Vol. 3, No. 3
[Bible Light, Vol. 19, No. 4, July-August 2000, pp. 1, 7.]
As the moral fiber of American civilization deteriorates and biblical values are jettisoned, activities that were once generally perceived to be harmful to society are now becoming acceptable and even achieving legal sanction. Gambling has become a viable form of amusement to millions of Americans with a view toward "getting rich quick." Even in the church, uninformed, unstudied Christians see the purchase of lottery tickets as an innocent behavior. It is time to consider again the biblical principles which relate to gambling.
Assorted dictionaries define "gambling": "to play games of chance for money"; "to risk money on uncertain gain"; "to stake or risk money, etc., in the hope of great gain." Consider the following four reasons why gambling is inconsistent with Christian living.
Christians, by definition, are people who regulate their behavior by the Scriptures. The Scriptures identify three authorized means of transferring valuables from one person to another: (1) working for pay (e.g., Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 5:18); (2) selling goods or property (Matthew 13:46; Acts 2:45; 4:34; 5:4; James 4:13), and (3) free will offerings or donations without expecting a return (Luke 6:30, 34-35; 10:33-35; Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 8:9). Gambling will not fit into any of these categories. The first observation for a Christian to make is that gambling is a scripturally unauthorized activity.
Gambling (whether lotteries, horse/dog racing, casinos or bingo) entails two or more people competing with each other to take each other's money. Notice that the individuals involved want each other's money but are unwilling to just donate their money to the others. Everyone who gambles is hoping to win money from others. No one wants to lose the money he gambles. Consequently, the very nature, character and essence of gambling is in direct conflict with the core and heart of Christianity as articulated by Jesus in Matthew 7:12. By definition, a gambler is treating others the way he himself does not want to be treated. Embedded at the heart of gambling, then, are the motives of selfishness, self-centeredness and jealousy/envy.
A third consideration for the Christian is the fact that gambling mitigates against the work ethic which is so clearly taught in the Bible. God wants human beings to labor, to work with their hands, to toil with the sweat of their brow. Consider Ephesians 4:18: "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may be able to give to him that needeth." (Also read Acts 20:35; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-12; cf., Genesis 3:19). Gambling is an obvious attempt to sidestep and short-circuit the principle of toil undertaken for noble ends.
Yet another biblical concept which impinges on the gambling question is teaching pertaining to greed or covetousness. On the one hand, God urges us to "make a living," i.e., work in order to secure funding for daily living for self, family and the needy (1 Timothy 5:8; Galatians 6:10). On the other hand, God carefully distinguishes between "making money to live" versus "living to make money."
Repeatedly, God warns us to eliminate from our minds greed, a desire for things, the lust to accumulate this world's riches (Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:15-21; Ephesians 5:3 Colossians 3:1-5; 1 John 2:15-17). Paul spoke of those who "are minded to be rich," who possess "the love of money" and who "trust in uncertain riches" (1 Timothy 6:10, 17). Even if one intends to use amassed wealth for the Lord's work, the desire to get rich is fraught with hidden, subtle snares. Whatever noble motives may exist, the underlying condition of setting one's mind and heart on wealth is itself flawed and inappropriate Christian behavior.
While graft and corruption have always existed in every society, a substantial segment of American society once generally understood that such matters as dancing, drinking, smoking, "cussing" and gambling were wrong. But time, circumstances and sentiments have changed. Nevertheless, God's Word does not change. May God help us to go back to the Bible and reawaken our awareness of spiritual reality that we might alert society around us to God's will for humanity.
[Power, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2000, p. 3.]
Our greatest hope is based on what many would claim to be a paradox in our society today. Our hope is not based on what we can amass here in the way of wealth, prominence and popularity. No, our greatest hope is based on that which will occur after our demise. This great hope is the bodily resurrection from the dead.
There has always been, and will continue to be, a great deal of confusion on this subject. The religious world alone promotes different and often contradictory views on what occurs after death.
Some teach that death is the end of our existence. Some teach that the righteous will receive heaven as a reward, but deny entirely the belief of eternal punishment of the wicked. Even more confusion exists regarding the form we will take in the resurrection. The Bible provides answers to all the questions man may have (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Biblical history records that there have always been those who have denied the resurrection. The Sadducees, a prominent religious sect of the Jews, opposed much of what was taught in the first century. That they were opposed to apostolic teaching on the resurrection is seen in Paul's defense before the Sanhedrin. There, Paul indicated that the reason he was on trial was because of his teaching about the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6-8). Others rejecting the resurrection in New Testament times were the Stoics and the Epicureans.
On Paul's second missionary journey, he encountered these two groups on Mars Hill. In his famous address to these Athenians, he called for their repentance and based this call upon the authority of Christ, whom God raised from the dead. When this group heard his reference to the resurrection of the dead, he was mocked by some while others basically dismissed him (Acts 17:30-32).
Sadly, there were even those in the Lord's church at that time who were questioning the resurrection. Though we cannot know for certain about whom Paul was speaking, the evidence is clear that there were those in Corinth who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12). To those, Paul delivered the message which lies at the very heart of our hope: Christ defeated death and has made it possible for us to do the same (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
The New Testament is replete with powerful messages proclaiming the truth of the resurrection. The apostles were imprisoned simply because they proclaimed the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Acts 4:1-3). Paul compared our resurrection to that of Christ, referring to him as "the firstfruits" (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Christ himself said that there would be a resurrection and that we would face the judgment in that resurrected state (John 5:28-29; 11:25).
Someone has well depicted the entire scope of Christianity as a "wagon wheel." In this depiction, the "hub" of the wheel is said to be the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The "spokes" coming off that "hub" would be comprised of concepts such as salvation, the church, hope, worship, our own resurrection and a host of others. All these "spokes" would find their source and foundation in the truth that Christ is risen from the dead.
What do all these truths mean for us today? How can we apply them and be comforted in the knowledge of such things? First, we must see that we will all die. This is true for all except those alive at Christ's return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Death is that fate common to us all. For the Christian, death is not the end, but the beginning of that which continues in eternity with him.
Then, we understand that we will be "bodily resurrected." A logical question one may ask would be: "How can our bodies, which have been buried for so many years, be raised again?" Our confusion is often the result of our limited thinking. First, we see that God has the power to do what he promises. But, we must also see that in 1 Corinthians 15:35-41, Paul speaks of different "bodies" but calls all of them a body. Suffice it to say that we will be raised and that we will be changed in some manner (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
Finally, we see that the resurrection will be that event which precedes our appointment at the judgment seat. We will all be judged individually (2 Corinthians 5:10). Some will be judged as faithful and will receive the reward prepared and reserved for them (Matthew 25:34; John 14:1-3). Sadly, there will be those who will hear the words pronouncing their eternal doom in the fiery realm of torment (Matthew 25:41).
The choice is ours in preparing for eternity. The evidence is undeniable that we will be raised from the dead. We will live forever in one state or another, eternal bliss or eternal torment. What choices have we made? What choices will we make in the future which will have bearing on that outcome? Let us come to Jesus Christ on his terms and live our lives, to the best of our abilities, in faithful service to him.