What Does the Bible Say about Gambling?
- Thursday, May 22, 2003
When Bill Bennett, author of books such as The Book of Virtues decided to quit casino gambling, religious leaders were quick to applaud the news and to offer support and prayers for the morality "guru." When Bennett added that he never thought of gambling as immoral people began to search another book of virtues, the Scriptures, for guidance.
So what does the Bible say about gambling?
It all depends upon your perspective and interpretation. The Bible doesn't directly address gambling and such silence provides the fertile ground for discussion and disagreement. Opinions on the propriety of gambling range from acceptance in moderation to total abstinence.
J. Kerby Anderson, author, lecturer and adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, is in the latter camp and discerns guidance by contrasting the cornerstone principles of the Scriptures with those associated with gambling.
According to Anderson, "The Bible emphasizes the sovereignty of God (Matt. 10:29-30), while gambling is based upon chance. The Bible admonishes us to work creatively and for the benefit of others (Eph. 4:28), while gambling fosters a "something for nothing" attitude. The Bible condemns materialism (Matt. 6:24 25), while gambling promotes it."1
Anderson cites two particular passages from the writings of the apostle Paul that give instruction regarding the work ethic of a Christian. In Colossians 3:23-24 Paul said, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
In 2 Thessalonians 3:7,10, Paul wrote, "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example....For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat."
Scripture specifically approves of at least three ways to obtain goods or money. Working to earn money,2 obtaining goods through exchange or barter,3 and receiving lifetime gifts or an inheritance at death4 are all expressly acceptable ways to increase your wealth or possessions.
Conversely the Scriptures condemn obtaining anything by cheating, stealing or lying, and further condemns the desire of obtaining what belongs to others.5
Beyond the Scriptural issues, Anderson and others reject gambling as bad social and governmental policy as well. Societal ills such as gambling addictions, excessive debt, neglected families are cited as prime examples of why, in addition to Biblical direction, gambling should be considered immoral.
Ronald A. Reno, writing for Focus on the Family, considers gambling to be an abdication of Biblical instructions to love your neighbor and take care of the poor. Gambling cannot exist without winners and losers and cultivates a desire to place yourself first at the expense of your neighbors. Scriptures teach us to take care of the poor rather than to support activities such as gambling which in order to succeed must, on average, make all participants poorer in the long run. Reno goes on to say that gambling creates and encourages vices such as greed and covetousness going to far as to call it "consensual theft."6
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