What Does the Bible Say about Gambling?

$37.3 billion dollars. That staggering figure represents the gross revenue for the year 2012 from what is often called “gaming” in the United States. That was up nearly 5% over the 2011 number, according to Time magazine.

What Does the Bible Say?

Obviously, Americans spend an enormous amount of money gambling, yet the issue is always controversial. Whenever a new jurisdiction seeks to add gambling, there is always a controversy. Christians are often the most vocal opponents of these measures, which usually pass anyway.

It is interesting that the Bible does not speak directly to the issue of gambling. None of the 10 Commandments state “Thou shalt not gamble.” Jesus did not address the issue in the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul didn’t write at length about it in Romans. However, we must always remember that the purpose of the Bible is not to give us an exhaustive list of restraints or “don’ts” to avoid. The Bible is meant to help draw people closer to God, not list every “yes” and “no” we can possibly dream up.

With that in mind, though, there are several Biblical principles from Bible verses that are quite clear, and help us understand that gambling is wrong.

Biblical Principles

1. Gambling can show a lack of trust.

Gambling can – though not always – be done out of a lack of trust in God. Many people run to the casino or the scratch-off ticket when they are in a bind and are not sure where this month’s mortgage is going to come from. That lack of trust is in direct violation of Jesus’ clear teaching to not be anxious, but to trust God (Matthew 6:25-33).

2. Our hearts are not to be focused on storing up treasures on earth.

Earlier in that same sermon, Jesus stated, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV) If all I can see is how this one roll of the dice or putting some money on the right horse is going to gain me this world’s riches, it is obvious where my heart is. I am not seeking God first, but I’m only thinking of the temporary things of this life.

3. We are to be content with what we have.

Remember the words of the Hebrews writer: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV) It is hard to place that teaching alongside gambling and find how they compliment one another.

4. We are to delight in the Lord, not in money.

Further, the tenants of gambling are clearly described in Scripture as being unwise. Even if we do not wish to say that it is sinful, several passages of Scripture make it clear that it is simply against the wisdom of God for our lives. For example, Proverbs 13:11 (NIV) states, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.” The idea of “get rich quick,” which is the very allure of gambling, is called unwise by the Lord himself. Modern studies show that wisdom to be true. 90% of all lottery winners – no matter the size of their winnings – go through all the money they won in five years or less. The reason is that it is not just money that the gambler seeks. Solomon wrote, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NIV) Maybe it’s the fame, or the “rush” of the moment, or what “friends” this newfound wealth will get me. But Solomon says such a pursuit is vain. By the way, David gives the solution: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4 NIV)

5. We should treat others as we’d want to be treated.

Finally, we need to mention the Golden Rule. Gambling is, in essence, trying to put up a tiny amount of money in order to “take” that money from someone else (either a person or a business). Knowing that, we need to ask a question. Would I want someone to try to take money from me in exchange for a tiny amount of their money? That changes the way we look at it, doesn’t it? We are trying not just to get “something for nothing.” The gambler is trying to get a lot from someone else for very little. It is hard to make that concept jibe with the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12).

Final Thoughts

Thinking through this issue from a Biblical worldview, it is hard to find justification for gambling. It violates several basic Biblical principles, and the foundations upon which gambling is founded are considered unwise by the Lord. As one who is trying to see in Scripture a way to draw ever closer to God, gambling is something I will avoid at all costs, so that my heart can be drawn closer to my Father in heaven.

What are your thoughts on gambling? Should Christians be gambling? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

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  1. This brings up some great points. I’ve never really considered what the bible thought about gambling. I am a christian and gamble from time to time, but I think of it as an entertainment expense. God is okay with you spending $20 going out to a movie, what’s wrong with spending $20 watching and betting on some horses. I think the latter is much more fun. The key is to keep it in control, though because it’s gets out of hand for a lot of people.

    • Adam Faughn

      Jake, I appreciate the way you put that. I would never gamble, but there is a sense in which we can think of it as entertainment.

      The struggle, of course, is when we put Christianity as just one part of our life instead of our whole life being governed by Scripture. What I mean is that, for some, the struggle is going to “just any” movie, and not thinking about the morality on display on that screen. If we are not careful, we allow nearly anything in the name of entertainment and cease allowing God to direct every step we take.

      There’s nothing wrong with entertainment, so long as it is wholesome and pure.

