In our modern society gambling has many forms: the lottery, horse racing, bingo, casinos, and even raffles-we’ve got it all! When it comes to determining the morality of gambling, we have more defenses that confuse the issue, rather than convictions which clarify it.
The dictionary defines gambling as 1) a: to play a game for money or property, b: to bet on an uncertain outcome; 2) to stake something on a contingency.
To justify gambling, many people say things such as, “Life is a gamble… A farmer planting a crop each year is a gamble… Every time you drive a car is a gamble.” No friends. Driving a car is a risk. Making a wager on that risk is gambling! There is an inherent amount of risk in all activities, but the mere presence of risk does not make it a gamble.
When the subject of gambling is mentioned, there are those who will also reference stock market investors and suggest, “Buying stocks is gambling, but you think that’s ok.” Is investing in the stock market gambling? When one buys stocks, they are buying part of a company. Stocks are no different than any other commodity. When you buy a house, its value will fluctuate depending on the real estate market. When you buy stock, its value will fluctuate depending on the success of the company. Is there risk involved in purchasing land, stocks, gold or any other commodity? Yes. Is this gambling? No.
Gambling is different from taking a risk. When gambling thrives, someone suffers. Lost in the glitter of the multimillion dollar winner are all the millions of losers. The winner won at the expense of the loser. This is not at all the same as planting a crop every year, or investing in the stock market let’s be honest with ourselves.
Wading through all our rationalizations and defenses, what does the Bible say about gambling and money in general?
First, the Bible gives us three lessons pertaining to money and honorable methods of exchanging money. It speaks of legitimate, honorable ways in which we can transfer things of value.
First, there is the law of labor, which is earning money for the labor expended. Ephesians 4: 28 “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” (NKJV)
Second, we can find the law of exchange, where a commodity like land, stocks or merchandise is exchanged for its value in money or traded for something equivalent. Proverbs 31: 16 “She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard.”
Third, the Bible teaches the law of love, where money or gifts are given in love without expectation of something in return. Luke 14: 12-14 “Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Also Luke 6: 35 “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil”
Gambling comes under none of these principles-actually it is the very opposite of them! Please consider the following five principles and think about how gambling violates them, thus violating God’s Word.
1) Gambling is the “Love of Money,” in its rawest form. 1 Timothy 6: 9-11 “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”
Ron Courter writes, “A hard path awaits those who resolve to be rich because they ignore that the love of money promotes and provokes all kinds of evil. He who stretches forward to riches is faced with a constant immersion in grief. The sentiment is that there is no kind of evil to which the love of money may not lead men, when it once fairly takes hold of them.”
We need to be so careful friends. Even outside of gambling, we must constantly guard ourselves from slipping into a money loving attitude.
2) Gambling is Covetousness. It’s an excessive desire to obtain something without a legitimate exchange. It has no intention of giving something of comparable value in return. Colossians 3: 5-6 “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,”
3) Gambling is Stealing by consent. This is just as dueling is murder by consent. Consent is not a gauge for rightness or wrongness. The willingness to participate in an activity does not determine whether it is right or wrong! Romans 13: 8-10 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet, ‘and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
When you take your neighbor’s money through some manner in which you neither earned it through work or trade, nor did they give it to you as a gift, you are stealing. This undoubtedly includes all forms of gambling such as office pools or raffles.
4) Gambling breaks the “Golden Rule.” It does not attempt to do something for another, but to take something from another. Mathew 7: 12 “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” How many people would continue to gamble if they were guided by this ethic?
5) Gambling breaks the Second Greatest Commandment, which is the law of loving your neighbor. Mathew 22: 37-39 “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Again, you cannot love your neighbor while you steal their money, which you did not earn. Remember when Jesus was asked in Luke 10:29, “Who is my neighbor?”
His response was illustrated in the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” This parable teaches us that anyone and everyone is our neighbor because Jesus said in verse 30 “a certain man.” If all mankind is our neighbor, than we cannot unjustly take anyone’s money without violating the law of loving our neighbor.
When gambling thrives, another suffers. Always take to heart that “legal” and “moral” is not the same thing. If gambling is wrong in principle, then neither the amount gambled nor the reason for gambling is relevant. Clearly the Bible teaches gambling is a sin because of the five principles it violates: the Love of Money, Covetousness, Stealing (even by consent), the Golden Rule, and the Second Greatest Commandment, the law of loving your neighbor as yourself.