by Larry Burkett

Most Christians would respond with a hearty “yes.” But is gambling spiritually wrong?

In Acts 1:26, we read the apostles gambled when they drew lots to determine who was to replace Judas Iscariot. You might say, “But they didn’t risk any money.” The issue is not the risk or reward, but the action.

Does the secular world’s abuse of a concept such as gambling necessarily make that activity wrong? If so, that would make sex, money, education and other aspects of life that secular society abuses equally wrong. We’re on shaky ground, spiritually, to exclude an activity on the basis of misuse in society.

What about the harm gambling causes? It attracts a greedy element of society and robs families of needed resources. But couldn’t we say the same thing about credit? It robs more families of needed resources than gambling does and has frequently been associated with organized crime.


Let’s look at why people gamble. Many of them gamble because of needs that can’t be met through earned income. They see gambling as their “opportunity” to acquire material comfort. Years ago, these people assembled at the $2 window at the racetrack. Today, they buy state lottery tickets.

Another group gambles for “fun.” These “social gamblers” convene at Las Vegas or Atlantic City, arriving with a set amount of money and leaving once the money is gone. Back home, they often live conservatively, maintaining tight budgets.

A third group gambles compulsively–they suffer from a disease that wrecks finances, families and futures. Compulsive gamblers will lie, steal, cheat and use people. For them, a game of chance is what alcohol is to an alcoholic. One compulsive gambler I counseled maintained a successful career for several years while flying to Las Vegas twice a month without his wife knowing about it. His dual life resulted in more than $200,000 in gambling debts to underworld lenders and his embezzling over $100,000 in trust funds in his care.

These three types of gamblers share the same problem: materialism. The Bible describes the “symptom” well. “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” (James 4:1).


To evaluate gambling scripturally, we first must define it. Is it labor? “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Prov. 14:23). Gambling may be labor to the casino boss in
Vegas, but for gamblers, it’s usually a tactic to escape labor.

It is perhaps the ultimate in “get-rich-quick” schemes since it fits all the criteria: Participants are encouraged to risk money they usually can’t afford to lose; they know little or nothing about what
they are doing; they’re forced to make hasty decisions; and the idea operates on the “greater sucker” theory. (That is, when you dump money into a slot machine, you believe there was a greater sucker who risked money and then quit just before the big jackpot.)

Gambling can be irresistible to someone who wishes he could meet his family’s wants and needs. That’s why state lotteries are so popular. When governments resort to enticing citizens to gamble to raise funds, we know the state of our society. “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the rotten tree bears bad fruit” (Matt. 7:17).


In the strictest sense, gambling is a sin as much as false weights and measures. Enticing someone to gain money at the certain loss of another violates virtually every principle Christ taught. It not only breeds selfishness, greed and covetousness, but, in fact, promotes them: “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Phil. 3:18,19).

Regardless of how socially acceptable gambling has become, it is still preying on the weaknesses of others. It does not help in spreading the gospel and, therefore, is a sin to a follower of Jesus Christ. “So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

Many Christians are guilty of supporting lotteries, bingo and racing, believing gambling really doesn’t hurt anyone. That’s exactly what Satan wants us to believe. Our value system is passed on to others–our families, friends and neighbors. If our value system is no better than that of the world, we have truly conformed to the “image” of the world.

What does God expect of us? “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:31-33).

Larry Burkett is director of Christian Financial Concepts, a non-profit ministry dedicated to teaching God’s principles of managing finances. He is the author of several books and is featured on a syndicated radio program. The ministry is located at Rt. 5, Box 130, Dahlonega, GA 30533

“Your Money in Changing Times” by Larry Burkett. From CONTACT, August/September 1988, page 18.

Copyright 1988 by Christian Business Men’s Committee of USA, Chattanooga, TN. Used by Permission.