GAMBLING - A Bad Bet! (adapted from an article by Russell Tardo).
According to St. Augustine, “The devil invented gambling.” Whether or not one accepts this, gambling has been around for thousands of years. Augustine Caesar is said to have sponsored the first known public lottery in order to raise funds to repair the city of Rome. The Bible records that Roman soldiers gambled for the garments of Christ (Matthew 27:35), an action predicted in the Old Testament (Psalm 22:18). Loaded dice were found in the ruins of ancient Pompeii. Corruption, is the inevitable bedfellow of gambling. One reliable estimate is that 80 percent of adults gamble at least occasionally.
What is Gambling? By definition, it is to bet money on the outcome of a game, contest, or other event. It means to play a game of chance for money or other stakes. It is further defined as wagering money, or something of value, on an uncertain event whose outcome is dependent either wholly on chance or partly on chance and partly on skill. However one defines or assesses gambling, one thread runs throughout its entire fabric - the gains of the winners are made at the expense of the losers, and the gain is secured without rendering its equivalent either in service or in value. Thus, if a game of chance was played solely for amusement, it is not gambling. It only becomes gambling when money or valuables are wagered. But in order for one to win, another must lose. And in gambling, losers always far outnumber winners. So the three elements involved in the gambling equation are:
1) the betting of money or valuables, 2) the determination of the winner by luck, chance, or uncertain events 3) winners profiting at the expense of the losers.
Gambling and Discipleship.
Christians have had two different views on the subject of gambling:
1) Many do not condemn gambling on a small scale. The danger lies in its excess. People are entitled to gamble in moderation as long as they do not render themselves incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities. They would, however, most likely oppose its legislation on a major scale.
2) The biblical view denounces gambling as a moral evil on any scale and in every form, public or private. Most evangelicals hold this view.
So, What’s Wrong with Gambling?
1. Gambling contradicts the biblical work ethic. God ordained work to earn one’s income. “This is the will of God...that you study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with you own hands, as we commanded you. That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1Thessalonians 4:3, 11-12). The non-laboring, unproductive life of the professional gambler is condemned in other passages.
2Thessalonians 3:10,12: “we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” The Bible says we are to eat the bread his own labours have produced. In gambling, the winner eats the loser’s bread. Thus, gambling perverts the biblical concept of honest, useful employment. It substitutes a desire to obtain something for nothing, a “get rich quick” mentality, even if your gain comes at another’s loss. It is a similar mind set to the criminal who seeks to obtain what he did earn at the expense of another.
2. In honest earnings, there is productivity and exchange. One exchanges cash at the market for its equivalent value in goods. One gives the workplace an honest 8 hours of labour and productivity in exchange for a wage. In gambling, however, there is no productivity. Instead, gain is secured without rendering in service or in value an equivalent of the gains obtained. In gambling, everyone loses, even the “winner”. How? Winning plants a seed of deception in one’s thinking that perhaps this could become a way of life or an answer to all problems. In fact, it enslaves people to yet another of satan’s clever bondages and addictions. Sadly, even when the gambler wins (which is seldom), his winnings quickly disappear. Casinos don’t stay in business by losing. As someone said “The trouble with hitting the jackpot on a slot machine is that it takes so long to put the money back into the machine”.
Scripture warns: “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished:
but he that gathereth by labour shall increase”. (Proverbs 13:11).
Furthermore, “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing” (Prov 10:2).
3. In the final analysis, gambling is no better than robbery and fraud. It offers a set of false hopes to people with certain predispositions and is known to especially prey on those who can least afford to lose but who ultimately do just that. In that sense its end result is no different than robbery. Studies on the lottery have found that ticket sales are greatest in low-income areas. Lottery sales are less in areas where the level of education is higher. Through lottery-style gambling, what little
the masses of the poor have is taken away in exchange for a false hope of becoming a winner.
But surveys also show that few players understand just how minute their chances are of winning.
4. Gambling perverts moral character. Ben Franklin said: “those who lie down with dogs wake up with fleas.” This is Franklin’s version of the biblical principle, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). The fact is, gambling hangs out with bad company! This is true even in legalized gambling. It is always accompanied by a myriad of evils, such as organised crime, protection rackets, police and political corruption, prostitution, loan sharking, alcohol, and drugs. George Washington called it: ‘the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity, the father of mischief.’
