“The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers
40 Days of Country – Song #32 – Lent 2016
Country Music Hall of Fame artist Kenny Rogers is not only one of the greatest and most recognizable country singers and songwriters of all time, with over 120 hit singles and over 200 weeks spent on pop and country music charts, Kenny Rogers is certifiably one of the most successful artists of all time. Whether it is the romantic sentiment of songs like “Lady,” or the common wisdom offered in songs like, “The Gambler,” Kenny Rogers deep, passionate, approachable voice has been a mainstay in American music for sixty years.
While an argument can be made for which of Rogers’ hits are his greatest, no song has made as much of a cultural impact as, “The Gambler.” Surprisingly, Kenny Rogers was not the first to sing the song, originally written by Don Schlitz at the young age of 23. It was poet Shel Silverstein who finally managed to get a recording artist to give the song a shot, and even country music legend Johnny Cash recorded it at one time. However, it was Kenny Rogers’ version on his 1978 album of the same name that became famous. The song tells the tale of a late night meeting between the narrator and a character known only as, “The Gambler,” who offers this sage like advice. “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em., know when to walk away, know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sitting at the table, there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”
While, as a good United Methodist pastor, I can’t condone gambling, the Bible does offer sentiment similar to Kenny Rogers’ famous song. In 1 Timothy 6: 12, Paul encourages us to, “Compete in the good fight of faith. Grab hold of eternal life—you were called to it…” and continues in verses 17-19, “17 Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. Instead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. 19 When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.” According to Paul, it really doesn’t matter how much money is on the table because treasures of this world are fleeting. Instead, we should commit ourselves to always playing the hand of good works, sharing, and generosity, so that others might experience our blessings, and we might receive blessings of eternal consequences.
Gracious God, amidst all the uncertainty we face every day of our lives, we rest in the confidence of the one thing that is certain, that your love for us will never fail, and that your mercies are new every morning. Guide us as we share that love and mercy with others, in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.