Vol. 3, No. 7
From the streets of ancient Babylon to the glittering Las Vegas strip to the casinos of Tunica, Mississippi, gambling has been a force to be reckoned with by concerned people of all societies. Archaeological discoveries reveal gambling devices dating as far back as 1800 years B.C. In Babylon, headless arrows were used in wagering, and ancient Greeks had dice marked with numbers on four sides.
In 1976 the gambling industry set about to change its image. At the Fourth National Conference on Public Gaming, keynote speaker Raymond Blanchard said, "We've got to convince people we're not in the gambling business. We're in the public revenue business." This is what we in the state of Arkansas are hearing now as pressure is being brought to bear on the state to eliminate economic shortfalls with casino gambling. Many people see nothing wrong with it. They see no evil. They hear no evil. Even if gambling were to bring needed revenue to Arkansas it is never right to do evil that "good" may come. Solomon wrote, "Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right" (Proverbs 16:8). Paul said, "And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just" (Romans 3:8).
Gambling means "To play games of chance for money or some other stake; to take a risk in order to gain some advantage: to bet, wager." Artificial risks are created in order to take from the many so as to benefit the few who are "lucky" enough to get it.
One of the common arguments used in the attempt to justify gambling is to say that there is an element of risk in everything we do, and that all of life is a gamble. It is often alleged that farming, operating a business or investing money involves risk and is therefore gambling. It is true that these enterprises involve risk, but there is an expenditure of effort in order to produce tangible results for the benefit of others by the fruit of labor involved. This cannot be said of gambling.
There are four ways in which we may obtain money. First, money may be earned through labor. Solomon said, "Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase" (Proverbs 13:11). Second, money may be received as a gift. Paul said, "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only" (Philippians 4:15). Third, money may be found with no way to determine who may have lost it. Fourth, money may be stolen (Ephesians 4:28).
The money one receives from gambling is not earned, it is not a gift and it is not found (all three being legitimate ways of obtaining money). The money received is stolen, by consent if not by force. Guy N. Woods said, "Gambling is a form of theft, because it takes from many and gives without effort to a few. Most often, those from whom money is taken are least able to lose, and usually the loss falls on helpless women and children who must suffer deprivation because of the gambler's obsession" (Questions & Answers, Vol. 2, p. 17).
Someone will ask, "But, where does the Bible say, 'Thou shalt not gamble'?" It doesn't, and neither is it necessary, because gambling is a gross violation of several fundamental truths of God's Holy Word.
First, gambling is wrong because it violates the biblical principle of stewardship. A steward is one who manages the property of another. We are managers of that which is given to us by God (James 1:17). As stewards, we must be good stewards. Paul wrote, "Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:1-2; Cf., 1 Peter 4:10). It cannot be said that gambling is good stewardship, because the gambler wastes his substance in riotous living (Luke 15:13).
Second, gambling is wrong because it thrives on the principle that "might makes right," which is a clear contradiction of God's demand, that "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18; Luke 10:27). If one can secure his neighbor's money or goods by skill or chance, then, its loser's tough luck. It is impossible for a Christian to engage in gambling (to any degree, and in any amount) and obey Christ, when he says, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12). No one would appreciate being on the losing end of the gambling proposition.
Third, gambling is wrong because it stifles the incentive for honest work. God's plan for man is that he earns his living by honest effort (Genesis 3:19). God promises no loaves to loafers. Paul warned, "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Why should one want to earn his living "by the sweat of his brow," when he can more easily take in great sums (or, lose the same) with the simple roll of the dice, the flip of the card, or, the chance of getting that winning number? A man cannot be a gambler and qualify as an elder in the Lord's church, because an elder must not be greedy for money (1 Timothy 3:8).
Fourth, gambling is wrong because of its addictive potential. Gamblers Anonymous estimates that there are 6-10 million compulsive gamblers in the United States today. Gambling is destructive of character to those who engage in it. Some become so obsessed with gambling that they will readily yield to any temptation in order to get money to indulge their habit. Compulsive gamblers attempt suicide at a higher rate than any other group. The world considers compulsive gambling an "illness," with the participant not being responsible for his actions, but, Jesus said that such a one is a slave to sin (John 8:34). Many people feel that they can be involved on an innocent level and that they will not get caught up in the character destroying aspects of gambling. However, knowing what we do about the addictive potential of gambling, one is certainly at risk to be brought under its power. As Paul said, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (1 Corinthians 6:12).
States may legalize some forms of gambling, but this does not make it right. Presently, Arkansas is being urged to legalize gambling beyond the horse and dog racing that already exists in our fair state. It will come to a vote in the ballot box. Are Christians in this state going to look the other way on this issue and ignore or deny the many Scriptural principles that make gambling a moral travesty wherever it is practiced? No matter what is said, there will be those who intend to make gambling legal. Some brethren will undoubtedly be gullible enough to listen to the arguments in favor of it and vote for it thinking that it is for the good of Arkansas. To the contrary, "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34).