"A Flared Nostril Winner!"

Once a year, I am a Kentucky Derby fan! When I was a boy, I was fascinated by the stories my great uncle talked about regarding his frequent trips to the horse racing track at Cahokia Downs in St. Clair County. I was never allowed to be such an enthusiast! We had some compulsive behaviors in our family and Mother did not believe in gambling of any kind. However, I do get excited about the hype surrounding the annual “Run for the Roses!” It may only be a momentary interest, but I try not to miss the annual television coverage at Louisville’s Churchill Downs.


There was nothing quite like the drama of this year’s epic photo finish! One of the most prized, beautiful, and spirited three-year-old Thoroughbreds, Mystik Dan, won the race around the mile and a quarter oval in a breakneck 2.03.43 minutes of time and his owners claimed the 3.1-million-dollar purse! It was exciting to see Sierra Leone and Forever Young, the second and third place horses, compete side by side in those seconds leading up to the finish. In the end, Mystik Dan literally won by a nose length or as one commentator described it, “By a flared nostril!”😁

My good friend, Kevin Gibson, attended seminary in Louisville and loved everything about the Kentucky Derby. After graduation, he came back to serve the Springfield church who would later call me as pastor. That was the beginning of our life-long friendship. Kevin promoted an unofficial, home Derby party every year among some of the young adults of our church.

We watched the race while enjoying finger sandwiches, chips, and dip along with a tray of veggies, and of course, Kentucky Derby-Pie for dessert. It would be years later that I would learn the secret “ingredient” in the recipe of this sumptuous treat: chocolate and walnuts blended in a chess pie formula… with a measure of Kentucky Bourbon! This was a little unsettling to my teetotaler sensibilities, but I learned to deal with it! (I never told Mom how I occasionally lived on the edge!)

One of my favorite residents, in a senior living facility, told me two days before the Derby that he was going that day to a gaming room in our community. These businesses have become prolific and cater to a growing population who love games of chance. I cautioned my friend to avoid any unnecessary risk taking. I added in a little humor by advising him to take an extra sweater. When he asked why, I said, “Because many tempted in such gaming parlors have “lost their shirt” in their futile efforts to get rich quick!” He laughed aloud!

Gambling is a growing industry in our culture. It is profitable. Commercial gaming revenue now exceeds sixty billion each year through Casinos, iGaming, and sports betting. (Source: American Gaming Association). There are projections that the global gaming market will reach one trillion in revenues by 2030. Where is all of this going? What is the harm in a little game of chance? Many who have experienced the pain of compulsive disorders and gambling addictive behaviors would counter, there is a lot at stake! Individuals and families have paid an awful price from gambling addiction.

I know that there isn’t any direct prohibition in the Bible about gambling such as, “Thou shalt not gamble!” But there are some systemic issues in gambling that are troubling. The essence of gaming is a consuming motivation or desire to get something for nothing. This can be economically, physically, and spiritually destructive at several levels. Those least able to afford a bet often fall prey to gambling attractions. Addiction is a real concern as the brain gives powerful chemical responses like those drawn into drug abuse.

The Apostle Paul spoke about the spiritual and social concerns that can be applied to compulsive involvement with gaming and gambling. He wrote some strong words of counsel to believers in Ephesus concerning the value of work and of having something to share with those in need. “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need… And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own.” (Ephesians 4:28,30a NLT).

Dr. Ebbie Smith, an ethics professor of mine, offered these bullet statements about the Bible’s teachings regarding the acquisition of wealth, “Honesty in acquiring wealth is demanded. Work is taught as God’s way for His people. The work of Christians should be constructive rather than causing trouble, loss, or degeneration. And sharing with those in need constitutes the reason for producing wealth.”

You and I can have a little fun watching a sporting event without placing a bet! Let’s think about these things!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com






  1. I think your insights are strong enough to help those who are teachable. Well done, and thanks!

  2. I agree with you, love to watch the derby every year but sure no gambling. Better places for our money.


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