What does a casino have to do with Jesus? And, can we compare worshipers to gamblers? …Go ahead, read on.
You can tell if me if I’m way off here and I’ll acknowledge it. Common knowledge tells us that casinos have a rigged system so they always come out ahead financially. They’re businesses, not charities. I’m not saying casinos cheat (they don’t need to) but in general their rules will not allow gamblers to win in the long run.
A friend asked me to define the phrase “indebtedness code” in an article I recently posted. I compared that in my response to a present day type of casino. Let’s see if the analogy has any merit. If you think it doesn’t, at least we might find the explanation of “indebtedness code” helpful in our reading of the Gospels. I’ll split these explanations up into smaller bites (articles), hopefully making it easier for me to “cook” and for everyone to “chew.”
In Mark 2 we read the episode of the paralytic man being lowered through a roof so that he might be healed by Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic “Son your sins are forgiven.” Some of the teachers of the law were sitting there thinking “What?? This guy is blaspheming! Only God can forgive sins!” In other words, in their minds Jesus was just another human who was apparently audacious enough to challenge the established order. Right now, I’m trying to convey the established order as analogous to a modern day casino.
With a modern day casino the odds are not in the gambler’s favor. If they weren’t called casinos they would be called charities. Not only are the odds stacked against the gambler, but the psychological aspect of gambling is in the casino’s favor as well. No windows, no clocks, and often free drinks are strategies designed to keep the gambler gambling. The casino knows that the longer someone gambles, the more money the casino is going to make, legally. In a similar way, the odds were stacked against the peasant population who Jesus was ministering to. The priesthood, the Temple elite (lawyers and scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees), were the “casino” of the day. The poor among Israel had no chance of assuming themselves to be respected as equals in society because they were under the constant burden of debt, financially and ceremonially. They were indebted to the priestly class who controlled land estates. Meyers also notes, “A Galilean tenant farmer could have up to half his harvest extracted as rent. Small holders were subject to the land tax or tribute of Herodian kings or the annona of the Romans, either of which ranged from one-quarter to one-third of a harvest” (Binding the Strong Man, 51-52). Just like casinos are filthy rich, so were the Temple elite. No wonder Jesus would go on to make a massive prophetic protest in the Temple itself, in regard to its corruption (cf. Mark 11). …So, in the beginning of Mark we see this Jesus beginning to collide with the casino of His day. Who was this guy traveling from village to village cancelling other’s debts?! What audacity…who does Jesus think he is?! He’s cheating the system!!