First, we should differentiate gambling from other risks and ventures. Legally, gambling is the taking of unnecessary and unproductive risk in which one agrees that on the outcome of an uncertain event he may gain or lose. Webster says, "to play games of chance for money or other stake, to take a risk in order to gain some advantage." Our courts have rarely had any trouble deciding whether an activity is gambling or not.
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." Insurance is designed to spread the risk of loss, reducing the possible injury to any one insured. 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.
Betting, playing the lotto, buying lottery tickets, playing games for money, or for merchandise, and similar activities are gambling.
In the Bible "casting lots" had the form, but not always the substance of gambling. The Roman soldier's method of gambling for the robe of Jesus was used in selecting Judas's successor (Luke 23:34; John 19:23-25; Acts 1:26). In the Old Testament, God intervened to remove the element of chance when "casting lots" was used to determine His will (i.e. 1 Sam. 14:41-42).
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 word "rape" is not found in the Bible, yet it is almost universally considered as sinful. The Bible is a book of principles. If everything that could be mentioned were mentioned by name, the Bible would be so massive that we could not live long enough to read it all. What makes gambling sinful? It violates a number of New Testament principles.
For example, gambling violates the New Testament principle of stewardship. Christians are to be "faithful and sensible" stewards of the things entrusted to them by God (Luke 12:42). Someday we must give an account of our stewardship (Luke 16:1-2). The Bible teaches that God is the owner of the world and all things (Psalm 24:1; Exodus 18:4; Psalm 50:10-12). All belong to the Lord. Therefore no one has the right to foolishly involve himself in taking a risk in gambling away that which belongs to God. The probability of any one person's winning is so low and uncertain that gamblers risk and waste their Master's goods. The faithful and wise steward will conserve his resources, invest them profitably and use them for good (see Matthew chapter 25).
Gambling is sinful because it violates 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 is sinful because the fruit of gambling is evil. Christians are to "abhor what is evil," (Romans 12:9). Christians are to produce good fruit according to Matthew 7:17-18, not evil. Gambling is accompanied by greed, crime, corruption. It frequently robs children of food and clothing. It destroys homes. Today many states have legalized gambling, however this does not make it acceptable in the eyes of God. When New Jersey legalized gambling in 1978, according to F.B.I. crime statistics, the crime rate jumped 92%!
Should we expect anything good to come from ventures designed to benefit one person at the expense of another. If a person who called himself a christian engages in a thing that causes strife and vanity, then his "christianity" is worthless.
Gambling is sinful because it is a form of materialism. Consider:
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). It is the worship of materialism.
It has no spiritually redeeming value.