Text Game or Text Gambling?

It sure sounds tempting. In a nation of 82 mllion people where over 30 million are suffering from poverty, 3.4 million are unemployed and 4.7 million others have no regular source of income, there is a chance that one of them could become an instant millionaire.

Call it a "rags to riches" tale, a Cinderella story, or a "get-rich-quick" scheme, but nothing perhaps is as tempting as the thought that you could be the lucky winner of a million-peso jackpot prize in the latest game craze called text games. You begin to ask, is there any other way to escape poverty this quick in a country where the rich rules and the poor reduced to doing the hard labor?

The fact that the odds of winning is there, however limited it may be (1:10,000,000 perhaps), just makes you think you could be the next winner. Why not? Somehow, you believe that the stars in the sky have charted your fate or that your new status in life would be revealed soon. Or somehow, you have prayed day and night for this and you think God wants you to enjoy a comfortable life.

Never mind the millions of others who won't be as lucky. You convinced yourself that they have their own fate. Never mind if they have your dream also, or they share your opinion about fate. Maybe they have not prayed hard enough or they are not as worthy as you are to win the prize. Never mind if each one of them (and there are millions of them) lost P10 in every text message he or she had sent to television or radio game shows.

Never mind if the prize money is the pooled resources of every desperate dreamer in this country. Just think that you, the lucky winner, have finally made your dreams come true while others are continuously betting on their desperate hopes. What is important is your new fate. Right?

Winning a million pesos or more has never been as easy as this. Just send a text message to a four-digit number, specifically designated by a mobile phone service provider, and you could have a chance of a lifetime. So easy and convenient are the procedures of these new games that you don't have to fall in line, like when buying a lottery ticket or wait for the "kobrador", like when betting on a numbers game called "jueteng".

You could send a text message or SMS (short messaging service), worth P10 each, anytime or anywhere you want. While this is a lot more expensive than the ordinary SMS, which is worth only P1 each, the reward could be a million pesos or more, once your number is selected among millions of entries.

One logical strategy to increase your chances at the jackpot is to send as many text messages as your load can avail of. You could send a text message, even when you are about to sleep or when you have just waken up from a nice dream about becoming rich ultra quick.

And once your number is chosen among millions of text messages sent by other texters who are obviously banking on the same dream, you can be sure that the prize is legal (Isn't it?), unlike when winning the jackpot in "jueteng" which we must emphasize is illegal in this country (Remember the EDSA 2 revolt?).

One limitation of text games, however, is that only subscribers of mobile phone networks could join. At the latest news, over 12 million Filipinos have mobile phones, most of them GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) capable. There is also this question about whether text games are really a game or just a marketing tool of the mobile phone networks. For example, different products also give away millions of pesos to those who patronize them.

Is there anything that sets text games apart from the usual marketing strategies of different products? Does paying P10, instead of the usual P1 for a text message and a chance to win a million bucks make it a game? Does the sender of a P10 text message, instead of the usual P1 text message, get something in return, aside from a chance to win millions of pesos?

Isn't a game synonymous to a competition? Is gambling synonymous to competition? When you compete, what do you do? Do you just wait and see until luck strikes you? In text games, do you have control of the situation or do something to improve your chances, without shelling extra money? Do you compete in text games, in the way that you invest your effort, time, and skills on expectations that you would reap the rewards later?

If it is indeed a game, what are the risks involved? If it is a game, what are the skills or talents involved? If it is a game, is there a fair chance of winning the prize? If it is a game, what are the rules? If it is a game, are there more spectators than players? If it is a game, who will be generous enough to donate millions of pesos as prize and why?

Where does every P10 go in the first place? To the prize money? You mean the winner will get for himself every P10 wagered by millions of losers? Do telecommunications and broadcast companies get a share in the prize money? Does the government get a share in the prize money? Who profits most from text games? Are there more winners than losers in text games? How big is each player's chance to win the jackpot? Can all players win once in their lifetime?

