Am I my brother’s keeper?

Jim Owen lost almost $1 million, mostly playing craps at casinos from Tunica, Miss., to Las Vegas. “It just about destroyed everything in my life,” he said. “I have three daughters who had seen the way I treated their mother and told me they hated me.”  Larry Henry writing for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette interviewed both Jim and David Stewart, chief executive officer of Cherokee Nation Entertainment and gamblingCherokee Nation Businesses.  Mr. Stewart admitted there is a small percentage, “1 to 2 percent, that have compulsive tendencies.”

Over 1.2 million drivers were arrested in 2011 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. In that same year the highest percentage of drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes was for drivers ages 21 to 24 (32 percent), followed by ages 25 to 34 (30 percent) and 35 to 44 (24 percent). Tragically, 226 children were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2011. Of those, 122 (54% percent) were riding with the drunk driver.  This is not a large number of all adult drivers on the road.  However, Dan Childs reporting for the ABC News Medical Unit determined that alcohol problems plague 1 out of 3 Americans.

Neither alcohol consumption nor gambling is illegal.  In fact, for the vast number of Americans these activities are enjoyed safely.  Both activities have exploded in Benton County during the last ten years.  Perhaps it is time to ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The line is taken from the Old Testament book of Genesis when “the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”  “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” His response demonstrated a callous indifference that is all too common throughout the course of human history.

In the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians the question was not “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, but if it was permissible to eat food sacrificed to idols.  Paul said, “We are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”

So often the question we ask is, “Is it legal?”, “Is it best for me?”, or “Does this benefit my community?”  Perhaps the best question to ask today is, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Am I willing to forgo personal pleasure in order to avoid my sister or brother falling into pain?  Will I exchange my rights for compassion?

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