    • David

      I hope you don’t take offense brother, but it sounds like the devil has got you content with a lukewarm condition. I just came out of that about 3 years ago. Satan is slick, don’t let him deprive you of your privileges in Christ. Jesus Christ is real. Everyone screams legalism when someone mentions shunning the things of the world but I thank God that He has showed me that its not just about leaving Egypt, but entering into the Promised Land (The Word of God is our promise land). Satan will fight us for every inch of ground just like the Canaanites did Israel. But we have the promises and the victory is ours. We have inherited it and are joint heirs with Christ….but we’ll fight for it. God gets all the glory that way. God bless you all.

    • patricia abbott

      I shall say. Seek the kingdom of God and all His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. As a true and faithfull child of God you have to be carefull what u do infront of sinners ‘coz you are the light of this world and a open letter for those who do not seek Him. Do not mock God.

  2. Britt McCrimmon

    There is nothing specifically in the bible that says not to gamble, but the goal a means to get rich by gambling displays a character contrary to the Christian life. You make some great points. I know of some people who should probably read this. Nice post!

  3. Ted Nietzold

    I’m a Christian, and I’ve gambled. I’ve won some, lost some.

    But don’t we gamble often? We buy a house, gambling that it won’t lose value.

    We invest in retirement, so we can live more comfortably later on, unsure of what the market will do. Doesn’t that contradict the verse “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)?

    You say it shows a lack of trust, but you have extra, disposable income – does it hurt anything to play a game of poker, go to a casino, or buy a scratch off?

    And as far as gambling and entertainment is concerned – it can be very fun, if you have control over it. Is there any difference in going to a casino and playing a video poker machine, or a slot machine, than there is playing an arcade game? Didn’t you as a little child ever play skee-ball with the hopes you would get tickets to buy prizes with?

    You say we are to be content with what we have. I am very much so content. So does that mean if my long lost uncle dies and leaves me half a million bucks, I’m not supposed to take it because i’m supposed to be content with what I already had?

    You mention get rich quick, but are you telling me that if a big publisher picked up a book you had written, and you made a fortune from that book in the first few months it was out, that you wouldn’t gladly take that money?

    Yes, I do believe it can go too far, and I totally understand the point of your article, but you have to look at it from the other point of view.

  4. jerrylewis

    It is really true that there is no single verse in the Bible that states clearly, that gambling is forbidden, the point is, from my own personal perspective, gamble at your own phase. Treat it as a form of entertainment and not to earn income, coz if you turn it the other way round making it a source of income and not for entertainment, conflict will truly emanate.

  5. shiral

    Gambling could be good or bad depend on the way you think. You are taking some words from the Bible and trying to put guilt or scarcity into the reader’s mind. It may be the way you understand the Bible, but to my mind it is not right. The Scripture is written as a signpost directing the way. If there is a green color sign on the road with an arrow pointing toward a lane saying “Apple way”, does not mean an arrow, a green color sign or an apple.

  6. Jason Fisher

    I find myself siding with Jake. It is easy to point at something you don’t enjoy, like gambling and make blanket statements. If you don’t have an addiction and are simply viewing it as any other form of entertainment there is nothing biblically wrong with gambling. What is you had to pay to enter a monopoly tournament? You may walk away with prize money you may not but you enjoy the game. Simply because we consider some games “games of chance” doesn’t mean they are always sinful.

    • Adam

      Gambling is not something that I just “don’t like.” I love poker, and have always been fascinating with the mathematical odds of games of chance. Also, I adore horse racing. However, I do not put money on those things, due to the Biblical principles outlined above.

  7. Barbie

    Wow. Almost every Christian I know buys a lottery ticket every once in a while. I guess I probably would, too, if I had the money to do so. I must forward this information to them now.

  8. Cherie

    I’m laughing a little because there are so many churches and religious organizations that have Bingo halls and raffles to raise money for various reasons.

  9. Dawn Lowman Segerson

    I was always taught that one of the reasons gambling is wrong is that by gambling, we are being a bad steward of God’s money that He is letting us use. We always have to be aware of how we spend His money, His time, and the rest of His resources.

    • Summer stewart

      I agree Dawn it is about a bigger picture , how am I spending God’s money and time. For a second lets take gambling out of it. It is a personal thing that you must allow God to deal with you on personally. I don’t drink but others may it is what I choose to do. The question I ask myself is it profitting the kingdom of God or is it a disgrace that will hurt me in the long run? That is my imput!

