People often try to justify their desire to gamble by saying, “after all, life itself is risky.” Investing in the stock market, crossing the street, riding in an airplane, falling in love, getting married, even doing church work all carry with them an element of risk. People also try to justify gambling by pointing to the element of chance that was involved in the Old Testament use of lots or the Urim and Thummim, and in the New Testament method of choosing Judas’ successor. However, there is no legitimate point of comparison between the type of chance involved in these Scriptural practices and the type of chance involved in gambling. The Old Testament lots were specifically sanctioned and commanded by God (Lev. 1:8, Josh. 14:2, Ex. 28:30, Num. 27:21, Dt. 33:8). Gamblers today cannot produce such commands of God for the lots they cast! Likewise, in the choice of Matthias to succeed Judas no real risk was involved, Both candidates, Justus and Matthias, were fully qualified for the position, so the final choice was entrusted to the Lord in prayer.
The real crux of the problem of gambling is not the element of risk or chance, but the question of motivation. This is the real heart of the problem, for if the motivation involved is wrong, gambling is wrong even when the element of skill predominates over simple chance.
The basic purpose of most gambling is not to help and serve others, but to help ourselves at their expense. Luther observed: No one gambles with another in order to give away to the other what is his own (for he could do that without gambling), nor in order to lose what is his own, nor in order to seek the gain of the other man as though it were his own. This is why gambling is always contrary to love and is motivated by greed because a man seeks, to the harm of another, what does not belong to him.
The basic Christian objection to gambling is that it is an attempt to gain something from our neighbor without giving a fair service in return. If we really love our neighbor, will we wish to win at his expense? In gambling are we heeding the admonition of Scripture, Philippians 2:4 ‘Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.’ Christians must keep two facts in mind when seeking gain or profit from their activities. They must give fair labor in exchange for what they receive. They seek to earn for themselves, not from selfish motivation, but in order to be of service to others. Ephesians 4:28 “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”
A Christian’s life is to be devoted to serving others, not to serving self. In most games of gambling, part of the enjoyment is taking advantage of someone else’s loss. Gambling is nonproductive, and can be justified only by arguing its entertainment value or the good use made of a portion of the revenue. Since the end never justifies the means, gambling cannot be justified on these grounds if greed is involved. The fact that dishonesty and selfish motivation can be practiced in any form of business cannot be used as an excuse to justify gambling, if gain at the expense of another is part of the very nature of gambling. The common consent involved in gambling does not excuse the stealing involved in gambling anymore than common consent excuses the murder involved in dueling.
The Bible does not specifically forbid gambling, but there are several biblical principles that should make Christians hesitate to participate:
- God presents work as the normal way to get the money we need (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:12).
- When a person cannot work, the second choice is prayer (Phil. 4:6, 19).
All my income belongs to God, not me (Psalms 24:1), and I am not free to use it as I wish. I am a steward, who should use it for God’s purposes. Christians are called on to meet the needs of their family (1 Tim. 5:8), and share with others, particularly Christians who have needs (2 Cor 8-9; Gal. 6:6-10; 3 John).
Does God want me to use His money to buy a lottery ticket? God uses money to accomplish important purposes in my life:
Meet basic needs (Matt. 6:11; I Tim. 6:8).
Build character (Phil 4:10-13)
Give direction, by providing or withholding resources.
Helping others through me.
Show His power by providing miraculously.
Gambling does not accomplish any of these things. In fact, it hinders these things being accomplished in my life. So, a person must ask themselves, “Am I looking to God or to the lottery for my needs?”
The Bible says that it is required of a steward that a man be found faithful 1 Cor 4:3). Since we are to be stewards of everything we have, (not just our money), and we are to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), gambling that which we have stewardship over is directly opposite of a life of faith.
Greed and covetousness are sin (Exo. 20:18; I Tim. 6:9; Heb. 13:5), and these are motives in most gambling. The book of Proverbs warns of disaster for people who want to get rich quickly (28:20, 22). Not only that, wealth that comes easily goes just as easily (Pro. 13:11). AND, if it is gained the wrong way it can even break up families (Pro. 15:27).