We live in a country that feasts on gambling. America has casinos in Nevada, New Jersey, riverboats, and on Native American reservations. Combine this with the lottery in most every state in the union and you can see that America has a gambling problem. It is so bad that Americans have the opportunity for the first time in its history to elect a man who owns casinos in several states, making his fortune on them. I often wonder what Christians hope to gain from this greedy man. Nevertheless, America created this kind of greed and sooner or later it will reap the Whirlwind (Gal 6:7). Sodom and Gomorrah must be pointing its proverbial fingers at this wicked nation called America.
Definitions of Gambling
Gambling is defined by various sources as: “to play games of chance for money or some other stake.” “Gambling is the betting or staking of something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on the outcome of a game, a contest, or an uncertain event whose result may be determined by chance or accident, or which may have an unexpected result by reason of the betters miscalculation.”
Is Gambling Sinful?
“To gamble or not to gamble, that is the question,” the point of dispute. Gambling is sinful because:
(1) It violates the principle of stewardship. The child of God is to be a faithful and wise steward (Lk. 12:42 ff; 1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Cor. 4:2). The prodigal son perhaps squandered part of his family fortune by gambling (Lk. 15:13). Though it was his “portion of goods,” still, he had an obligation to use it wisely. The elder son recognized this when he sullenly said, “Your son . . . has devoured your living with harlots.” It was the younger boys’ possession from the father. Our possessions come from our Father in heaven. Everything ultimately belongs to Him (Psa. 50:8-10), though there is a sense in which it belongs to us (Acts 5:4). As such, we must oversee our share of this world’s goods with the virtues of labor, benevolence, and thrift. Gambling is not a virtue. Would you want someone to take your gift and wager it?
(2) Is goes against the “golden rule” (Matt. 7.12). The Bible teaches that we are to love our neighbor as we do ourselves (Matt. 22:39), and, “Love works no ill to his neighbor” (Rom. 13:10). However, in gambling, if one is able to acquire his brother’s goods by trickery or chance, it is simply “too bad.” Can the gambler say he does unto others as he would they do unto him? No, the gambler’s motto is, “I hope I can do it unto you before you do it unto me.”
(3) It is stealing. Murder is wrong, but, at times, men and nations have “legalized” duels; hence, murder by common consent. Likewise, men and nations have laws against stealing; yet, they often seek to legitimatize it and call it gambling. Do you think God approves of murder just because it was done under the strict rules of a duel? What makes you think he endorses thievery under the guise of gambling? When you play the lotto, there are literally millions of losers and only a very few winners. These winners gain their ill-gotten gains from the losers. Casinos rig their games to only allow a few winners so that the losers pay the winners. It is simply legalized stealing, a pyramid scheme.
(4) It contradicts the work ethic. The Bible teaches that men are to earn their bread by work, by the sweat of their brow (2 Thess. 3:10 f; Gen. 1:19). Granted, a gambler may have cause to sweat because of a large debt, but his “labor” is not productive. His winnings do not represent renumeration for the exchange of goods and services. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes extol the virtue of toil, of riches gained by honest labor. Gambling is not consistent with this view of work in the Scriptures; hence, it is sinful.
(5) It exploits others. The Bible sound condemns those who exploit others for their own advantage (Jas. 5:1-5). True, the text does not specifically deal with gambling, but the principle is the same. Observe a parallel. In James 2, James condemns partiality. The prejudicial treatment is based on wealth. James convicts respect of persons on the basis of wealth. The principle would apply in regard to racial discrimination. As we may use James 2:1-4 to comdemn respect of persons based on race, though the text itself deals with wealth; so, we may use James 5:1-5 to condemn exploitation, though gambling is not the immediate subject.
(6) It results in intemperance. The Lord requires moderation, temperance, or self control in all things. Gambling is addictive. It maintains a grip on people like alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and pornography. To underscore that fact, there is a Gamblers Anonymous (GA) Organization like the more famous Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). There are millions of compulsive gamblers in the United States. They are literally hooked on gambling. Perhaps not everything that is addictive is wrong, but gambling is an addiction which results in the loss of things that could be put to use in one’s life in the world and in the service of God, and, as such, it is wrong.
(7) It sets a bad example. Christians must be concerned about their influence for truth and righteousness (Matt. 5-13-16). Children of God must provide things honest in the sight of all men (Rom. 12:17 f; 2 Cor. 8:21). One must not give occasion for the devil to desecrate the word and name of God (1 Tim. 5:14 f; Titus 2:5, 10). Tertullian (160-220 A.D.) is reported to have said, “If you say you are a Christian when you are a dice player you say what you are not, because you are a partner with the world.”
(8) It breeds other sins. In Reno, Nevada, the police department estimates that 75% of their embezzlement cases are related to gambling. Gambling corrupts and corrodes character. Dishonesty and deceit are its fruits, and a tree is known by its fruits (Matt. 7:16-18). As drug addicts resort to stealing and prostitution to support their habit, so do gamblers use vice to sustain their habit. When it is observed that 75% of all murders involve the use of alcohol, people are often quick to condemn drinking. Well, if 75% of embezzlement cases involve gambling in Reno, should one let gambling stand without opposition?
(9) It destroys the home. Nearly every gospel preacher has seen the adverse affects of gambling on a marriage or home. Gamblers will bet their entire wages to buy lotto tickets, bet on horse racing, or to spin the Roulette wheel. One beset by alcohol evilly affects others and destroys his family, and so does the gambler. Surely, anything that besmirches the sanctity of the home is wrong.
(10) It puts one with evil companions. It is a generally accepted fact that organized crime profits from most public gambling. Gambling attracts evil men like a dead animal lures a vulture. Gamblers are not known as spiritually minded people. Gamblers are identified with drinking and immoralities of all kinds. “Evil companionship corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33), and Paul said, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
You Categorize Gambling
Let us put the ball in your court. Paul said that we are to deny (1) ungodliness, and (2) worldly lusts,” and that “we should live (1) soberly, (2) righteously, (3) godly in this present world” (Titus 2:11, 12). In which category would you place gambling? Would you think it strange if you should see a Christian whom you greatly admire engaged in gambling? You be the judge.