An old joke asks: How can you tell when a gambler is lying? Answer: When his lips are moving. Unfortunately, this is often true for people who are addicted to gambling.

In his book Chance to Change, Michael Vlach explains that gambling and lying go hand in hand. "Problem gamblers usually do not have to think about lying and deception-it comes naturally," he says. "To whom do problem gamblers lie? Everyone. This includes his or her spouse, parents, children, other relatives, friends, neighbors, employers, and coworkers. Gamblers also lie to themselves and to God."

For a problem gambler, lying takes many forms. It may be saying you "broke even" at the casino, when really you lost $400. Or, it may mean telling your spouse you had to work late, when in reality you were at the racetrack. Or saying you lost a nice piece of jewelry that you really sold to the local pawnshop so you would have money to gamble.

Reflecting on her days as a problem gambler, Jane says, "I was beginning to lie to my own parents. Even to my own husband. I was beginning to believe my own lies; that's the saddest thing."

The same was true for Andy. "I lied to bill collectors about why I wasn't getting my bills paid on time. 'Oh, I've sent the check today,' or, 'I just got injured.' I'd give them the sob story," he states.

Lying can involve living a secret life, deception, manipulation, and even blaming others. Lying also involves rationalizations A gambler might think, everyone has his or her own form of recreation, mine just happens to be gambling. Or, I don't have a gambling problem. You should see Joe; he loses a lot more money than I do.

No matter what the excuse is, there is one form of lying that is especially prevalent among problem gamblers. Vlach says, "Most problem gamblers are in denial. They have a cancer called gambling addiction that is killing them, and they refuse to see it. Those closest to the gambler clearly see it, but the gambler says, 'I don't have a gambling problem.'"

Embracing the Truth

God is "the God of truth" (Psalm 31:5). And He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). In fact, God hates lying. So how does a person who has lived a life of lying change his ways? He must not only commit to putting away all forms of lying, he must also actively embrace the truth.

If you have had trouble with gambling, remember, the truth will set you free. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Take Andy's advice: "Life is good when you don't have to lie."

8 Most Common Lies Gamblers Tell Themselves

Gambling addiction and lying go hand in hand. The following lists the 8 most common lies gamblers tell themselves.

1. "One more trip to gamble won't hurt."

2. "I need to go gamble to see my friends."

3. "I'm a loser, so who cares if I gamble."

4. "I deserve to gamble, because I have had a hard week."

5. "Gambling is how I handle stress."

6. "Nobody is perfect; everyone has problems; gambling just happens to be mine."

7. "This is the last time I'm going to gamble."

8. "Gambling isn't my problem; other people are the real problem."

Originally posted in CW Finances in Oct. 2004.

Adapted from Chance to Change: Help for Problem Gamblers by Michael Vlach. Used by permission of the author.

Church Initiative has created a 13-week video series for churches entitled Chance to Change: Christ-Centered Gambling Recovery. This resource empowers churches to reach problem gamblers in their communities. The videos feature instruction from forty Christian counselors, pastors, and financial experts. For more information, visit www.chancetochange.org. You can also view their other resources at www.churchinitiative.com.