|Vol. 16 No. 4 April 2014||
Have you ever dreamed of winning the lottery? Many people have, and many keep on paying to try. Gambling has gradually lost its stigma of being an evil. Have you ever stopped to ponder what your view of gambling is actually based upon?
“Gamble” is defined by Webster as, “to play games of chance for money or other stake.” The verb’s transitive form is defined as: “to lose by betting; to waste; to squander; followed by away.” For those who respect the Bible as the inspired Word of God, there are biblical principles that must be considered.
Read Ephesians 5:3-5. This partial listing of sins concludes by warning that anyone who persists in these vices has no “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”
Specifically named is the “covetous person” (v. 5). From the original language this is defined as, “one eager to have more, esp. what belongs to others” (J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon). It is readily apparent that this definition corresponds with the eagerness that a gambler has. The motive in gambling is a desire to receive gain, at the loss of others, without the usual effort of labor or fair exchange.
Consider some principles. First, Jesus challenged His followers to live by the “golden rule” (Matthew 7:12). To paraphrase, ‘Treat others in the way you would desire to be treated.’ Can someone gamble while simultaneously following that philosophy? No. “I hope I win,” would necessarily mean others will need to lose. “Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor’s good” (1 Corinthians 10:24). Does gambling violate this verse also?
Second, the Bible upholds the virtue of gain from honest work (1 Timothy 4:8; Ephesians 4:28). Third, the Creator desires all to exercise wise stewardship. “Here, moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). It is a recognized fact that generally, people (even non-religious) with wise money management skills do not gamble. It is financial foolishness. For readers who gamble, why not roughly count up in your mind what you would have in a jar, if you had not “spent” it on lottery and other gambling activities?
Fourth, gambling for thousands has become an addiction. Paul said, “…I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12). “Gamblers Anonymous” has been organized due to this gigantic and growing problem.
Gambling is a matter of kind, not degree. Allow me to explain. Lying is sinful (Ephesians 4:25; Revelation 21:8). One lie told makes one a liar. Stealing is sinful (Ephesians 4:28). A pickpocket may steal $20, and an embezzler may nab $45,000, yet both are thieves. So also with gambling; it matter not whether 50 cents, $50 or $50,000 is wagered. Faithful followers of Jesus “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
Gambling violates a number of biblical principles (see article above). However, many are convinced that justification for the activity can be found. Let’s consider some commonly made assertions.
First, the “Life is a risk” argument. Nearly all we do has some risk. Getting into a car exposes us to risk. Eating at a restaurant may be somewhat risky. Etcetera, etcetera. Supposedly, this gives grounds for allowing gambling. Common sense to the rescue! Reasonable risk in everyday life is not to be equated with avoidable, purposeful risk in gambling, with intent to profit by the loss of others. Our Lord Jesus traveled by donkey and by boat, but He never purposefully gambled in an effort to gain.
Second, the “stock market” argument. Can participation in buying stocks be paralleled with putting money out in gambling? Indeed both involve some risk. Yet, the analogy then breaks down. Diversified investing in stocks has proven generally to be a wise investment. Jesus spoke of the wisdom of putting “money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back mine own with interest” (Matthew 25:27). Prudent stock investing is one thing, but gambling is never seriously called an “investment.” Even careless stock speculation would be a violation of wise stewardship.
Third, the “just for fun” ploy. The argument goes something like this. “Some people choose to spend some money on going to the movies or other entertainment, but I choose to be entertained by spending some on gambling.” Indeed, both movie viewing and gaming might provide entertainment. But for one professing allegiance to Christ, the question is not what is fun, but what is honorable. There is pleasure in sin (Hebrew 11:25).
Fourth, the “for a good cause” argument. Some States have been sold on lotteries as a means of increasing revenue. Some religious organizations resort to gambling (e.g., church Bingo) to help fund their activities. Raffle tickets are often sold to gather proceeds for philanthropic endeavors. All these herald, “This is for a good cause!” The end does not justify the means. “Let us do evil that good may come?” (Romans 3:8). This question is raised and rejected in Scripture.
God has granted freedom of choice. No one should be forced to obey the Bible. Many choose to gamble. Just be clear about what you choose to do.