By: Ken Gurley
Gambling is an activity that has been practiced for thousands of years.
This age-old activity has experienced a recent resurgence in America, a nation historically resistant to widespread, legalized gambling.
As was seen in ancient Rome, a country’s entertainment is an accurate barometer of its morality. The United States’s proclivity with gambling indicates a steady departure from its early Christian roots. Even the so-called Bible Belt has been inundated by gambling’s many streams: the lottery, racing, casinos, and the like.
Although gambling might be legal in the civil sense, believers are called to answer to the higher authority of Scripture. A study of God’s word reveals at least ten ways that gambling violates God’s laws. In the previous article, we looked at two of these violations. In this space, we will examine four more violations.
Gambling is Inconsistent
with Work Ethic
God likes work. Our heavenly Father is a worker and He calls man to reflect this attribute as well (John 5:17). Shortly after Adam’s creation, he was assigned the task of tending Eden’s garden and from that garden he would eat (Genesis 2:15-16). The ideal woman described in Proverbs 31 was no stranger to work either (verse 13). Work is a God-ordained function for men and women.
One of God’s sweeping laws found in both the Old and New Testaments is the law of the harvest. This law, sometimes called the Judeo-Christian work ethic, states that what a man reaps is a product of what he has sown. “If any would not work,” said the Apostle Paul, “neither should he eat” (11 Thessalonians 3: 10). The fruits of harvest labor are the worker’s just reward. The scriptural method of increasing a person’s
substance is simply to work harder.
Gambling violates this work ethic by trying to reap bountifully where only a little was sown. A gambler tries to get something for little or no effort. Such ill-gotten wealth dwindles quickly because it was earned without the commensurate expansion of diligence and skill wrought through honest labor (Proverbs 13:11).
Gambling Violates God’s
Distribution of Wealth
Money, or the love thereof, has wrecked many a person’s life. The Lord, consequently, is judicious in the way He distributes it.
The title to all of this earth’s goods- the gold, silver, and the cattle on a thousand hills-rightfully belongs to God (Psalm 24: 1). He loans it to mankind as He will. The justice of God’s distribution of wealth is found in the returns He expects on his investment: “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48).
Mankind is generally dissatisfied with God’s allocation of material goods. Rather than working harder, some people attempt to garner other’s wealth through gambling, theft or deceit. Their efforts to get-rich-quick leave them guilty of exalting their own will above that of God’s. As is often the case, people who obtain wealth from gambling also find fear and misery (Proverbs 28:20).
Gambling is Similar to Stealing
Following naturally upon gambling’s violation of Scripture’s work ethic and God’s distribution of wealth, is its similarity to theft.
Both thief and the gambler were present at Golgatha. The soldiers gambled for a garment that did not belong to them-the very action that placed the thief on the cross. Gambling should then be viewed in the light of legalized theft.
Gambling is similar to theft in that both the gambler and the thief believe they can get something for nothing. Gambling and stealing both minister to conceit. The thief thinks he is above the law and can’t be caught. The gambler deceives himself into thinking that his gambling is an innocumis habit that can be easily discarded.
Believers are taught to abstain from evil’s appearance (I Thessalonians 5:22). Thievery, we all know is evil, and as such precludes a person from entering into the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6: 10). Gambling’s similarities to stealing should give thoughtful believers cause to shun it. As the penitent thief had to confess his sin, so should the gamblers.
Gambling Oppresses the Poor God loves the underdog.
He is the chief advocate of the widow, the orphan and the poor. He gave Israel laws such as property redemption, servitude limits, even gleaning privileges to protect the vulnerable from exploitation and extinction.
In the New Testament, Jesus mandated that the poor should be the focal point of the Gospel (Luke 4:18). God clearly loves the poor. God’s people should likewise be found blameless of oppressing the poor.
“…shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother,” Zechariah said, “And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, nor the poor.. “(Zechariah 7:9- 10). For this reason, believers should not gamble.
Gambling oppresses the poor. While gambling is found in all economic classes, it is predominant among those who can least afford it. The largest sales of lottery tickets in Texas are found along the border and in poorer neighborhoods. A Maryland study found that over half of the weekly lottery tickets were purchased by the poorest one third of households.
The past saw the poor oppressed through child labor, unfair compensation, unjust taxes, and slavery. Today, gambling oppresses the poor in the same manner. A person who wins the lottery actually oppresses the multitudes of impoverished individuals who purchase lottery tickets they cannot afford.
A Christian’s love for God and his fellow man should constrain him from oppressing anyone, much less the poor. The same love should preclude him from being a stumbling block to those who seek his direction. Gambling clearly oppresses the poor and should be avoided believers.
In Texas, there has been a gush of gambling. In the next few years, casino-gambling is expected to make its entrance into the Lone Star state. While the lottery has all ready set all sorts of national records, this will pale in comparison to the money about to be spent in casino-gambling.
Long before this occurs, the church must embrace a clear understanding of Scripture’s opposition to gambling. Gambling is not a harmless habit with little or no spiritual ramifications. The Bible has plenty to say about this subject.
