rev-joaquin-willis_web.jpgGambling seemly is taking over our society and any gambler will tell you the difference between big winners and big losers is big winners are willing to bet big and big losers aren’t.  Kenny Rogers, in his hit song The Gambler, said, the secret to winning poker is, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.”

God raises several questions today: Are you gambler? Do you have what it takes to place a big bet? The gambler knows the bigger the risk (the bet), the bigger the winnings.

In Luke 14:25-35, Jesus stresses, “Anyone who comes to Him and doesn’t put Him first (bet of Him) and isn’t willing to take up their cross (risk it all) …Cannot be my disciple.” In this parable, three points leap out: the conditions, the costs and the commitments required in discipleship. These are the same at the gambling table; there are conditions for betting, there’s a cost to betting and, in betting, a commitment is made.

Here Jesus teaches about the requirements of discipleship. Oddly, if we look closely in the parable, we can see a parallel between the demands of Jesus and the demands of gambling. The demands of both are incompatible with partial commitment, casual betting and casual gamesmanship. One cannot win big unless one risks big and bets it all. Similarly, one cannot follow Jesus unless one is willing to honor His conditions, pay His cost and make a life commitment.

There are two main points in the parable: the price of

discipleship (or betting) and the risk of discipleship (or committing).  At heart, the genuine disciple is a gambler, willing to bet his life on Jesus.

Any gambler will tell you the first rule of gambling is never bet impulsively or recklessly because doing so could lead to the loss of everything.

Three times in this passage Jesus says, “You cannot be my disciple unless…” seemingly to discourage some followers who were tagging along for the wrong reasons. Why would He do this? Because Christ wants intelligent, realistic, and trusting people willing to bet it all on Him.

The genuine disciple is willing to place all bets on Jesus and to lay his or her life down on His betting table.

Christ stresses His way leads to nothing less than a cross. The person carrying a cross knows he is on his way to his execution, that he’s already sentenced, that his future is decided and that his end is moments away.

Have you picked up your cross and placed your bet on Christ yet? Have you committed to follow Him, knowing your sentence has been passed, your future decided and your end only moments away?

Discipleship doesn’t deal only with personal relationships; it also addresses personal goals and personal desires. Christ wants us to make God’s desires and goals our own. His disciples understand their lives are shaped by His mission, not our own, and these are His betting conditions.

But there is also a cost to our betting. One cost points towards the foolishness of betting on a project without counting the cost. The other cost points towards the disaster in delaying placing our bet, without first considering the consequences. Christ’s main point is to delay is to default and default leads to defeat.

Thus, we see, not to decide is to decide not to take Christ’s gamble and to default in participating in His winnings. Are you delaying placing your bet on Him to the point of being in default?

Jesus ends the parable speaking of salt. We are the salt and the essence of our saltiness is found in our betting. When placing our bets on Christ, we sign over our lives, our property and loves to Him.

It is vital we bet on Jesus in our personal relationships, personal preferences and personal goals, for, without Him, we cannot achieve God’s plans for us to prosper. Therefore, we are called to carefully count the cost and consider the consequences before committing to placing our bets, because big winners place big bets and the best bet is to bet it all on Christ.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Miami.  He may be reached by calling 305-759-0373 or by email,

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