Does the Bible talk about gambling?

The Bible talks about casting lots, however, that is not the same thing as gambling. Casting lots was a means used, primarily in the Old Testament, in decision making. ItGambling is the transfer of wealth from one person to another through the means of chance. The two are not the same, since in the first there is no money or valuables being offered up by the players to put at stake. Let me start by giving you a definition of gambling. In this definition and my answer to follow, I am indebted to another pastor, Phil Johnson, for his thoughtful work on this topic. Gambling is a game of chance played to win a prize that is obtained at another gamblers expense. You know how it works, two or more people put up money towards the outcome of a game. The winner collects all the money, the losers forfeit their money that they gambled. Does the Bible say anything about gambling? Not directly. There is no specific prohibition against gambling, nor is there any specific commentary on any people gambling. In fact, the closest thing we find to gambling even being referred to in the Bible is during Jesus’ crucifixion when the soldiers cast lots to see who would get Jesus’ robe. However, the Bible does speak to some things that usually motivate the gambler to risk his money.
 
Before I talk about what the Bible says, let me answer a couple common arguments regarding gambling.  First, assuming risk is not the same as gambling. Risk is inherent in our life. We cannot avoid it. The moral issues in gambling do not arise because of the risk involved. In a gambling contest, the winners prize comes from those who lose. His increase is as a direct result of their loss. Consequently, investing in the stock market is not the same as gambling. When a stocks value increases, its increase benefits all the stockholders. One stockholder does not gain at the expense of the others. Instead, real wealth is created and all are benefited. Similarly, a farmer who plants a crop takes a risk. He could lose his crop all the money he has invested into it. However, if the farmers crops are successful he has increased at his own expense and no one else’s, real wealth has been added into the economy. In gambling, all that occurs is the transfer of assets from one hand to another, without adding any real wealth. One’s gains are provided by another’s losses. So what does the Bible say about this?
 
First, the Bible speaks to covetousness. Covetousness is the desire for someone else’s possessions. Gambling is the attempt to win someone else’s things. Many say they gamble just for the entertainment. If that’s true, why don’t they play for points instead of money? Would you spend an afternoon sitting at a slot machine if it cost you nothing and there was no prize money when you won? I venture to say the vast majority of those who say they gamble only for entertainment wouldn’t play the games if there was no money involved. The excitement and fun of gambling comes from the possibility of winning that which the others have put at stake. Make no mistake about this, when a gambler wins, he is winning from the other players. Even in a casino or a state funded lottery, the prize money is always put up by the other players. The house and the state never lose. The prize always comes out of the pockets of the players. The willingness to enter a game for the specific purpose of winning that which is someone else’s comes from a heart of covetousness. Covetousness is explicitly and repeatedly forbidden in the Bible. One of the ten commandments forbids the coveting of your neighbors goods. Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 tell us that covetousness is idolatry. To covet another’s possessions is to worship a god other than the God of the Bible. To engage in a game for the specific intent of taking from someone else is nothing less than to covetousness and is forbidden by God.
 
Secondly, and very closely related to the first, the Bible warns about the love of money. 2 Timothy 6:10 warns that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Is there any doubt that most gambling is driven by a love of money? Does not the gambler enter into the game with the express goal of getting an abundance of cash? Does not the promise of large winnings drive one to take risks they would not otherwise take? A gambler is motivated by his love for money. God declares the love of money to be the root of all evil. From the gamblers money loving heart springs a plethora of wickedness. Gambling has long been associated with many other major vices, the devaluation of the home, the loss of work ethic and a general weakening of the community. Gambling is rooted in a love of money and it fuels a greater love for money. It is an accomplice to all kinds of evil. Jesus warned His disciples that it is impossible to serve both God and money. You will serve one or the other. No one who desires to avoid sin and to please and serve God will participate in that which aids and abets all kinds of wickedness and which prevents genuine service to God.
 