5. It Is a Moral Evil to Deprive One’s Family. Gambling is taking a heavy toll on the family as well. Over 8 million Americans are addicted to it. The suffering they inflict and endure is incalculable.How truly rings the Bible’s warning that, “He that is greedy of gain troubles his own house” (Proverbs 15:27). It’s time we realise that behind all of the glitter, greed, and glamour of big scale casino gambling lies the grime. The glitz only thinly masks the depression, heartbreak and despair. One can’t help wondering how many families’ lives would be enriched if gambling were to disappear.
6. Gambling violates God’s laws against greed and covetousness. To put it simply, gamblers are motivated by greed (coveting wealth, desiring to acquire something for nothing. In the Bible, there are only 2 legitimate ways to obtain wealth: (1) earn it by hard work and wise investments (2Thess 3:10, Luke 19:1-27); (2) by inheritance or gift (2 Corinthians 12:14). Gambling does not fall into any of these categories. It is not work, for the gambler hopes to acquire wealth without working. It is not an investment, neither is it a gift because it was obtained from losers who were hopeful of winning.
Numerous scriptures warn of the grave spiritual dangers of covetousness and greed: (Proverbs 15:27; 21:25-26; 23:4; Matthew 6:19-21, 24; 12:22; 16:26; Romans 13:9; Ephesians 5:3; Hebrews 13:5; 1 John 2:15).
The Apostle Paul reminds us that satisfaction in life comes from contentment and complete trust in God: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that wish to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves though with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
Part of what motivates a gambler is the hope for a windfall without having to submit to the discipline and rigours of working and budgeting and saving... There’s the draw of easy money associated with gambling, there’s the hope for the quick hit, and it might even be more complicated than that. At the root of wanting a windfall in the first place, is a deep, gnawing dissatisfaction with your current level of provision that God has made for you in your life. Maybe underneath it all is a monster that lurks in the shadows, the monster called “More.” Christians can seek to better themselves and improve their circumstances by rendering honest, ethical labour and trusting God in their situation. We cannot, however, hope to bypass God’s plan for success by falling for gambling’s lure of easy money.
We have been seeing the Christian objections to Gambling.
7. Gambling always produces a deterioration of society. Even legalized gambling on a large scale, has brought inner city blight, decay, and despair and has been a major contributor to soaring crime rates. One would be hard pressed to find a minister social worker, psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental health worker who considered legalized gambling a positive step for any community.
8. Gambling is poor stewardship of God’s money. The Bible teaches that all Christians are stewards of God’s possessions. All that we have has actually been entrusted to us by God who will one day soon call us to account for our stewardship. This principle is clearly seen in Jesus’ words in Luke 16:2: give an account of thy stewardship...” It is seen further in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) where it is clearly demonstrated that future rewards will largely depend on our present faithfulness to exercise wise management of our resources, money, time, and talents. Jesus also declares that those stewards who have squandered what the Lord entrusted to them will be cast into a place of outer darkness: “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
9. Gambling violates the biblical mandate to love one’s neighbour (Matthew 22:37-40). The Christian is to live in a state of brotherly love, always seeking the benefit, blessing and welfare of others (cf. Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-37; Rom 15:1-2; 1 Cor 10:24; 13:5). The gambler, however, has no ‘neighbours’ in the Christian sense. he seeks only his own benefit. gain, and profit. He knows that in order to win, others must lose. In order for him to increase, others must decrease. This is just the opposite of the biblical concept of Christian life. We are to decrease, while Christ in us increases (John 3:30). We are to seek the gain and blessings of others, not our own (1 Cor 10:24). Therefore, the command to love our neighbour rules out our gain at his loss even if he or she gambles willingly. The underlying consideration being, not that “they shouldn’t gamble if they didn’t want to lose”,
but rather, how can a disciple of Christ accept an unearned, undeserved gain?
Furthermore, gambling places us in the unconsciousable position of praying to win, which actually means praying for others to lose so we can win the money they worked for. Is this loving your neighbour? How appropriate are the words of James: “Ye ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3).
