The subject of gambling is multi-faceted and something that can divide Christians. On one side of the fence, there are those who argue that it is only a game and, like anything else (eating, drinking, etc.), it is acceptable as long as it does not become controlling or addicting. On the other side are believers who argue that gambling on any level is morally wrong. Which side is correct?
Giving an adequate answer to the dilemma first requires a biblical review of money in general, after which gambling itself can be examined.
Where money is concerned, the Bible certainly is not silent. To begin with, Scripture makes it clear that everything belongs to God. Paul simply asks his readers, "What do you have that you did not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7). Even though individuals work and earn money, the Bible says that it is God who is the ultimate source of their income: "You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:18).
The Bible also says that we should ultimately trust in God and not get-rich-quick schemes that promise wealth: "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
Scripture also makes it clear that money is to be gained through work and labor: "In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty" (Proverbs 14:23), and "Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty" (Proverbs 28:19).
Further, the Bible warns against debt and owing any creditor large amounts of money: "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender" (Proverbs 22:7), and "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8).
In fact, Scripture promotes the opposite of debt– saving money vs. becoming a debtor: "Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest" (Proverbs 6:6-8).
Finally, the Bible promotes a generous and willing heart to share what financial resources a person has gained through his labor: "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered" (Proverbs 11:25). Jesus simply said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
These principles explain the core truths in God's Word. Money itself is not evil, but the passion for it is, according to Paul: "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
Like Paul, Jesus – in His parable about the sower – also warned how the desire for money can thwart the pursuit of true riches: "And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature" (Luke 8:14).
Once we understand the above biblical truths on money , a position on gambling is much easier to reach. Today, gambling takes a variety of forms: lotteries, casinos, sports betting, quick-stop gaming stands (video poker, etc.), and perhaps the most prevalent type today, online or internet gambling.
Gambling itself has been around for a very long time, and universally, the Church has taken a dim view of it. For example, an early second century sermon preached in a North African church contained the following description of gambling: "The game of dice is an obvious snare of the devil. He presides over the game in person, bringing to it the deadly venom of the serpent and even inducing ruin which when it is seen to be nothing, a great let down is brought about in the players."
Down through history, key figures in Christianity have also held an unfavorable view of gambling. Augustine said, "The devil invented gambling." Martin Luther proclaimed, "Money won by gambling is not won without sin and self-seeking sin." John Calvin outlawed gambling in the city of Geneva.
But why did these men and others in the Church reject gambling – why did they believe gambling to be sinful? First, gambling betrays the following internal attitudes:
• Reliance on chance vs. reliance on God's providence
• Laziness vs. working
• Thwarting of charity
• Seeking to gain from the loss of others
Second, from a philosophical perspective, gambling shows itself to be devoid of value and worth. Philosophically speaking, the nature of any "thing" can be known by the effects it produces. From an internal, personal standpoint, the attributes above show that gambling results in very poor personal effects. Externally, gambling shows itself to be no better, producing the following effects:
• Family strife and divorce
• Escape into alcoholism
• Exploitation of the poor
When both its external and internal effects are examined, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that gambling demonstrates itself to be spiritually bankrupt.
In the Old Testament, God specifically warned about the spirit behind gambling when He said, "But you who forsake the LORD, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter,
because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in
" (Isaiah 65:11-12).
The phrase "set a table" means "to bring food to an idol." The Hebrew word for "Destiny" comes from the Hebrew word Meni, and it means "luck." Israel was literally worshipping the gods of luck and fortune and trusting them for their needs, rather than worshipping and trusting God.
This is what people do today who immerse themselves in gambling. And because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, it is foolish thinking to believe His views on the matter have changed.
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