Is Las Vegas the Most Dangerous Place?

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I wish I had a dollar every time someone told me about the dangers of Las Vegas and why they could not raise a family here. I habitually hear, “Oh, ministry in Sin City? Well, just like Corinth they need the Gospel too.” It seems many Christians think Las Vegas the most dangerous place in the world. After all, this IS Sin City! Right? (Or at least that is how we market our city to you). [1]

Is Las Vegas the most dangerous place to anyone? Let’s face it, everyone knows the Strip has drugs, gambling, free drinks, and prostitution (even though it is technically illegal in Clark County (LV)). [2] This is the Disney Land of sin, right? So this has to be the worst place in the world for me to live right? A simple yes or no answer may suffice, but it would leave God’s input unexplored (and this blog half as fun).

imagesLet’s seek to answer the question by asking another question. “God, what is the most dangerous place in the world?” If you thought Sodom and Gomorrah, you’re tracking with me. But then I thought, what about the city that rejects the disciples? “Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city” (Matt 10:15). Okay, so maybe we can start to rank the dangerous cities and see where Las Vegas places?

It seems wise to evaluate the question even more by examining what dangers exist in a believer’s life. In other words, what does God say is dangerous? How does God define danger?

Jesus warns his disciples of a few dangers:

  • False teachers, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt 7:15; see also 16:6-12).
  • Self-exalting right works, “Beware of practicing your right works before men to be noticed by them . . .” (Matt 6:1).
  • Physical? There were many times Paul, the Apostles, and Jesus faced physical trials and threats. Though each of these may have avoided it for a time, it was not such a danger to quit or avoid completely ministry. In fact, Jesus warns his followers of persecution (Matt 5:10-12).

From these few texts, I would think the most dangerous thing in the world is anything that leads us from Christ to pursue our own desires, glory, will, and pleasures. This is why false teachers are bad. They will not confront our sinful nature nor exalt Christ. But false teachers have little to no influence over a born-again Christian with discernment. Yet discernment alone does not keep a Christian out of danger. Every person faces the same danger regardless of physical location, knowledge, or maturity. Why?

God says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). God repeats this idea in Hebrews, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (3:12-13).

God describes my heart, the source Unknown-1of thought and actions, as deceitful and sick. Left alone I will create, believe, and follow my own lies. I will lead me to worship myself. Not only will my heart deceive me, but it will actively quiet the truth to pursue unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). This is the natural human condition. Sound dangerous? It should.

But I am strong, discerning, born-again, and read my Bible so do I have to worry about sin? God says to believers, “Let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb 12:1). What? Yes, our sin “so easily entangles us.” I am not as strong as I think. This verse, directed to believers, tells us to leave the sin and pursue Christ.

But Las Vegas has free booze, gambling, and a party environment! This statement places danger on the wrong object. Listen to Jesus, “There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him.” What?!? But look at the sinful debauchery caused by drinking, gambling, and partying. Yes, those are sinful actions, but the booze, blackjack table, and women are not the cause of the sin. Sin is not bottled up and put on a shelf. Jesus says so himself. Nothing outside the body causes our defilement. (“Nothing” here, in the Greek means “no thing”). Jesus teaches us the true origin of sin, “but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man” (Mark 7:15).

Jesus clarifies, “Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him BECAUSE it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Mark 7:18-19). Beer, wine, and Jack Daniels are not bottled sin! The origin of sin comes from the deceitful heart. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All (meaning every sin) these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23). The sinful heart turns booze into drunkenness and defiles the marriage bed.

But Las Vegas has it in plenty. True, but every sin advertised in Las Vegas exists in every city — theologically every city is Sin City. Drunkenness, gambling, prostitution, murder, envy, lust, pride, slander, and foolishness are in every town. Why? Because where humans live, sinful behavior is found (unless you’re in the one city with no sin — and if you’re in heaven you aren’t reading this).

So is Las Vegas the most dangerous place in the world? No. The most dangerous place in the world is actually where I am. I am always in a dangerous place because everywhere I am, my heart is too ready to deceive me and lead me astray. Now realizing this, if your heart is prone to lust after drunkenness, gamble away all your money, and pursue everything associated with the Strip, then stay away from any person / people who will encourage your sinful desires. You need to be on guard everywhere. But do not just be on guard from evil, make it your goal to pursue Christ and follow after Him! Fix your eyes on Him and run the race with endurance (Heb 12:1-3).

images-1I am always in danger. Yet there is fuel enhancing my danger. This leads to the final conclusion. The most dangerous place in the world is actually being alone. Look at Hebrews 3:12ff again. “encourage one another day after day.” Why? “So that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Proverbs, “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against sound wisdom” (18:1). God knows our hearts and He places believers in the church so we can minister to each other, warn each other, and encourage each other to pursue and follow Christ.  We are not designed to be alone and profit. This is for our good and protection. Because the most dangerous place in the world is where I am by myself.

[1] PS I joke Vegas is Sin City because every weekend Californians fill our streets, hotels, and pay for our police, fire, and roads. 🙂

[2] Second most popular question to me, “What’s it like living in Las Vegas?” Answer, just like living in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Burbank, and Studio City. Except here we have a 3-4 mile stretch of road with a lot of lights. And it is true, people who live in LV do not live on the strip, we actually have homes 🙂

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Jason Vaughn

About Jason Vaughn

Jason is a graduate of the Master's Seminary and the pastor of Cornerstone Las Vegas, a Grace Advance church plant. He loves Christ, his wife Kyla, sometimes his kids :), the church, missions, people, and coffee. You can also follow him on his personal blog at shepherdthesheep.com.