Back in our Palo Alto days, we had several delightful and interesting neighbors.

Across the street lived Van and Martha. Wonderful people. We went over to their house for a party once and discovered a slot machine also lived there.

Martha loved playing slots. In fact they frequented a gambling resort in Reno enough that the owner gave her that machine! Can you practice playing slots? No, but you can enjoy the game.

What is addictive about slot machines is the same thing that is addictive about those games on your phone. One of those factors is “unpredictable and random results.” Players chase the rare “big win” as negative results actually add to the chase impulse.

Losing or winning, everything in the world of slot machines is driven by results. It takes no skill to pull a lever or push a button, and still we play.

Pool halls, golf, and dice

For a while in college I worked in a pool hall. My friend Bill was an excellent player, and I road his coattails to a little extra cash as we played others for money. That is not so random, but results were what it was all about.

For a while I did the same thing playing golf. In those couple of years I never played for much money, but I also never played for no money. I loved it, and I hated it.

Results were the measure. Even when some luck entered the picture I convinced myself that it was all about skill. Overall I won more than I lost, and the results justified it all.

Once gambling was fairly restricted in America, then lotteries were launched and the path was set. Today gambling is so pervasive that bets can be made in real time on almost every professional sport and many college games. It is still all about results.

One famous gambling game is called craps, played by rolling dice and betting on what the numbers will be when the dice stop rolling.

All kinds of “luck” is invoked by people rolling dice, from blowing on the dice to you-name-it. As if the player could control the results. The game doesn’t have to be craps, it can be Monopoly. We still roll the dice.

Rolling for results

“Dice have been used since before recorded history,” according to Wikipedia. That’s kind of an odd sentence, but let’s just say dice are not new.

A common phrase even today is “roll the dice.” In ancient Bible times, something very much like that was called “casting lots.” No one really knows if lots were some form of dice, but the idea was the same.

The decision is too difficult or the consequences are too great, or the arguments too strong, so they “cast lots.” Sometimes lots were cast to find the guilty party.

Can you imagine how much money we could save in our justice system if we used lots instead of juries?

When Jonah was on a boat running away from an assignment God had given him, God sent a storm to interrupt the ship’s journey. The sailors were afraid everyone would die, so they tried to take back control. They couldn’t, and they assumed someone on board was the cause of the storm. So they cast lots to figure out who it was, and Jonah was identified.

After Jesus was crucified, Roman soldiers cast lots — Romans actually had dice — to see who would get to keep his seamless tunic. They didn’t want to tear it, and they couldn’t decide, so they rolled the dice.

(Interestingly, it was prophesied 1,000 years before Jesus that that would happen.)

Would you trust dice to give you the right results? Perhaps I should say, “Do you?”

Rigged results

There is another saying about lots that helps us understand this concept in a new way.

Rather than blowing on the dice or wearing lucky shoes, the “lot casters” in the Bible believed that God was in charge of the results.

Solomon (the wisest man of all time, and probably also the wealthiest) wrote: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

Does that mean the results are not up to us? Well, yes and no. But just to add a little current day interest to the conversation, take a look at this same verse as translated by Eugene Peterson in The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language.

Peterson translated Proverbs 16:33 like this: “Make your motions and cast your votes, but God has the final say.”

Far from rolling the dice, an action over which we have no control regarding the outcome (loaded dice notwithstanding), Peterson brings this into casting votes. That could be in a student council meeting, a question to the group asking who wants pizza, or a presidential election.

“God has the final say,” assuming Peterson has Solomon right. But we still roll the dice. We still cast our ballot.

The results business

This is the third article in a series on “my life advice to those who ask.” And, from time to time, people ask.

I always respond with: “First, you have to be who God made you to be. Second, you should always do what God calls you to do. Third, and this is sometimes the most difficult, you have to get out of the results business.”

Then I say, “Even if you don’t think God is involved, consider the possibility that you are not alone in these decisions.”

Notice that each of those areas (who I am, what I do, my results) are ways in which we often find our identity.

Working backwards: My post got 3,000,000 hits! (Results based identity.) I’m in the movies. (“What I do” identity.) I’m always happy. (“Who I am” identity.)

It is not wise to find your identity in anything that can change in a heartbeat, as all of those can — especially results. Find your identity in what is unchangeable and good.

Be good. Do good. Strive for great (and good) results in everything you do. All of that is in you!

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