$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.
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).
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!