First Impressions of Las Vegas


by Jeff McInnis

I was “treated” this week to a 3 day, 2 night business trip to Las Vegas. I had never been there, save the time that my parents brought me when I was 8, which doesn’t count. I had been given all kinds of advice before going – some telling me it was the coolest city on earth and others telling me it is a great place to stay away from. Being a Christian and knowing of the things that were legal in Nevada, I tended to believe the latter. Still, I wanted to see the spectacle.

As I walked around the first night I was in town, I was not disappointed. A spectacle is exactly what it is. The buildings in Las Vegas are of enormous proportions. They are of a size that I have rarely seen. The architecture is amazing – some have recreated the canals of Venice, others the Parisian streetscape, including the Eiffel tower, and still others the pyramids of Egypt. From a purely architectural standpoint, it is an overwhelming place. But that is not all there was to see.

As I walked down the Las Vegas strip, I was amazed at the number of gratis shows that occurred on a regular basis. The fountain show at the Bellagio, the water and fire show at the Mirage, the music blaring out of every hotel, the bands playing in small bars along the strip, and the street musicians looking for you to deposit loose change in their guitar case.

Now, if I stopped here, I would say that Las Vegas, at least the part that I visited, is nothing more than a big Disneyland for adults. I would say it is a made up world where adults go to be amazed. The reason I can’t just say that and stop this article here is that there is a very sad story, I believe, beneath the surface. Of course, a sad story is told in the devaluation of the woman that occurs in Las Vegas. While that topic could fill a whole separate article, that is not really what I mean. The sadness starts to be noticeable when you notice the people and really look at them.

While there is a very large contingent of young (under 30) people in Las Vegas just chocking up the sins of their youth, there is a much different group that comes to Las Vegas. If you are there and begin to look at the people as they pass by or as they sit in front of the gambling machines in the casinos, you will see what I mean. There are people whose days of being under 30 are at least 30 years behind them. There are people carrying their oxygen tanks. There are people with walkers. There are people, many of them, in wheelchairs.

There are many elderly people coming to Las Vegas, and many of them are the ones you see sitting at the slot machines sticking their money into it and pulling the handle. They have a blank look in their eye as they do it. In fact, there is little life in the eyes of many of them. It looks like more than just a diversion to them. It looks like a last hope. It looks like they are trying to realize a dream that they have had for many decades – the big win. The release from the bondage of everyday. It looks like they are looking for something that a one-armed bandit will never provide for them – life.

When Jesus walked the earth, the infirm were brought to Him. They came for healing, and he provided just that. Jesus would tell them to rise and walk and they would do just that. Jesus would tell them that their sight was restored, and indeed it was. He provided them something that they didn’t physically have and, in turn, offered them something that they didn’t have spiritually. Many gave their lives to Jesus then, and many have done so since then. It was and is the only way to have life to the full now and for eternity. Jesus provides life.

In contrast to Jesus’s offer of life, we have Las Vegas. Walking the Las Vegas strip, you can see the effect of giving your life to Las Vegas. There are prostitutes on nearly every corner. There are people handing out pornographic cards as an advertisement for prostitutes. There are toothless men hanging out in casinos until the wee hours of the morning, hoping to strike it rich but ending up only poorer than they were the night before. It is not a place full of life. It is a place that will bring you to the brink of death if you let it. It is exactly the place that Jesus came to save us from.

If you come to Vegas, enjoy the architecture. Enjoy the spectacle. But don’t let it affect you. It is a made up place, crafted by the Prince of Lies. The dream that you would be chasing if you were to give your life to the hedonism of a place like Las Vegas is unachievable. Nobody ever obtains satisfaction by delving deeply into this world. Devote your life to Jesus Christ and have a real life of real joy in the only true God of the Universe.