Q. Is there anything wrong with Gambling? Does the Bible specifically condemn Gambling?
The first thing that we need to do is to define gambling. It needs to be differentiated from other risks and ventures.
Gambling involves the transfer of something of value from one person to another on the basis of mere chance. Three basic factors appear in the process of gambling: the payoff, the element of pure chance, and the agreement to pay the bettors.
Webster defines gambling this way: “to play games of chance for money or other stake, to take a risk in order to gain some advantage.” It should be noted that our court system has no trouble deciding whether an activity is gambling or not.
While there are some risks in buying stocks on the stock market, it is not considered pure chance because the money is risked to provide for the development of industry. Purchasing insurance involves some risks, but these are greatly reduced. Insurance is designed to spread the risk of loss, reducing the possible injury to any one insured. Chance is not a predominant and controlling factor in either case.
Many activities involving uncertainties do not fall within the legal definition of gambling. For example, farming, commerce, investments which are “productive” risks. Travel and other daily activities which involve necessary risks are not considered “gambling.” Promotional “giveaways” are a legal form of advertising in which the merchant received attention in return for the “chance to win” with no purchase required.
Gambling dates far back in human history and has been an almost universal practice among nations. Dice with numbers on four sides have been found in Egypt dating thousands of years before Christ. In the ruins of Pompeii, gaming tables have been discovered. Tacitus, the Roman historian who lived about 100 A.D. noted that gambling was very common among the tribes of German.
The Congressional commission on gambling in 1976 said: “Gambling is inevitable. No matter what is said on done by advocates or opponents in all its various forms, it is an activity that is practiced, or tacitly endorsed, by a substantial majority of Americans.” (Final report, Commission on the Review of the National Policy Toward gambling, p.1 (Washington: 1976).
In the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, the casting of lots was common (Num. 26:52-56; 1 Sam. 10:20-21; 1 Chron. 24:5). In the Bible “casting lots” had the form, but not always the substance of gambling. Judas’ successor was chosen by lot (Acts 1:26). The casting of lots was a means of ascertaining the will of God. It should be noted that after Judas’ successor was chosen by lot, this method was not employed again by the church.
Today there are many forms of legalized gambling. The lottery is used for raising money. The State is now in the gambling business. Here in the Prescott area we have Indian Casinos, Horse racing, the Lotto, bookmakers who take illegal bets on horse races, prize fights, elections, sporting events.
According the President’s Commission on the Review of the National Policy Toward Gambling, “More than $50 billion (was) spent on legal commercial games in 1997 employing more than 600,000 individuals.” In 1976 only a few states allowed gambling; today, 47 states and the District of Columbia permit some form of gambling. Despite the growing magnitude of the industry and the widespread involvement of a significant portion of the population, there is very little research regarding the social and economic impacts legalized gambling has upon our country.
It is estimated by some that over 100 million Americans engage in some form of legal or illegal gambling. Millions of these are compulsive gamblers. It is estimated that there are about as many people who are addicted to gambling as to alcohol in the United States.
There is no question, according to studies published, that legalized gambling draws pathological gamblers to communities where gambling is permitted. On study found that pathological gamblers had higher arrest and imprisonment rates than non-pathological gamblers. Pathological gamblers tend to support their addiction to gambling through crime. Cost for criminal activities are born by the community. Some studies show that the compulsive gambler has certain characteristics. “He habitually takes chances; gambling absorbs all of his interests; he is optimistic and never learns from losing; he never stops while winning; he risks too much; he enjoys a a strange tension between pleasure and pain.” (The Psychology of Gambling, Edmund Bergler, p.114-117)
Studies also show that people gamble for numerous reasons: to win money, for thrills and excitement; belief in luck; and the compulsion to see defeat, humiliation, and pain.
The consequences of gambling can be deviating. The gambler may suffer loss of income, job, get deeply in debt, resort to stealing in order to get betting money, strained family relations, divorce, illegal criminal activity, drug use and suicide. Homelessness is not uncommon as a result of pathological gambling. Child and spousal abuse and neglect are common among pathological gamblers.
Dr. David Phillips a sociologists from the University of California-San Diego found that “visitors to and residents of gaming communities experience significantly elevated suicide levels.” According to Dr. Phillips, Las Vegas “displays the highest levels of suicide in the nation, both for residents of Las Vegas and for visitors to that setting.”
The National Gambling Impact Study Commission report recommends that students should be warned of the dangers of gambling, beginning at the elementary level and continuing through college.
Because the Bible does not explicitly say, “thou shall not gamble,”defenders of gambling sometimes say that gambling is not condemned. The Bible does not specifically condemn the snorting of cocaine either! But that does not make it right, or acceptable to God.
The New Testament view of work, stewardship, love of neighbor, and the proper use of influence rule out the practice of gambling.
2 Thess 3:10-12
10* For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.
11* For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.
12* Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
28* He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
General Principles to keep in mind when considering gambling:
1 Cor. 10:23-24
23* ¶ All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.
24* Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
13* ¶ For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
14* For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
37* And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’
38* “This is the great and foremost commandment.
39* “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
1 Thess. 5:22
22* abstain from every form of evil.
9* Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
Gambling violates the New Testament principle of stewardship.Christians MUST be “faithful and sensible” stewards of the things entrusted to them by God – Luke 12:42.
The Bible teaches that God is the owner of the world and all things:
10* “For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills.
11* “I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine.
12* “If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains.
We will stand before the creator one day and give an account of our stewardship (Luke 16:1ff). Therefore no one has the right to foolishly involve himself in gambling away that which belongs to God. The probabilitiy of winning is so low and uncertainty so high that gamblers risk and waste their Master’s resources.
Gambling violates the principle of the law of love. Jesus said that the second greatest commandment was, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,”(Matt. 22:39). In Matthew 7:12 he said, “”In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” 1 Cor. 10:24 says, “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.” The gambler seeks to gain at the expense of one or many others. In Christian business transactions, all parties gain something of value.
Col. 3:17 –
” Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
Gambling violates the instruction given to us by Jesus in Matt. 6:
19* ¶ “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20* “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
21* for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22* “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.
23* “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24* “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
1 ¶ Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Gambling is associated with the deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21.
It is an expression of the love of the world (1 John 2:15-17).
It is nothing more than greed and covetousness (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5.
Eph 5 :5-13
5* For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
6* Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
7* Therefore do not be partakers with them;
8* for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light
9* (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),
10* trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
11* Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;
12* for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.
13* But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
It is the worship of materialism. It has no spiritually redeeming value.
5* ¶ Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
6* For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience,
7* and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.