If text games are a form of game, what keeps them from being labeled as a form of gambling? Isn't a numbers game like jueteng or lotto considered a form of gambling although the latter is legal in the sense that the government regulates it. So, gambling can be either legal or illegal in this country. It is for you to decide whether text games are another form of gambling. Granted that it is a form of gambling, it is legal anyway, right? The question is, "Should we engage in it just because it is legal?"

Even the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), the state-run gambling agency, is convinced that text games perpetrated by broadcast stations and telecommunication firms are a form of gambling and wants them regulated.

Senator Robert Jaworski said these text games have been draining the Filipinos of their hard-earned money. Before this, the National Telecommunications Commission bared that some 110 million text messages are sent to these text games daily, with each text message costing from P2 to P10. At the minimum, these text games generate at least P220 million daily.

A Nation That Doesn't Learn

Poverty is a grave problem in this country. All people want to escape poverty, so what's wrong with risking P10 for a chance to win millions more?  Here's what's wrong with gambling. Gambling doesn't resolve poverty because it only worsens the inequitable distribution of wealth, which is bad in this country. [There are four US dollar billionaires in this country while more than half of the population (40 million) live on less than US$2 a day.]

In gambling, when a person wins, millions of other players lose. For every millionaire created by gambling, there are millions of losers who are dragged deeper into poverty (they lost P10 for nothing right?). Gambling doesn't create wealth, because no product or service is produced. It only facilitates the movement of money from the hands of many to the hands of one person or a few. Gambling in fact diminishes labor productivity, because it distracts the focus and attention of the people from the more important task of production.

Sadly, this country is not able to derive any lesson from the fall from Malacanang Palace of former President Joseph Estrada on allegations that he profited from illegal gambling. It is like failing to derive any lesson from the Payatas disaster in August 2000 when hundreds of poor people were buried under tons of garbage, which was incomparable in history.

The existence of gambling here is not just a manifestation that fantasies are aimlessly pursued in this country; it is a statement of the mindset of its people and of the moral standards of its leaders. When will they ever learn?

What's Wrong with Gambling?

Gambling is a game of chance, fuelled by desires for a significant prize at stake - which is actually the pooled resources of all players who are all interested in getting rich or richer quick. Gambling feeds on desperate hopes, strong desires or weaknesses of the betting public.

The most common forms of gambling are lottery or numbers game. In Philippine lotto, for example, when a person wins, millions of others lose. The government consoles the losers by assuring them that a share of their loss goes to charity.

The Bible cautions us against falling into gambling, hastening to get rich or focusing on the pursuit of money. "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (I Timothy 6:9-10)

Gambling offers a prize money, which is actually the pooled resources of all players. Since it is their money, winning their money even by means of a legalized form of gambling does not make it a less sin. For all you know, you are not only stealing their money, you are stealing their hopes also. One of the commandments read in part: "You shall not covet...anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus 20:17 in part)

People are encouraged to work their way to sufficiency and are discouraged from pursuing fantasies like becoming rich all of a sudden. "He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment." (Proverbs 12:11)

One proven formula for success is perseverance. "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." (Proverbs 14:23) "Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow." (Proverbs 13:11)

The economic principles in the Bible are directed towards the greater good of a nation, rather than the prosperity of only one person. Labor and production are two of the most important aspects of economic productivity. Here, each person contributes to the growth of the economy and should therefore receive his fair and just share. A prayer in the Book of Proverbs reads: "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You." (Proverbs 30:8 in part)

The importance of hard work shall never be ignored. "By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food." (Genesis 3:19) "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10) The importance of sharing shall never be overlooked. "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." (Ephesians 4:28)

Of course, the Bible promotes justice through love and sharing. It is consistent in saying that wealth doesn't make a man any better. "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15)

Rather, the Lord wants all men to help each other. "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." (Matthew 7:12) Helping each other would come easily if we love one another as Jesus commanded. "Love each other" (John 15:17).

