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Have you ever asked, “Is gambling a sin?” The Bible is offered to us for guidance in our walks with Christ and is very direct on many topics but not so much on others. While it would be nice if everything were laid out perfectly clearly, we have to take time to study some topics where the Bible seems to either stay silent or live in a gray area, gambling being one of those topics.
The Bible offers indirect teachings on gambling through teaching on the love of money and “get-rich-quick” schemes (as called in modern terminology), hard work and earning money, and the intentions of the heart. We will explore these three categories, as well as the act of casting lots and the parable of the talents, to equip you with the knowledge and tools to decide about gambling based on biblical principles.
The Love of Money and Get-Rich-Quick Schemes
While there is nothing wrong with having money – as we do need it to live – the Bible is very clear that we are not to love that money nor covet for more than what we are given, for everything we have is given to us by God himself.
In 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul warns Christians against the love of money, as it lends hand to evil. It is not the money itself at the “root of all kinds of evils” but it can certainly place a wedge between the Holy Spirit and the harmful desires of the flesh, causing us to stumble into the sins of greed (one of the seven deadly sins) and idolatry. By loving money more than God, we can become enamored with worldly wealth over spiritual wealth, leaving behind our duties as the kingdom of God.
Similarly, gambling itself is not loving money, nor at the root of all evil, but it can easily lead to it. As the kingdom of God living in a sinful world, we must have boundaries for ourselves to avoid and resist inevitable temptation, especially with a gambling addiction at risk. Knowing that gambling can lead to idolizing worldly wealth over God, which is directly stated to be at the root of all kinds of evil, it is probably wise to stay away from it, especially if you are prone to addiction or hyper-fixation.
You either serve the Lord, or you serve the world. Again, there is no clear and direct statement in the Word of God that says “do not gamble,” but it is important to ask yourself when wrestling with the subject of gambling, or any topic for that matter: Does this serve and glorify God?
God is our provider of all things, including our money. Even when we have earned an income from hard work, it is still by God’s blessing that we have received it, as it is with everything, and we are simply stewards of it. It is hard to see a point in gambling other than just simply getting more money. Therefore, the question is raised: Do you trust in God to provide everything you need?
The love of money can drive a person to strive to gain more in the wrong ways; efforts to “get rich quick,” which is also warned against in scripture.
Slot machines, a lottery ticket, and games of chance are a way to quickly earn a lot of money while skipping the hard, sometimes dreadful, work that is typically required for an income. “Wealth gained hastily” will not last, and gambling is a way to do so, therefore, gambling is not worth anything in the long run. If the long run for you is the riches of eternity (Matthew 6:20-21), then what does gambling do for you other than waste the time you’ve been given by the Lord?
We are Called to Work Hard
“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”
2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 (ESV)
Again, gambling is a way to earn much money, which is something that should be done through work, as we were designed and are commanded to do. If we do not work with a biblical work ethic, we should not reap the benefits of work: money. Now just because someone gambles and earns money doing so, does not mean that they do not work. However, we are called to be a good steward of the money that God has blessed us with.
Sure, a lot of money can be made in the random chance of gambling, though rare, and sure that money can be used for a lot of things, even really good things, but gambling is clearly not the right way to earn money. It is not through hard work and toil that one wins the pot in a friendly poker game or the weekly horse races. Here are a few more verses on hard work and profit:
Intentions of the Heart
As it is with everything that we do, it is the intention behind the act of gambling that would declare it a sin.
It is clear that everything we do should be to glorify God. When we are working, when we are running errands, when we are doing chores, and even when we are just out with friends or family, we should be glorifying God. It’s understandable to think that’s impossible, but it all just comes down to the why and the attitude behind it. Are you working to get rich, have a big house, or provide for your family? Are you doing the chores begrudgingly or gratefully, with the posture of helping your family?
When looking at gambling through this lens, you would have to get pretty creative to find a way that glorifies God. Even if you say you’re using the money for a good cause, that money was still earned at the loss of another person, or even a lot of people, and taking advantage of others’ misfortune is in no way glorifying God.
Most forms of gambling also (typically) take place in an environment of compulsive gamblers that encourages drunkenness, foolish competition, and addiction, specifically gambling addiction, none of which glorify God, and all of which we are called to avoid, no matter how much fun the harmful desires of our flesh make it seem like – something the gambling industry banks on.
Casting lots is the closest thing to modern-day gambling mentioned in the Bible (70 times in the Old Testament and 7 in the New Testament). This practice is not explicitly explained, but it is assumed to be something similar to a coin flip, where a decision is made based on the outcome of whatever is flipped, thrown, cast, etc. – games of chance. What is important to note about casting lots as it relates to the subject of gambling is what God says about it in this particular Old Testament verse:
Even though gambling – whether it be slot machines, card games, roulette wheel, or such things – is considered a game of chance, our God is sovereign and will do with a person’s money as He wills. Our possessions and winnings are not in our own hands, so no matter how good you may be at the forms of gambling of your choice, it is still under God’s control.
This concept brings up an interesting crossroad. Does God’s provision over our possessions make gambling a waste of time and effort, since it is already decided what we will or will not have, or does it permit gambling as, again, it is already decided by the Lord what we will or will not have? It’s truly a matter of personal conviction. However, a good decision cannot be made without considering the previously discussed scriptures.
The form you have selected does not exist.
The Parable of the Talents
The parable of the talents is a great relation to the subject of gambling through the aforementioned idea of stewardship. The two servants who gave the master double the talents that he gave them were praised and honored, whereas the one servant who was lazy and unprofitable was scolded and sent away, even being called worthless. With the master representing God and the servants representing Christians, it is a simple conclusion that Christ Jesus was telling his disciples, and therefore us, that we are to be a good steward of what God has given us.
Although gambling offers the chance of coming back with double, it also offers the chance of being a complete waste of money – coming back with less or even a negative amount. Do we really want to risk what has been graciously given to us by God the Father and risk being deemed a worthless servant of his? Or do we want to hear that “well done good and faithful servant” whenever we finally enter into the holy presence of the Lord?
This also ties back into gain from someone else’s loss. Even if we come back with double after gambling, we have used God’s possessions that he entrusted unto us against another person, another masterpiece of his creation. That is not at all fitting with the character of God and is therefore, poor stewardship of what he has given us.
So is Gambling a Sin or Not?
Because the Bible does not explicitly approve nor disapprove of card games, slot machines, or any form of gambling, it is up to us to come to a decision, a personal conviction, on our own solely based on biblical principles. Although there seem to be more reasons not to gamble, as you have read so far, it is still a decision that is between an individual and God.
I want to encourage you with one last thing, as it relates to gambling as well as any other matter of personal conviction:
As said so eloquently by the great apostle Paul, if your brother or sister in Christ has a personal conviction against something, such as gambling, and you do not, it is your responsibility to respect that.
You may enjoy this video addressing the question: is gambling a sin?
You may also enjoy this personal account of a man addressing the personal question, is gambling a sin?
Sinless In Sin City: From Gambling To God by David T. Fiske
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”