While most people view gambling as an innocent pass-time activity so long as it is practiced legally, others see it as a sinful and dangerous vice. Some forms of legal gambling, for example, government-sponsored lotteries, bring in revenue that is used in programs for the benefit of the public.
Understanding what the Bible says about gambling all depends on your comprehension and interpretation as it does not directly quote betting. Such silence breeds fertile grounds for discussion and disagreement. Opinions on the morality of betting vary from total abstinence to acceptance in moderation. The Bible does, however, offer a few guiding principles that disclose how God feels about gambling.
What the Bible Says About Gambling
Winning money at the expense of others is gambling’s essential nature. This is against the Bible’s teachings “to guard against every sort of greed (Luke 12: 15- Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”) gambling in itself is fueled by greed to gain even more than you already have. Gaming platforms promote big jackpots while not talking about the poor odds of winning. They know that fantasies of “get rich quick” are more popular among players and prompt them to bet vast amounts at casinos. Gambling promotes the urge and desire for easy money rather than help people guard themselves against greed and covetousness.
Gambling is also based on a deeply-rooted selfish goal which is winning cash that has been lost by other players. The Bible, however, talk about this in 1 Corinthians 10: 24; “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (KJV). One of the commandments also states that in Exodus 20:17; “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”(NIV). When a gambler puts his heart in winning a bet, he is hoping that another man loses their money so that he can profit.
The Bible also advises against seeing good luck as a mystic force that will grant blessings. In ancient Israel, some who lacked faith in God began “setting a table for the god of Good Luck.” Such devotion to the god of Good Luck was unacceptable to God and he said to them, “But as for you who forsake the Lordand forget my holy mountain,who spread a table for Fortuneand fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny,I will destine you for the sword,and all of you will fall in the slaughter;for I called, but you did not answer,I spoke, but you did not listen.You did evil in my sightand chose what displeases me.” (Isaiah 65: 11, 12).
The Bible stresses the supremacy of God in Matthew 10: 29-30; “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (KJV). Gambling is, however, based on chance. The Bible goes ahead to advise us to work creatively and for the benefit of others in Ephesians 4: 28; “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth,” (KJV). Gambling, on the other hand, nurtures an attitude of “something for nothing.”
The Bible cautions against materialism in Matthew 6: 24, 25; “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (KJV). Gambling, on the other hand, promotes materialism.
In the letter of St. Paul, Colossians 3: 23-24; “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (NIV). This message consecrates work as instituted by God, and those who toil with all their might will be rewarded by God. Gambling, in comparison to this tends to be a pass-time activity that benefits men.
In 2 Thessalonians 3: 7-10, Paul wrote, “For you, yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (NIV). St. Paul emphasizes more on the sanctification of work and the importance of man to eat of his sweat. Gambling feeds people with quick-money illusions, thereby deviating them from the true meaning of work.
The Bible approves of a couple of ways to honestly obtain goods or make money;
- Working to make money
- Acquire goods through barter trade
- Receiving lifetime gifts or inheritance after death
The scripture rebukes any acquiring anything through lying, stealing, or cheating. It also condemns the desire to obtain what belongs to other people.
Some may argue that in some parts of the world, proceeds of legalized gambling are used to fund education, economic development, and other state programs. The use of that money, however, does not change how it was obtained- through activities that promote selfishness and greed and encourage the idea of getting something for nothing.
Effects of gambling according to the Bible
The Bible cautions in 1 Timothy 6:9 that “those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (NIV). Gambling is based on greed, and greed is so harmful that the Bible names it as one among other habits that one should strongly avoid in Ephesians 5: 3; “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people”. (NIV)
As s gambling focuses on easy wealth, it fosters a love for money. The Bible identifies money as the root of all sorts of damaging and hurtful things in 1 Timothy 6: 10; “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (NIV). The yearning for money can easily become an overwhelming authority in someone’s life hence creating intense anxiety and negatively affecting one’s faith in God. Literally speaking, the Book defines those entangled by the love of money as having “pierced themselves all over with many pains.”
Greediness leads to discontent, leading to people being dissatisfied with their financial status and taking away their happiness from them. Ecclesiastes 5: 10; “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (KJV)
Many people who have been tempted to gambling have found themselves trapped by the brutal addiction to gambling. This disorder is prevalent, and millions of gambling addicts have been recorded in the United States alone.
One verse in Proverbs 20: 21 states; “An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning, but the end thereof shall not be blessed.” Betting has thrust many into debt and others to the extent of bankruptcy and cost many others jobs, marriages and friendships.
Is gambling a sin?
The issue of gambling being evil is quite a difficult issue. If betting is done in moderation and only once in a while, then it can just be classified as an entertainment or a waste of money to others, but not necessarily evil. People spend money on all manner of activities and items. Gambling is no more or less a splurge of money than going out for a movie, coughing out cash on an extravagantly costly dinner or purchasing an item you don’t necessarily need. On the other end, wasting money on many different things does not justify gambling. Money should be put into thoughtful and necessary use while saving the surplus for your future needs, or given for a worthy cause such as charity, rather than gambling away.
As the Bible does not mention gambling explicitly, it does talk about “luck” and “chance.” Casting lots, for example, is used in the book of Leviticus to choose between the scapegoat and the sacrificial goat. Joshua has to cast lots to determine the allocation of land to the different tribes. Nehemiah also casts lots to decide who should live inside the walls of Jerusalem. The disciples cast lots to determine who will be the replacement of Judas. Proverbs 16: 33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap,but it’s every decision is from the Lord” (NIV).
When gambling is used as a source of entertainment, and only on occasion, then it is not harmful. The most essential thing should be guarding yourself against wasteful betting and addiction.