By: Steve Shirley
Is gambling a sin? The Bible doesn't really address this topic clearly, however, it does give us some things to consider.
It is a fact that the majority of those who gamble are poor. In order for a person to make money gambling, it must be at the expense of others, mainly those who are poor. We are clearly told in the Bible to protect and help the poor (Prov 31:8-9)(Ps 82:3-4)(Rom 15:1)(Acts 20:35), and we can't do that if we are trying to gain at their expense. In addition, we should not be supporting those who oppress the poor to increase their riches (i.e. the owners of these gambling establishments)(Prov 22:16).
Is your motivation to get rich quickly? The Bible calls this evil (Prov 28:20,22).
Are you gambling to escape working for a living? The Bible tells us that we should work for our money (Prov 13:11)(Ex 20:9)(Ps 128:2)(1 Th 4:11-12).
We are told in the Bible to trust in God and he will provide for our needs (Ps 37:3-5)(Prov 3:5-6). If you are trusting in gambling to supply those needs, that is a lack of trust in God.
All that we own belongs to the Lord (Ps 24:1)(Ps 89:11)(1 Cor 10:26). Is gambling how God would want us to spend the money He has provided for us?
We are not to covet (Ex 20:17)(Deut 5:21)(Rom 7:7)(Col 3:5), and gambling is a form of covetousness.
Gambling is becoming a HUGE problem in America today. It is estimated that up to 4% of the population could possibly be compulsive gamblers. These statistics are even higher among teenagers. It also appears that women now gamble more than men. Gambling is found in more places than ever today. More and more casinos are being built. State sponsored gambling in the form of lotteries are now in a majority of states. Internet gambling is becoming an enormous new industry. We find shows on t.v. glamorizing high stakes poker games. Even churches and charities are using gambling as a means to make money. In fact, many of these churches and charities probably couldn't survive without it. Is it any wonder that gambling addictions are at an all time high?
Gambling is destroying families and communities. In those areas where it gains a foothold, there is an increase in crime, suicide, and drug/alcohol addiction.
Do you see "recreational" gambling as harmless fun? Do you think that if you don't gamble money that is needed to pay the bills, it is ok? If so, I would make three points.
#1. Do you think that those who have become gambling addicts, set out to become that way? No... They started out just like you, saying it was harmless fun. However, somewhere in the process they became hooked. It may have been that first big win, or maybe it was the excitement, or the escape, or some other thing, but it filled a need in their life that should have been filled by the Lord.
#2. Is it wrong or sinful for the poor to gamble because they ARE spending money they NEED to pay the bills? If you say this, you are making a distinction between classes of people. This certainly isn't a Biblical way of thinking, and frankly pridefully setting oneself up as better than another.
#3. The Bible says that we are not to do anything that might cause someone to stumble (Rom 14:13,21)(1 Cor 8:9-13)(2 Cor 6:3). Will your gambling cause someone to stumble if they see you doing it?
Let me address one final area here: the lottery. I am amazed at how many people don't consider the lottery to be gambling. The lottery is just as much a way to gamble as any other game of "chance." In fact, it is the most popular and easiest form of gambling available. It also preys on the poor, as can be shown by the fact that there is a much higher concentration of lottery outlets in poor areas than affluent ones. They know exactly who plays the most, and make it readily available to them. There are just as many people addicted to the lottery as any other form of gambling. Lotteries are continually increasing jackpots and adding new games to keep things exciting and make people want to play. They make promises of a better life if you win, however, in most cases it is anything but better. Winners often have families and friendships destroyed, and constant misery as people continually hound them for a share of their money taking all kinds of extreme measures to do so, including even threatening their lives... In the end, amazingly, many end up losing everything they have.
Do you think that this would NEVER happen to you? I am quite sure they thought that as well. Also, if you think you are helping to "support schools" by your spending on the lottery, as is often promoted, studies show that in reality, only a VERY small portion actually goes to education. Also, sadly, money that was intended for education ends up being spent elsewhere because of the lottery money.
In closing, here are 3 good Bible verses to keep in mind relating to this topic.
(1 Cor 10:23) All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
(1 Cor 10:31) Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
(1 Th 5:22) Abstain from all appearance of evil.