The gambling industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. With the legalization of sports gambling and the spawning of online venues where patrons can engage in the practice, news about odds and opportunities for betting are becoming more widespread, more public, and more easily accessible (fantasy sports, lotteries, casinos, etc.).
How should the Christian think about this issue in light of the Bible?
The word gamble is defined as:
“to play at any game of chance for money or other stakes”
“to stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance”https://www.dictionary.com/browse/gamble, accessed 1/22/19
I’d like to focus on two aspects of this definition in order to show that gambling is sin. Those aspects are chance and for money. Here are some observations from the Bible on these aspects:
- Hard work and effort are the normal means by which God intends that we would gain financial provision.
“He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.”Proverbs 10:4
“By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.”Proverbs 22:4
God has not designed a universe that is governed by chance. With chance, there is no guaranteed outcome. However, God’s universe is governed by cause-effect relationships. In God’s design, some outcomes can be guaranteed. There are normal means whereby certain things happen. When it comes to acquiring financial provision or wealth, hard work and effort are the normal means to get it. So, when it comes to finances, God has said, “This is how you will be financially cared for: hard work, effort, etc.” If we “fear the LORD,” we will honor that design, that pattern, in God’s universe. However, when we gamble, we are saying to God (in effect), “God, this is how I want to be cared for.” We are putting our faith in chance (with no guaranteed outcome) rather than in God’s stated design.
- Participating in get-rich-quick schemes is not innocent play.
“A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.”Proverbs 28:20
The one who “maketh haste to be rich” is contrasted with the faithful man,” someone who adheres to God’s pattern for acquiring wealth. Furthermore, those who attempt to acquire wealth hastily are not innocent. Why? Undoubtedly, get-rich-quick schemes involve the oppression of others in order to obtain that wealth, whether through dishonesty, exploitation, or force. Those practices are sinful and participation in a system built on those practices is sinful.
- Those who live for wealth follow a temptation-prone, destructive path.
“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. For the love of money is the root of all [kinds of] evil…”1 Timothy 6:9-10
The driving force in gambling is the possibility of acquiring wealth. That is its focus; that is its expected purpose; that is why people do it. Therefore, people who gamble are expressing their love for wealth. Furthermore, they are choosing a path that is known to ensnare those who take it and that leads to innumerable other evils. Deliberately choosing such a path is sin.
- Since the desired outcome of gambling is wealth, it is a pursuit of self-exaltation.
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”1 Corinthians 10:31
We exist to bring attention to God and His glory. And although God will ultimately glorify Himself through all circumstances of our lives, we actively glorify Him only when we live in accordance with His Word. All sin, however, ultimately exalts the interests of self over God. So any behavior that has as its first motive a selfish one and its first beneficiary the self is sinful.