In the first two parts of this series, we looked at six biblical reasons that gambling is wrong:
*Gambling trusts Lady-Luck more than Jehovah-Jireh
*Gambling is motivated by a love of money
*Gambling is inconsistent with the work ethic
*Gambling violates God’s distribution of wealth
*Gambling is similar to stealing
*Gambling oppresses the poor
In this final segment, we will round out this list to ten ways gambling violates God’s Word.
Gambling is Addictive
“Once they win anything,” says Joseph Dunn, national director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling, “they’re hooked.” Getting hooked on gambling is a very real possibility. It is estimated that there are ten million compulsive gamblers in the United States-people who can not muster the will power to stop gambling.
Bob Bullock, the Texas Lieutenant Governor, recently described the addictive element in gambling. He described two of his employees who spend several hundred dollars a month on the lottery by saying, “I’m convinced they’re as hooked on those tickets as I was on whiskey.”
Gambling is clearly very addictive. For this reason, the believer should resist the practice of gambling. A child of God should not be brought “under the power” of any addictive vice and should remain temperate in all things (I Corinthians 6:12, Galatians 5:23). As such, believers should refrain from the temptation of gambling.
A relatively new argument has surfaced in Christian circles regarding such vices as gambling. It says that only those believers who are vulnerable to becoming obsessed by the vice should refrain from practicing it. Those who are able to engage in that vice moderately can continue in it since they do not become addicted.
This is nothing but Cain’s ancient argument in a different dress. A believer is his brother’s keeper. He is to avoid any vice that would offend a weaker brother and perhaps cause some one else to stumble (I
Corinthians 8:9-13). While this argument of Christian charity is carried to an extreme in certain instances, it is obviously applicable to such a dubious, addictive practice as gambling.
Gambling is Associated with Other Evils
Evil seldom ever travels alone. Where there is one sin, generally another is evident as well. That is why Eve’s original sin involved a plethora of infractions: disobedience, pride, rebellion, deceit, lust, unbelief, and so forth.
In the same sense, where one evil practice is found, others are usually associated with it. Riding side-saddle with gambling are various unsavory practices such as alcohol, violence, sensuality, bluffing, subterfutge, bribes, etc. Gambling is so ripe for corruption that it is a heavily regulated industry.
Since gambling is widely associated with unwholesome unreputable activities, a Christian should avoid it. Paul taught that believers should abstain from any and all appearance of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22). “Bad company,” Paul said elsewhere, “corrupts good character” (I Corinthians 15:3 3, NIV). It is impossible for a believer to associate with gambling’s disreputable cronies and remain spiritually unscathed.
Gambling Is Poor Stewardship
Gambling squanders God’s blessings. A believer is to be a prudent steward over the talents God has entrusted to his care (Matthew 25:14). The hundreds of biblical admonitions regarding material possessions clearly indicate that God is concerned with how a Christian exercises his stewardship. People who can not exercise sound, spiritual management over material possessions, run the risk of jeopardizing their greater, spiritual treasures.
A believer’s financial dealings should bring glory to God (I Corinthians 10:31). Gambling brings no glory to God and, in fact, it does the exact opposite.
In a British report on gambling, William Tempie, the late archbishop of Canterbury, was quoted as saying: “Gambling challenges the view of life which the Christian church exists to uphold and extend. Its glorification of mere chance is a denial of the divine order of nature. To risk money haphazardly is to disregard the insistence of the church in every age of living faith that possessions are a trust, and that men must account to God for their use.”
A typical Texas lottery player is seven times more likely to be struck by lightning than to win the lottery. If he invests forty dollars a week for fifty years, he still only stands a one percent chance of winning a lottery. Had he invested that same money in a savings account, he would have had at least a half-million dollars. Prudent investment, not gambling, has always been God’s way to prosperity.
Gambling Distracts from True Riches
It was a devastating scene. The Creator of heaven and earth hung on a cross looking down upon the soldiers gambling for His garments. The garment was temporal, He was eternal. The garment was extraneous, Christ was indispensable. Yet, gambling for the garment consumed the soldiers’ attention such that they ignored the presence of the Lord.
Gambling distracts a person’s attention from the truly weightier matters. King Henry VIII found that his soldiers driveled much of their spare time gambling when they should have been practicing marksmanship polishing their weapons, and otherwise preparing for combat. As a soldier, a believer should not be distracted from his present obligations and future rewards. Gambling focuses on trivial trinkets that are inconsequential in the light of eternity (Matthew 6:19-21).
Gambling is not a benign pastime. It clearly violates Scripture and thereby it robs a person of God’s best in his life. A believer should consciously avoid gambling in his personal life and encourage others to do the same.
What does the Bible have to say about gambling? A lot!
(Brother Ken Gurley pastors Pearland Tabernacle in Pearland, Texas.He also serves as District Youth President of Texas. These articles were taken from the Texas District Apostolic Sentinel)
The above material was originally published by the Texas District Apostolic Sentinel and reprinted in the August/September issue of the Louisiana Challenger, pgs.6-10. This material is copyrighted and may be used for research and study purposes only.