Covetousness and a love of money inevitably produce in a life a desire for quick gain. The Bible warns that the desire for easy money results in troubles and sin. Proverbs 15:27 says, “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house.” Proverbs 28:20 says, “He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. Proverbs 28:22 says, “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye.” 1 Timothy 6:9 says, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” The lust for riches, especially easy money, is the way of foolishness, bringing with it sin and troubles. Instead, the Bible teaches that men are to labor diligently, providing for the needs of life through responsible work.
 
As I stated already, every single time someone gambles and wins, the winnings come from other gamblers. The gambler does not win at the expense of the house or the state. His winnings always comes from the other gamblers. Think for a moment about those who participate in gambling. Studies have shown that those in the lower income brackets are the ones who gamble the most. My personal experience is that the ones who do the most gambling are the ones who can afford it the least. Every time someone wins, the majority of the money they win has been put up by those who can ill afford to lose. The gamblers desire for gain has blinded him to the fact that he is participating in the “redistribution” of wealth from the poor into his own pocket. Proverbs 22:16 says, “He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches shall surely come to want.” Even though they are voluntarily risking their money, the mutual consent does not eliminate or lessen the moral evil. When one does hurt to another person, the others agreement does not lessen culpability. As an analogy, if two men decided to go out to onto the highway and ram their cars into each other, their mutual consent will not lessen their responsibility for injury inflected on the other. Instead, there is the possibility of increased responsibility because they conspired together   Rather than justifying the sin, now all parties are responsible for promoting and participating in it. The mutual consent in gambling does not lessen its moral evil. Gambling is nothing more than sanitized thievery, in which parties have agreed to allow their possessions to be taken by another, that is immoral and despicable.
 
When you play poker, why don’t you keep score to see who wins the most hands? Or trade worthless chips back and forth? Why do you play for money, even small amounts? While the Bible does not specifically prohibit gambling, it is definitively forbids the attitudes and desires that fuel much of gambling.
 
Justifying gambling by professing to help fund education or by promising to give a portion of it to a church or charity does not lessen it’s evil. Gambling, though not forbidden by name in the Bible, is a sin that violates several clear commands of God. The Bible clearly forbids the attitudes and desires that fuel much of gambling.
The Bible talks about casting lots, however, that is not the same thing as gambling. Casting lots was a means used, primarily in the Old Testament, in decision making. ItGambling is the transfer of wealth from one person to another through the means of chance. The two are not the same, since in the first there is no money or valuables being offered up by the players to put at stake. Let me start by giving you a definition of gambling. In this definition and my answer to follow, I am indebted to another pastor, Phil Johnson, for his thoughtful work on this topic. Gambling is a game of chance played to win a prize that is obtained at another gamblers expense. You know how it works, two or more people put up money towards the outcome of a game. The winner collects all the money, the losers forfeit their money that they gambled. Does the Bible say anything about gambling? Not directly. There is no specific prohibition against gambling, nor is there any specific commentary on any people gambling. In fact, the closest thing we find to gambling even being referred to in the Bible is during Jesus’ crucifixion when the soldiers cast lots to see who would get Jesus’ robe. However, the Bible does speak to some things that usually motivate the gambler to risk his money.
 
Before I talk about what the Bible says, let me answer a couple common arguments regarding gambling.  First, assuming risk is not the same as gambling. Risk is inherent in our life. We cannot avoid it. The moral issues in gambling do not arise because of the risk involved. In a gambling contest, the winners prize comes from those who lose. His increase is as a direct result of their loss. Consequently, investing in the stock market is not the same as gambling. When a stocks value increases, its increase benefits all the stockholders. One stockholder does not gain at the expense of the others. Instead, real wealth is created and all are benefited. Similarly, a farmer who plants a crop takes a risk. He could lose his crop all the money he has invested into it. However, if the farmers crops are successful he has increased at his own expense and no one else’s, real wealth has been added into the economy. In gambling, all that occurs is the transfer of assets from one hand to another, without adding any real wealth. One’s gains are provided by another’s losses. So what does the Bible say about this?
 