10. Gambling and Superstition Gamblers are a superstitious lot. They cross their fingers, make the sign of the cross, wish for luck or whisper a prayer before they roll the dice or pull the handle on the slot machine. They pray for guidance to pick winning lottery numbers or to win the bingo or raffle. They play bingo with their lucky coin, bean, rabbits foot, 4-leaf clover, or other good-luck charm nearby. They wear their “lucky” short, shoes, or other item of clothing, and grasp for lucky numbers
to play. How tragic for Christians to engage in a practice so rife with evils. The Bible declares: “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).
11. The problem with state-sponsored gambling. The idea of legalized gambling helping a state to solve its financial problems is pure delusion and overlooks several vital considerations: It is indecent for a government to finance itself from the moral weaknesses of its citizens. Those who are hurt most are inevitably those who can least afford it. The relatively poor spend a much larger fraction of their income on lottery tickets than the relatively affluent. Gambling, in effect, becomes a “tax” that hits the poor the hardest. It produces a double standard of morality that causes people to lose respect for the government and all authority. What is a crime for an individual citizen to do is legal for the state. Such double standards cause a breakdown of respect for government and as much confusion
as a parent who smokes or drinks yet insists that their children do not.
Legalised gambling has proven to be just as dominated by organised crime as illegal gambling. It contributes greatly to police corruption and the well-being of the nation’s criminals. Government-sponsored gambling lessens the stigma associated with gambling, leading to increased gambling addiction. Gambling was seen as sinful, immoral, and illegal. Now it’s OK! It breaks down the resistance of people who would not gamble otherwise. Its promised proceeds never live up to expectations. Proponents promise more money to pay police. But crime rates soar, so many new police have to be hired that the money for raises disappears.
Tainting Your Testimony. Dear Christian, how can you even consider casting such a stumbling block before others? If you gamble, even moderately, what picture does that pain for others around you? Could they not cite you as a justification for engaging in this wicked activity? Perhaps someone will gamble and then their children will suffer because of your example. And what of your own children? When you buy lottery tickets, aren’t you instilling in them the conviction that gambling is a normal Christian practice?
C.H. Spurgeon said, “The soldiers at the foot of the Cross threw dice for my Saviour’s garments. And I have never conjured up the dreadful scene of Christ on his cross, and gamblers at the foot of it, with their dice be spattered by His blood. I do not hesitate to say that of all sins, there is none that more surely damns men, and worse than that, makes them the devil’s helpers to damn others, than gambling.”
Gambling, a Bad Bet for Anyone. There is also the danger of shrugging one’s shoulders over issues such as this. Perhaps you are tempted to think that gambling is no big deal and harmless, especially in moderation.
Addressing this argument, Billy Graham said: “The appeal of gambling is somewhat understandable. There is something alluring about getting
something for nothing. I realise that, and that is where the sin lies. Gambling of any kind amounts to theft by permission. The coin is flipped, the dice are rolled, or the horses run, and somebody rakes that which belongs to another. The Bible says, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:19). It doesn’t say, ‘By the flip of a coin you shall eat your lunch.’ I realise that in most petty gambling no harm is intended, but the principle is the same as in big gambling. The difference is only the amount of money involved.”
There is, without question, an almost inexplicable urge within mankind to gamble.
It stirs the passions, and entices with visions of riches, excitement, and pleasure. It calls and beckons and makes extravagant promises to those who play. But like the mythological Sirens whose eerie songs lured ancient mariners to their death, gambling delivers only destruction. It is a mirage, a false hope, a wisp, a dream that quickly transforms into a nightmare of pain and misery. Like the devil, it lies. And as we have seen, gambling and the percepts of Scripture are hopelessly irreconcilable. Simply stated, gambling is sin. It is sin, whether one gambles with little or with much. Satan himself has painted and perfumed gambling to make it seem harmless, but the appearance is a masquerade. Gambling is a spiritual minefield: it appears safe to walk through, but in reality it is pregnant with death at every step.
Friend, by gambling, you link yourself arm in arm to the many who go in at the wide and broad way that leads to destruction. Remember Jesus’ admonition: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14).