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Is Gambling a Sin? What Does the Bible Say?

  • J. Terry Price Contributing Writer
  • Updated Feb 05, 2024
Is Gambling a Sin? What Does the Bible Say?

Question: Does the Bible say gambling is a sin?

Answer: The question of whether gambling is a sin is a matter of perspective and interpretation, as the Bible does not directly address the topic of gambling, leaving room for discussion and varying opinions. However, most theologians and Bible experts argue against gambling by contrasting it with biblical principles. They point to Bible verses that emphasize God's sovereignty, the value of work, and the condemnation of materialism, suggesting that gambling contradicts these Christian morals and values. Gambling can be at odds with God's commands to be content, to avoid the love of money, and to not be greedy.

The issue of gambling 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.

What Counts As Gambling?

Gambling typically involves risking something of value, usually money, on an uncertain outcome or event, with the hope of gaining more in return. Common forms of gambling include activities like betting on sports events, playing casino games (such as slot machines, poker, or roulette), participating in lotteries, and even engaging in online gambling.

Essentially, any activity where participants wager money or valuables on a game, event, or outcome that is primarily determined by chance rather than skill can be considered gambling. The intention behind gambling is often to win more money or prizes than the initial stake, and the results are typically uncertain, unpredictable, and beyond the participant's control.

It's important to note that gambling can range from casual, recreational activities like buying a lottery ticket to more serious and compulsive behaviors that may lead to financial problems and addiction. 

What Makes Gambling a Sin?

James 4:17 states, "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin" (ESV). This verse emphasizes the idea that sin is not only about committing wrong actions but also about failing to do what is right when one knows they should.

In relation to understanding sin personally, James 4:17 underscores the importance of personal responsibility and conscience. It suggests that sin is not solely a matter of following a list of predefined rules but also involves knowing what is right according to one's own understanding and convictions. When an individual is aware of what is morally or ethically correct in a given situation but chooses not to act accordingly, they are held accountable for their inaction, and it is considered a sin.

The Bible doesn't address all sins in black and white manner. Just because Scripture doesn't say something is a sin, doesn't mean it isn't a sin. Beyond the biblical perspective that gambling, some argue that gambling is detrimental to society, leading to issues like addiction, excessive debt, and family neglect - contending that gambling promotes self-interest at the expense of others, contradicting the biblical command to love one's neighbor and care for the poor. While gambling in moderation isn't considered evil and sinful, it can easily lead one to greater sin.

Yet there are some Biblical teachers who do not think gambling is a sin and suggest that gambling may be permissible for Christians under specific conditions, including responsible self-control and fairness in the game. While this perspective acknowledges that gambling can lead to problems, it leaves room for individual choice and self-discipline.

In the end, regardless of one's stance on gambling, the decision to engage in it should consider both personal convictions and the potential impact on oneself and others. Some have decided to give up gambling due to his recognition of its excessive nature and the example he wishes to set for others. Ultimately, the question of whether gambling is a sin remains a subject of diverse viewpoints and moral discernment.

What Does the Bible Say About Gambling? 

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.

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. Here are Bible verses that speak toward the heart and attitude behind 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.”

Matthew 6:24 - "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

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, obtaining goods through exchange or barter, and receiving lifetime gifts or inheritance at death 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.

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.

Wasn't Casting Lots a Game of Chance?

Casting lots in biblical times was not akin to modern gambling as a form of entertainment or financial gain. Instead, it was a method employed to seek divine guidance or make decisions in various contexts. Casting lots involved the use of objects like dice, stones, or sticks, which were marked or distinguished in some way. These objects were cast or drawn, and the outcome was believed to be determined by God, indicating His will in a specific matter.

The purpose of casting lots was not to derive pleasure, profit, or entertainment from chance but rather to discern God's direction or to make impartial decisions. It was considered a way to ensure that decisions were made without human bias or manipulation.

Some instances of casting lots in the Bible include choosing leaders, allocating land, or determining the guilt or innocence of individuals. For example, the casting of lots was used to select Matthias as the replacement for Judas Iscariot among the disciples (Acts 1:26).

While casting lots may appear similar to games of chance or gambling in its use of random outcomes, its fundamental purpose and significance in biblical times were distinct from modern gambling. It was a method employed to seek divine guidance and ensure fairness in decision-making rather than a form of leisure or financial risk-taking.

Questions to Ask Yourself if Gambling is a Sin

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 too far as to call it "consensual theft.”

Although the Bible doesn't outright approve of gambling, there are some questions a Christian can answer to help discern their truth. This philosophy contends that gambling might be permissible for a Christian if four conditions are met:

1. What is staked must belong to the gambler and must be at his free disposal. It is wrong, therefore, for the lawyer to stake the money of his client, or for anyone to gamble with what is necessary for the maintenance of his wife and children.
2. The gambler must act freely, without unjust compulsion.
3. There must be no fraud in the transaction, although the usual ruses of the game may be allowed. It is unlawful, accordingly, to mark the cards, but it is permissible to conceal carefully from an opponent the number of trump cards one holds.
4. Finally, there must be some sort of equality between the parties to make the contract equitable; it would be unfair for a combination of two expert whilst players to take the money of a couple of mere novices at the game.

However, even those who subscribe to this philosophy concede that gambling can lead to problems. For example, if gambling leads to a squandering of time and money then it may be "a source of sin and ruin to others." Like other addictions, gambling can arouse excitement in the participant and may lead to conduct which is difficult to control. 

Under this view of Christian liberties and what the Bible does not specifically address about gambling, the acceptance of gambling is then conditioned upon the presence of all four of the above requirements and the self-discipline of the gambler. Such a philosophy allowed Mr. Bennett to gamble without being morally conflicted. If you can handle it, that's fine, but if you "can't handle it, don't do it."

Ultimately Bennett has vowed that his gambling days are over because he admits having done too much of it and not providing the example he wishes to set for others. And regardless of positions on gambling in general, ultimately that is a decision upon which everyone could agree.

Additional Helpful Bible Verses to Consider

Proverbs 13:11 - Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

1 Timothy 6:10 - For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Hebrews 13:5 - Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

1 Timothy 6:9-10 - But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Matthew 6:24 - “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 - He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

Read more Bible Verses About Money and Bible Verses About Greed at BibleStudyTools.com.


  • J. Kerby Anderson, "Gambling," http://www.probe.org/docs/gambling.html 
  • Ronald A. Reno, "Gambling and the Bible" http://www.family.org/cforum/research/papers/a0008570.html
  • T. Slater, Catholic Encyclopedia - "Gambling" http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06375b.html

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This article is part of our larger Spiritual Life resource meant to answer your questions about the Bible, God and the Christian faith. Visit our most popular questions on “What does the Bible say about…” questions answered by well known Christians and theologians to find more inspiration. Remember that as you read these articles, the Holy Spirit will give you understanding and discernment to make the right decision for your walk with Jesus Christ! If you know others struggling with these faith questions, please share and help others discover the truth on these controversial topics. 

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