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QUESTION: Is Gambling Sin?


Red Question MarkDoes the Bible specifically speak about Gambling being a sin?  If so where is this stated?

No, the Bible does not mention gambling, except in passages describing the soldiers “casting lots” for Jesus’ clothing and perhaps some other similar texts. No list of sins includes gambling directly.

However, “sin” is more than an action; it is an attitude of heart as well. What is at the “heart” of gambling? It is a desire to get rich quick, to profit at someone else’s expense. It is fueled by a focus on material things. The Biblical word for this is “covetousness,” which the apostle Paul calls “idolatry” (see Colossians 3:5 & Ephesians 5:5). The NIV translation uses “greedy person” instead of “covetousness.” He adds in Ephesians 6:9,

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

Covetousness is more that wanting something someone else has so much that I will try to cheat him out of it or steal it to make it mine. It is the lust for something that makes me willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Sometimes we call it “ambition.”

This is not to say that all ambition is sinful. It is not. Ambition, though, that drives us so that every waking moment and every waking thought is committed to the acquisition of wealth for the sake of wealth – or power for the sake of power – is sinful. Jesus speaks of such ambition in His parable of the Sower in Luke 8:14.

The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.

Whatever comes between you and God becomes your god. That is why Paul called covetousness or greed one form of idolatry. We set our hearts on that thing so much that it chokes out any room for God.

Some gamble with very strict limits as recreation. What I have said here does not necessarily include such “gambling,” though even recreational gambling is dangerous because it can easily form an addiction. It is a very different story, though, for serious gamblers.

Some years ago when I lived near Detroit, the city of Detroit wanted to open the door for casinos, Governor John Engler appointed a commission to study the issue and make a recommendation to him. The commission said that the greatest problems in Detroit were addictive behaviors, broken families, and poverty. They also said that their studies of gambling in other cities showed that it led to addictive behaviors, broken families and poverty. Nevertheless, they recommended that the Governor approve the plans for building casinos in the city.

Why did they recommend this? They said the city and the state would receive much increased revenues through such legalized “gaming.” In other words, they wanted to skim off the top from the vast sums of money they expected to pass through the hands of the casinos. They ignored that those vast sums of money would originate from some of the people least able to afford it – and that it would contribute to the pain and misery of many people. Their desire for revenue was greater than their concern for the needs or the pain of the people who would be hurt by the casinos.

Several years ago, I participated in an online “contest” in which contestants wrote an essay on “What I would Do if I Won the Ohio Lottery,” at a time when the prize was  $370,000,000. My entry was judged #1 among those who wrote. You may read it at http://www.helium.com/items/745163-what-would-you-do-if-you-won-the-370-million-lottery-in-ohio.

There, I make the point that if we will use what we have wisely and for good purposes, we will be able to accomplish much more than if we chase the pipe dream of winning a large pot of money through gambling. I believe that as much now as I did then. How many stories have you read about how winning the lottery has literally destroyed the lives of most of those who have won big?

The words of Proverbs 12:11 are appropriate here:

He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.

Solomon does not say gambling is sin; he does, however, say that the one who “chases fantasies lacks judgment.”

The wise thing to do is to stay away from the gambling tables. It has been addictive to many, leading to poverty and broken homes. Why play around with something like this just for the “high” that comes when the bets are all in and the cards are turned over to see if you have won the pot or lost your shirt?

I hope these few lines have given you something to think about.

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One Response

  1. If Al Gore invented the Web, I invented spell check. ~Dan Quayle, attributed

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