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A huge to-do has erupted over the last few months in Steeleville over the latest Springfield tax scheme. Our state leaders and their cronies, presiding over a state they have ravaged and bankrupted, put their heads together. They asked, “How can we extract even more money from our citizens?”

It didn’t take long for them to come up with their solution — legalized gambling.

By lifting up a remote chance at winning a jackpot, the State of Illinois has raked in billions of dollars of taxes (the lion’s share of money paid by gamblers) preying on people’s carnal desire to have a chance (no matter how small) at “winning it big.” Gambling has been historically illegal in many places throughout our nation because of its predatory nature; now money-hungry, corrupt politicians are using it to rob the very taxpayers they were charged to protect. Wrapping it in a cause we all love like education, our veterans, or raising money for nonprofits, the state has become a snake oil salesman. Unfortunately, many of us have fallen for Springfield’s latest flashy scheme.

What has been most disturbing in recent days is the statement our beloved community has made to its young people through our fixation and celebration over the gambling tax. Is this the message we want to send to our young people about how to make an honest living and how God provides? Is this how Steeleville and our other Illinois communities want to be known? I implore our civic leaders, school officials, businessmen and fellow citizens to think about these questions.

There is a good reason past generations kept the Pandora’s Box of gambling under lock and key. Hard, honest labor using one’s gifts brings glory to God and blessings to many. Gambling feeds a money hungry government that can’t get enough, preys on people who already have need, and leaves a trail of brokenness and destruction. Counseling families wrecked by gambling addiction has shown me the true effects gambling has on our society.

The snake oil may appear on the surface like a miracle drug to financially strapped people and communities. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that it is actually a deadly poison in clever disguise.

I love our kids, our veterans, and our community from the bottom of my heart. I deeply support the community organizations that make Steeleville a strong community and a great place to live. However, this concerned father cannot remain silent when I see a community celebrating something so harmful and dangerous and even getting our children and youth entangled in its tentacles. Consider God’s warning to us in 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” This is not about being self-righteous or “holier than thou;” we are all sinners in need of the forgiveness Jesus freely offers. This is about protecting our citizens and future generations from a powerful, dangerous force that can wreck families and destroy lives.

Let’s prayerfully consider how we can support our beloved community organizations and charitable causes in ways that don’t feed Springfield’s unending appetite for money. Let’s also set a positive example for our young people while also ensuring that Steeleville and our surrounding communities are caring, secure places to live for generations to come.

Dr. Scott Foshie is the pastor at Steeleville Baptist Church.

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