Monday, May 14, 2012

Does the Bible speak on gambling?

Gambling is a “big deal” in our country these days because such activity is no longer isolated to a few communities in Nevada. Even here in St. Charles we are faced with gambling not only by means of the various lotteries but also from local casinos. Is it wrong for a Christian to be engaged in the gambling industry by participating in lotteries and casino games? Is gambling contrary to Godly principles?

I believe the Bible does speak on the subject. First, though, what is meant by gambling? How does gambling differ from, say, spending $100 to go to a Cardinals game? The Oxford Dictionary’s primary definition on gambling states: “playing games of chance for money”. Obviously, when you attend a sporting event and pay a considerable price to do so, you are not involved in a game of chance and you are not looking for a financial gain. You are truly going for entertainment.

But is that ever the case with gambling activities such as lotteries, slot machines, or blackjack tables? Certainly these games are “games of chance”. And are you truly playing them for entertainment? What entertainment is there in pulling a slot machine handle? While I can never fully judge someone’s motive, I would seriously doubt there are very few people purchasing lottery tickets at convenient stores for the fun of it. No, they are buying those tickets with some hope of gaining wealth. These games are gambles not entertainment: you pay your money to play a game of chance in hope of financial gain. If an individual believes they gamble only for entertainment then please just go ahead and give me the money you were going to spend in the casino.

Often gambling is compared not only to other forms of entertainment but to investments such as the stock market. Some will defend their stance on gambling by noting anyone who has money in the stock market is also gambling. But such arguments as these fail to understand the “guts” behind gambling.

All gambling involves: (1) putting something of value at risk (usually money), (2) chance involved in determining the outcome, and (3) something of value belonging to someone else as the possible prize. The bottom line: (1) no new wealth is created and (2) for every winner there are one or more (usually many) losers.

Now, if you want the Bible to say “Thou shall not gamble” then you will not find it. But this does not mean the Bible does not call gambling a sin. So, here are some reasons why I believe the Bible teaches against all forms of gambling and why Christians should not participate in such activities.

1. Gambling leads to destruction.

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

2. Gambling is driven by covetousness.

Reread the above verses. People gamble with some hope (either great or small) that they might make some money. They covet some level of financial gain.

3. Gambling is a form of stealing.

As noted above, gambling does not create new wealth. Rather it takes the money of the losers and gives it to the winners. This is nothing like the investment world. If a stock goes up, ALL investors win. If a stock goes down, ALL investors lose. But gambling takes the money of some and gives it to another. We know what the Bible says about stealing.

4. Gambling is improper stewardship of God’s possessions.

All that we have belongs to God. We are simply a trustee of those possessions and that includes the money in our possession. We are the stewards of the Master’s finances. Through the parable of the talents, Jesus taught that the good steward wisely invests the master’s money (Matthew 25). God calls on us to work and labor with what He has given us (1 Corinthians 4:12; Ephesians 4:28). Gambling the Master’s money is never acceptable.

5. Gambling argues against the sovereignty of God.

When folks gamble, they are risking their money on what they believe to be luck or chance. To do so denies the Biblical truth of the Sovereignty of God:

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

6. Gambling takes advantage of the poor.

Statistics and common sense bear this out. Those who make the least are far more likely to gamble and to risk a higher percentage of their income than those who make more. The poor desire to quickly and easily end their poverty and become wealthy. A recent survey found individuals in the United States making less than $13,000 a year spend 9% of their income on lottery tickets. Gambling appeals to greed and the false hope of quick riches rather than a dependency on God and hard work.

7. Gambling is foolish.

The odds of winning in any gambling event are very, very low. This is especially true in the lottery. If you have extra money to spend on gambling, it is far better to place it in some interest bearing account and, ultimately, create wealth.

“Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” (Proverbs 21:20)

8. Gambling provides an improper testimony of God.

A Christian who is gambling in a casino, for example, is not honoring God by his action. For he communicates to those who are watching him that he believes it is proper and right to win the money of others, mostly the poor, by playing a game of chance. He is teaching the lost around him that God approves of gaining (NOT MAKING) wealth in such a manner. Yet God clearly indicates we are to work and labor for such wealth as noted above.

There are other things I could say. I close with this thought: Jesus is standing before the boat on the Missouri River with a $100 bill. You finish the story.

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