I spent this last weekend in Las Vegas, the home of glitz, glamour, and gambling. My wife and I came up for the NASCAR race and I was amazed at the dichotomy of the city. We stayed in North Las Vegas so we would be closer to the Speedway. All around our very nice Hotel/Casino was abject poverty. How could this be, I wondered? As we drove out of the driveway the shining lights quickly dimmed and graffitti and decrepit buildings surrounded us.
As the hotel became a distant speck in the rear view mirror a huge billboard anounced “Strike it Rich”. The next billboard announced “paycheck advance” and I noticed a congregation of homeless people underneath. How could this town that rakes in billions of dollars have so much poverty? We drove down the strip later that night and the lights and glitz were unbelievable. It seemed that the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer.
When we arrived back at our hotel later that night we walked through the casino. The noise of the machines and the blue haze of the smoke made a somewhat eerie sight. Here was the largest congregation of people on Oxygen I had ever seen… many of them still smoking. The flashing lights declared large sums of money up for grabs… just put some pennies, nickels, and dimes in the machines. There was something new this visit… service charges on everything. There was a $4.95 daily service fee for the hotel. If you wanted money from the instant teller the service charge was $3.50. There was a city tax on the meals… this wasn’t the low cost town it used to be.
I sat down at a penny machine for the fun of it and put in five dollars. I was able to play for about 15 minutes but soon the money was gone. The couple down the aisle were arguing over a small payoff and it seemed to get pretty serious over 5 or 10 dollars. Here right in front of me was the promise of big riches. Just put in another five dollars… or better yet how about a twenty? The lights flashed and the progressive payout sign declared I could win $150,000 on the very machine I was just playing… I reached into my wallet and grabbed a twenty. I was just getting ready to put it in when the fighting couple got really loud.
I decided to move and I realized that what was entertainment to me was awful serious business for others. It was obvious that this fighting couple’s payout was the last money they had. One person wanted to keep playing and the other wanted dinner… I’m not sure who won out. After seeing this little spectacle play out in front of my eyes the thought of “investing” more money quickly diminished. It was obvious that behind the glitz and glamour, this town had some serious problems.
When I got home I opened my home page and the daily scripture verse caught my attention. It was Proverbs 11:24 and 25
24. Some people give much but get back even more. Others don’t give what they should and end up poor.
25. Whoever gives to others will get richer; those who help others will themselves be helped.
I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if many of the regulars you find in Las Vegas would take the no-return route. Instead of putting money in a machine… what if they gave money to the poor and needy? What if they gave this “recreational” money to others without expecting anything back?
What would happen?
What if they wrote a check for job training for a needy person?
What if they provided a hot meal for a homeless person?
What if they bought a computer for a poor student who couldn’t afford one?
Many people set a limit of $20, $100, or even $500 on each trip to Vegas…
What would happen if they took the no-return path?
What would the payoff be?