The Gambler

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

This past weekend Kenny Rogers passed away. I listened to a lot of country music growing up because that’s primarily what my grandparents liked. It’s strange to me though because I don’t remember a ton of Kenny Rogers in the mix. I can think of a few songs, and I’m sure there were more sprinkled in that I just didn’t know. One that I do remember though was easily his most successful song, The Gambler.

This song is a country music classic, and I pulled it back out this weekend as part of a short retrospective with Hannah in the car. Her choice was Islands in the Stream, a duet he did with Dolly Parton. As I listened to The Gambler for the first time in some years, I couldn’t help but think of it like a proverb. The chorus begins with the lyrics above, and it strikes a very similar tone to wisdom’s discerning eye in proverbs.

The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
but the folly of fools is deceiving. Proverbs 14:8

One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,
but a fool is reckless and careless. Proverbs 14:16

These two verses from Proverbs 14 get at the same idea that Rogers is trying to communicate through his parable. Opinions on gambling aside, he’s promoting caution and discernment over recklessness and carelessness. What’s brilliant about the narrative of the song (and something quite biblical actually) is that he takes a character whose stereotype is often one associated with negative traits like debt, negligence, imprudence and flips that on its head.

Discernment is something that develops as we mature. For the Christian, it hinges on our relationship with Christ and our reliance on His Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2 tells us that the things of God are revealed by the Spirit and discerned spiritually. Part of discernment is trusting that God is leading, which is not always easy to do or to recognize. The best way that I have been able to understand this is to look back. Discerning what is ahead of us requires us to reflect on how we’ve seen God work in the past. We trust that He is good and that He will act in the future how He has acted in the past. This is the heart of faith.

For some of us, we may not feel like we have seen God show up in the past, so we have to cling to Scripture, which is the account of His actions in history. These actions and words communicate God’s character and nature to us, and in that we have faith.

Prayer and Reflection

How has God shown up in your past? What does the Bible say about who God is? Pray that these things are revealed to you and pray for the faith to trust that he will help you discern your future actions.

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