First, the Bible speaks to covetousness. Covetousness is the desire for someone else’s possessions. Gambling is the attempt to win someone else’s things. Many say they gamble just for the entertainment. If that’s true, why don’t they play for points instead of money? Would you spend an afternoon sitting at a slot machine if it cost you nothing and there was no prize money when you won? I venture to say the vast majority of those who say they gamble only for entertainment wouldn’t play the games if there was no money involved. The excitement and fun of gambling comes from the possibility of winning that which the others have put at stake. Make no mistake about this, when a gambler wins, he is winning from the other players. Even in a casino or a state funded lottery, the prize money is always put up by the other players. The house and the state never lose. The prize always comes out of the pockets of the players. The willingness to enter a game for the specific purpose of winning that which is someone else’s comes from a heart of covetousness. Covetousness is explicitly and repeatedly forbidden in the Bible. One of the ten commandments forbids the coveting of your neighbors goods. Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 tell us that covetousness is idolatry. To covet another’s possessions is to worship a god other than the God of the Bible. To engage in a game for the specific intent of taking from someone else is nothing less than to covetousness and is forbidden by God.
 
Secondly, and very closely related to the first, the Bible warns about the love of money. 2 Timothy 6:10 warns that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Is there any doubt that most gambling is driven by a love of money? Does not the gambler enter into the game with the express goal of getting an abundance of cash? Does not the promise of large winnings drive one to take risks they would not otherwise take? A gambler is motivated by his love for money. God declares the love of money to be the root of all evil. From the gamblers money loving heart springs a plethora of wickedness. Gambling has long been associated with many other major vices, the devaluation of the home, the loss of work ethic and a general weakening of the community. Gambling is rooted in a love of money and it fuels a greater love for money. It is an accomplice to all kinds of evil. Jesus warned His disciples that it is impossible to serve both God and money. You will serve one or the other. No one who desires to avoid sin and to please and serve God will participate in that which aids and abets all kinds of wickedness and which prevents genuine service to God.
 
Covetousness and a love of money inevitably produce in a life a desire for quick gain. The Bible warns that the desire for easy money results in troubles and sin. Proverbs 15:27 says, “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house.” Proverbs 28:20 says, “He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. Proverbs 28:22 says, “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye.” 1 Timothy 6:9 says, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” The lust for riches, especially easy money, is the way of foolishness, bringing with it sin and troubles. Instead, the Bible teaches that men are to labor diligently, providing for the needs of life through responsible work.
 
As I stated already, every single time someone gambles and wins, the winnings come from other gamblers. The gambler does not win at the expense of the house or the state. His winnings always comes from the other gamblers. Think for a moment about those who participate in gambling. Studies have shown that those in the lower income brackets are the ones who gamble the most. My personal experience is that the ones who do the most gambling are the ones who can afford it the least. Every time someone wins, the majority of the money they win has been put up by those who can ill afford to lose. The gamblers desire for gain has blinded him to the fact that he is participating in the “redistribution” of wealth from the poor into his own pocket. Proverbs 22:16 says, “He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches shall surely come to want.” Even though they are voluntarily risking their money, the mutual consent does not eliminate or lessen the moral evil. When one does hurt to another person, the others agreement does not lessen culpability. As an analogy, if two men decided to go out to onto the highway and ram their cars into each other, their mutual consent will not lessen their responsibility for injury inflected on the other. Instead, there is the possibility of increased responsibility because they conspired together   Rather than justifying the sin, now all parties are responsible for promoting and participating in it. The mutual consent in gambling does not lessen its moral evil. Gambling is nothing more than sanitized thievery, in which parties have agreed to allow their possessions to be taken by another, that is immoral and despicable.
 
When you play poker, why don’t you keep score to see who wins the most hands? Or trade worthless chips back and forth? Why do you play for money, even small amounts? While the Bible does not specifically prohibit gambling, it is definitively forbids the attitudes and desires that fuel much of gambling.
 
Justifying gambling by professing to help fund education or by promising to give a portion of it to a church or charity does not lessen it’s evil. Gambling, though not forbidden by name in the Bible, is a sin that violates several clear commands of God. The Bible clearly forbids the attitudes and desires that fuel much of gambling.
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