  10. Charas

    May God continue to give you wisdom from His word. You are turely a man of God. Thank you for this Biblical Principle. Many Christians are asking the same question.

  11. clay

    every bible principle you outlined is about the love of money. They can all be applied to simply getting a job to make money, where’s the trust in god there, aren’t we relying on ourselves and not god. The fact is everything you do in life isa gamble and self serving. How many people work 2 jobs to pay for nice cars or furniture or a house they don’t really need. But because it’s a job it’s socially acceptable. some people study sports and wager on that, is that any less of a job if you spend hours researching and preparing? There is a biblical answer to all of it. Proverbs 16:3 devote to the lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed; it’s not how much we make or how we make it, it’s what we do with it that counts. If someone wins $1000 dollars gambling, and gives 900 to a homeless shelter is that wrong. don’t make the mistake of judging peoples motives, you don’t know them any more than they know you. and by the way there are many references in the bible about casting lots, the most famous of which is for christs clothes, and I don’t see a condemnation for it.

  12. clay

    I would also like to say that gambling drives our entire economy, the stock market is the biggest gamble you can possibly make. but it is socially acceptable.

  13. Bubbles11

    I am a Christian, and I DO think it is okay to gamble…..Do any of you think it is a sin to go to work and earn money? Do any of you think it is a sin to accept money from a friend or family member when you need help? I honestly don’t think GOD thinks of it as a sin when we gamble…He may think that we are acting foolishly, and wasting our money…..but thats about it. If we work hard for our money, I feel we can spend it how we choose, as long as it is not on things like drugs and alcohol. Anyways, most of the time when I have gambled, I have lost, so really…I AM DONATING MONEY!!! lol.

  14. Logan

    I have one question, how do you feel taking the Holy Spirit into a casino or to the race track? If you are saved the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit in dwells us and so where we go and what we do He is there. How would Jesus feel in a casino? or in the racetrack stands? Hmmmmmmm?

  15. Donna Corley

    As with anything…anyone can become addicted to anything. Some can handle themselves and others lose control. Moderation is the “key” to life’s issues on Earth in every aspect. Unfortunately, it appears that few have the discernment to know about moderation. I’m a professed Christian but I drink wine in moderation. Yes, I’ve been to Las Vegas and have played some games. Do I feel that my salvation is at risk? Absolutely not! Why? Because it’s done in moderation and in control. This is an individual issue between the person and God. I strictly look at gaming as “entertainment” where another person may look at it as a “get rich quick scheme”. There lies the issues of the heart and God judges our hearts and our intentions. What’s the difference in paying $200 plus for a Disney pass for entertainment and thrills and spending a limit of $200 plus in Las Vegas? (Other than a chance of walking away with a gain). Bottom line, we as humans can try to justify anything we do, but in my opinion, if what we do for recreation is done in common sense moderation…and being responsible for ourselves, then what’s the harm? Those of us that practice responsibility and control by moderation shouldn’t be judged except by God Almighty. Let it be known that I strictly do not believe in someone spending money on betting when there are needs in the home to be met. I’m thankful that my God is a Judger of hearts…He knows all, sees all and us all.

    • Donna Corley

      *is all (DC)

  16. Cass

    I was reading this post as encouragement and I did get encouraged. There is a different a in allowing God to lead you and seek after the mind of God and having your own personal views. God allows us to make our own decisions on who we serve. The question is are we serving God or ourselves I think comes into play. Do let God come and you are found serving yourself and not God because of what you consider to be harmless. To God be the glory and I thank him for deliverance from my worldly mind. That post gave some great awareness to who I serve.

  17. marcella

    Please correct me if I am wrong but didn’t the Roman guards gamble for Jesus’ robe?

  18. Eddie

    I believe The Lord jesus has to be our main focus always. Then the Holy Spirit will guide us from there. Then if we truly have the spirit we cannot be bound by anything. If gambling rules you, there is a problem. If you go to a casino as you would go anywhere else on occasion, don’t see problem. How do we know we have not been guided there to minister to others. Jesus said this in mark 2:17. When jesus heard it he saith unto them, they that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. It’s always about gods kingdom no matter were we find ourselfs. Love you brothers and sisters in christ!