Paul, the first missionary, described love this way. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (I Corinthians 13:4-8)

How can we show our love to our brothers? "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity in him, how can the love of God be in him?" (I John 3:16-18)

Our attitude towards work should be as if we are working for the Lord. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Colossians 3:23)

Instead of chasing fantasies or believing in fate charted by the stars (the Bible warns against these practices), why don't we put our faith and trust in God, who loves us more than we can understand. "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"(Hebrews 13:5)

God does not want you to remain in poverty. He has something great in store for you. Have you ever tried asking Him for help? "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8)

One of the most important questions about man's purpose in life is this: "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:26) That question doesn't remain a question because Jesus Christ has given a wonderful response. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:33-34)

Oftentimes, we fail to realize how great God's love is. We easily question His justice, when we get deprived of what we consider good things in life. Such is our attitude towards God, without realizing that He has already provided us with the best gift in life - something far more significant than P1 million. He gave us righteousness, or purification from sin, through the sacrifice of His Only Son.

Two thousand years ago, the Son of God was born as a man in Bethlehem. So sinful have men become that only a perfect sacrifice could cleanse us of our sins. No man could be a perfect sacrifice because all of us were sinners. Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, became the perfect sacrifice who redeemed us from death.

Why did Jesus Christ have to die for our sins? "The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22) God told Moses: "For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." (Leviticus 17:11)

The blood of Christ, the perfect sacrifice, had to be shed for our atonement. Jesus Christ "did not enter by means of the blood of the goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:12) "We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:10)

Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead and His ascension to Heaven where He sits at the right hand of His Father completed the redemption of those who believe in His name. He is our priest in Heaven, reminding His father of His sacrifice that bought our salvation. "Because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them." (Hebrews 7:24-25)

This is the good news of salvation for all. All we need to do is accept His grace of salvation by believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who offered His human body as a sacrifice for us and that God raised Him from the dead. "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins." (Colossians 2:13)

What can be more precious than the assurance of eternal life with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior? Instead of betting our money (with one-on-a-millionth chance) on a temporal wealth, why don't we put our faith in God who offers us a 100 percent salvation in Jesus Christ His Son?

This is the promise of Jesus Christ. "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)

What wealth can be compared to those found in God's Kingdom? Jesus Christ is inviting us to become a part of His Kingdom. "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (Revelation 3: 20-21)

Below is a suggested prayer:

God, the Most High, praise be to Your name forever.  I am humbled by Your love and holiness.  Forgive me for not trusting You and for desiring to become rich quickly.  Forgive me for wanting to get for myself the money of other people by buying a chance for a large prize money from their pooled resources.  Forgive me for pursuing fantasies about me getting a larger share of the world's wealth, which you want all people to enjoy.  Forgive me Lord for all my sins.  I praise You for the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made to save me from the outcome of my sins.  I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and want Your Holy Spirit to dwell in me, so that I will always keep Your decrees in my heart and know which things I should not do, even though the world considers them legal .  Let me live as a new creation, eager and willing to do Your will forever.  Glory to You, our God in the highest. I pray, in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!

My friend, if you want to know more about the life offered by Jesus Christ and the wonderful things that He has done for us, we invite you to visit these websites: http://emmaus.50megs.com and http://www.cbphilippines.org or fill up the forms below.

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You can also visit Emmaus Bible Fellowship Center at the 2nd Floor of the Alay Pagasa Building along No. 32 Arayat Street corner Road 1, Mandaluyong City on Sunday morning (10 am to 12 noon).

Bible verses were quoted from the New International Version (NIV) of the International Bible Society.

The article was based on the discussions I had with Pastor Nicky Joya of the Emmaus Bible Fellowship Center.  Sources of information include "the Devotional Study Bible" of the Philippine Bible Society, "the Follow Me Bible Discovery Series I" prepared by Pastor Nicky, "Whose Money Is It Anyway", a book by John MacArthur, the personal website of Diane Dew, and Bible.org.

1 John 3:1

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God".

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