Should Christians Gamble? Part I
- 2006 27 Sep
Gambling is a $700 billion-per-year obsession. Its glamorous nature feeds the self-indulgent, instant-gratification mindset that has plagued America in recent decades. But beneath its dazzling surface, we encounter the downsides of gambling: increased addiction and a decreased devotion to spirituality. Even numerous secular studies point to few - if any - positive contributions gambling can offer to society.
Despite its downfalls, various forms of gambling are legal in the U.S., and Christians must wrestle with the level at which they should allow themselves to participate. There is no "Eleventh Commandment" in the Bible directly stating "Thou shalt not gamble." However, I submit to you that gambling violates at least five doctrines of Scripture: the sovereignty of God, stewardship, covetousness, brotherly love, and God's instruction not to be brought under the power of anything.
The Sovereignty of God
Proverbs 3:5,6 - "Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
The inherent reliance on "luck" or "chance" when gambling promotes a worldview in direct contradiction to biblical Christianity. If we truly have faith in God, we can't put our faith in chance. Putting our faith in chance or "fate" puts us in direct opposition to a purposeful creation ordered and directed by the Sovereign God that we serve.
Even when something appears to our limited human minds as chance, our Sovereign God has known all along. For example, in the biblical illustration of casting lots, individuals still trusted God to direct the "chance" disposition of the lay of the lots. They knew that God controls, not chance.
The idea that events are ultimately disposed merely by chance is akin to superstition and pagan superstition is a violation of God's will (Exodus 20:4, 5). Worshipping the gods of luck and chance is an offense to His character. As believers, we need not give gambling the chance to ruin our lives by replacing our faith in our sovereign God.
Proverbs 12:11 "he who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment."
Gambling not only hurts our financial stewardship, but it also hurts the stewardship of our time. Many chase fantasies, fascinated by the idea of getting "something for nothing," and yield to the lure of quick riches. But God gives people time, talent, and treasure with an expectation of accountability (Matt. 25:14-30).
Work is both a command and a gift from God. The Bible teaches that we are to use our God-given wealth to support our families, God's work, the government, and the needy. Gambling can undermine the foundations of Christian stewardship on all levels - time, money, work, and special gifts -- especially when it becomes addictive.
People often tell me their financial problems would be solved if they just won the lottery. But, they will usually take this desire one step further by telling me about all the extra, luxurious things they could buy with that lottery money - and the coveting begins.
Gambling feeds covetousness - the very natural and selfish desire to get something for nothing - and is the opposite of God's call for contentment. It masquerades as harmless fun while it eventually sucks the dollars and sometimes the life out of those who embrace it (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:9: "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction."
Some justify recreational gambling by pointing out that it is legal, and therefore it can't have that bad of an effect on the believer. I would just repeat what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 8:9: "But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a Christian still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track." In other words, you may be able to handle a little legalized gambling, but your actions could potentially lead another, weaker brother into sin. Paul also continued in his letter to say that everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.
Antigambling legislation is actually based on the necessity of curbing covetousness. However, unless more citizens make waves, such legislation has little chance of being passed in today's materialistic society.
Steve Scalici is the CEO of Treasure Coast Financial, a financial planning firm in Stuart, FL. He is co-host of God's Money which can be heard weekdays at www.oneplace.com. He can also be reached at his website www.tcfin.com.