perfectly lawful in this country. But it is an abomination in the eyes of God. Similarly, it’s perfectly legal to work in adult films; to sell one’s body for lucre. But the offense is rank, in the words of the Bard. It smells to heaven.
Then there are those professions, those occupations, that most of us have, that are not inherently sinful – like abortion or adult entertainment – that can afford us the opportunity to work as to the Lord, but that also can seduce us into using our skills for purposes that hardly glorify God.
Indeed, banks are not evil. But I would never take a bank job that required that I foreclose people’s homes. Tow-truck services are not bad. But I could not work for one that assigned me to repossess people’s vehicles.
I don’t think “the law is a ass – an idiot,” in the words of Dickens. But I would never seek acquittal for a criminal I knew to be guilty. I respect the Fourth Estate. But I could never work for an opinion page hostile to my Christian faith and conservative values.
So what should a person do who’s employed in a job that doesn’t honor the Lord? Follow the example of Matthew, who left his well-compensated job as a tax collector to answer Christ’s call to discipleship.
That’s not to suggest that anyone who earns a less-than-Godly living should resign abruptly – especially not in the current economy. No, let them seek first another job where they can work as to the Lord. Then let them quit their unredeeming job.