Is Gambling Harmless?
(Don't Bet On It)
By Pastor Dean Robinson
The story is told about a prominent American who was visiting the country of Argentina and was asked by the president of that country, "Why has South America prospered so poorly and North America has prospered so well? What do you think is the reason?
The visitor replied, "I think the reason is found in the fact that the Spaniards came to South America seeking gold, while the Pilgrim Fathers came to North America seeking God."
There is a good point to that statement but unfortunately things have changed in this country. America has now bowed down to the treacherous and ensnaring god of mammon, i.e. materialism and riches. Just look around and watch how people go berserk over the lottery games that are available.
After being condemned as a social evil for years, gambling has now become an acceptable practice. State lotteries and church bingos have promoted and dignified gambling so as to make it appear as a harmless pastime and a respectable recreation. Critical financial needs and the glowing reports of multi-million dollar lottery winners have whetted the appetites of many who hope to win a fortune.
A popular slogan promoting the lottery says: "Millions won weekly," but it fails to tell the other side of the story: countless millions of dollars lost weekly, not to mention ruined lives, broken homes, hungry children, and the accompanying rise in organized crime, prostitution, and theft.
Our nation has become a nation of gamblers. Countless millions of Americans play the lottery today and billions of dollars are spent every year in just the casinos, not including the state government sanctioned lotteries and other avenues of gambling.
Today we have everything from raffles to bingo to scratch-to-win lotteries to power-ball lotteries to horse and dog racing, to all the casinos that present themselves as a temptation to people, even to the child of God in a world that has gone hysterical over quick cash and easy money. In a time span of just 5 years, America moved from having legalized gambling in just two states to now in 48 states.
Usually when you mention the Bible and gambling in the same breath, most people believe the Bible has little or nothing to say on the subject. In fact, so many have believed this falsehood that even so-called Christians are now getting into the game, spending a dollar or two each week for a chance to win millions. While there is no 11th commandment that specifically says: "Thou shalt not gamble," the Bible has plenty to say about all the games of chance and get-rich-quick schemes.
Gambling Violates God's Word
The tenth commandment declares: "Thou shalt not covet..." (Exodus 20:17). Coveting is desiring what belongs to someone else; it is wanting more than you already have. No one can deny that the entire gambling industry is based on greed. Proverbs 15:27 denounces greed -- "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live." Statistics prove that this verse is true.
Almost 20% of all wife abuse cases involve compulsive gambling. A magazine article reported that as gambling increases, there is also an increase in the proportion of divorce or separation, disagreement about money matters with one's spouse, lack of understanding between married partners, and more reported problems among gambler's children. One fourth of the children of compulsive gamblers have problems at school, are substance abusers, gamble themselves, run away from home, or are arrested. The Bible is right. He who is greedy of gain does, in fact, trouble his own household.
There are other passages that deal with and condemn greed, materialism, and covetousness:
"The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not." (Proverbs 21:25-26)
"And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (Luke 12:15)
According to Colossians 3:5, covetousness is idolatry. The Bible warns us in Ephesians 5:3, "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints."
To gamble requires seeking prosperity at the expense of others. No one gambles to lose. The prime motivation for all forms of gambling is to gain what is not ours. That is covetousness.
Just in case the tenth commandment is not enough to convince you that the Bible takes a definite anti-gambling stance, there's the eighth commandment: "Thou shalt not steal." (Exodus 20:15) Jackpots are taken from others, others who have gotten nothing for it in return. Legalized state lotteries have become government sanctioned stealing, particularly from the poor, robbing families of the necessities of life. This is a violation of the eighth commandment. Somebody once said: "Gambling is stealing by mutual consent."
The ambition for worldly goods has destroyed many lives and is strictly forbidden by the Lord. That doesn't mean that it is sinful to prosper. God has often blessed His people with material goods, only because they gave Him first place, top priority in their lives. However, that does not give us the right to seek wealth. We are to serve God and be satisfied with what He gives us. "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5)
It's been stated that God is not anti-material goods; He is anti-grab all you can. The more you have to live for, the less you need to live on. Those who make possessions their goal and materialism their god will never have enough.
"The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season." (Psalms 145:15) It seems many people do not believe what this verse says. We seem, rather, to have many desires that we believe can only be met by the purchase of a winning lottery ticket or by the pull of a slot machine's arm at just the right moment.
The Lord Jesus said our Heavenly Father knows all our needs and that He will supply them: "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:31-33)
The apostle Paul declared in 1 Timothy 6:8 that having food and clothing, we should be content. The problem then, seems to be, that many of us have difficulty separating what we genuinely need from what we just plain want. While there is no eleventh commandment saying, "Thou shalt not gamble," it is easy to see that gambling is an act of discontentment with God's provision.
Gambling is really an insult to God. He says He will supply all of our needs (Phil.4:19); even
2 Corinthians 9:8 says that God will see to it that His children will have all sufficiency in all things. When we gamble, we are in effect saying to the Lord that He cannot or will not keep His promises. Gambling is not an act of faith; it is a denial of the faith. It is a denial of the truths of God's Holy Word.
Gambling Perpetuates Laziness
Gambling is morally wrong because it is an attempt to get something for nothing. This destroys initiative and creates laziness. Instead of rolling up his sleeves and going to work, the gambler hopes to live off the misfortune of others. This attitude of getting something for nothing is destroying America.
Webster's dictionary defines gambling as playing for money. But God never intended that man play for money to meet his needs. God intended that man work to meet his needs. Genesis 3:19 talks about "in the sweat of thy face," i.e. work for a living. Nevertheless, through the ages, Satan has whispered to mankind that there must be an easier way to make a living and one of those ways he suggests is gambling. But it is contradiction to God's Word.
"Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase." (Proverbs 13:11)
The book of 2 Thess.3:10 says: "that if any would not work, neither should he eat." God intends that we earn our living by honest labor. God never intended that man gamble or play for money to meet his needs. It should also be pointed out that God did not intend for man to work so that he could gamble away his paycheck. According to the Word of God, work comes before wealth, sowing before reaping. It is the gambler that seeks to reap what others have sown.
Gambling Degenerates A Person's Character
A judge was once quoted as saying: "Gambling has grown gigantically as a business which produces nothing but embezzlers, forgers, pickpockets, burglars, and bandits."
Gambling is a much more serious problem than many think. "Today's Health" magazine stated, "Gambling is America's most unrecognized social cancer." In 1980 pathological gambling was certified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.
In the mid 1950's the Gamblers Anonymous was established to help people deal with their gambling problems. Over 15 years ago there were virtually no women or teenagers in the Gamblers Anonymous. Today over 20% are teenagers and 25% are women. Realization is growing that gambling is as addictive as alcohol and drugs and is a harder addiction to cure than either drug or alcohol abuse.
The compulsive gambler today is likely to be somewhere under 30 years of age and about $85,000 in debt. Nationally, on an average, a compulsive gambler will be in debt for about 2 years salary or about $45,000-50,000 dollars, before he seeks help.
Gambling Obliterates Families
When the gambler loses, the children go hungry, wives do without, bills go unpaid, tension builds, arguments increase, and eventually the family is destroyed. The gambler doesn't have time for his wife and children. He would rather be at the race track or the poker table than with his family. The compulsion to gamble destroys a man's compassion for his family to the point that he is willing to neglect them to satisfy his own carnal desires. I remind you of 1 Timothy 5:8, "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." (1 Timothy 5:8)
Gambling Alleviates Respect For The Law
When pressed for funds people will resort to all sorts of illegal activities to finance their gambling habit. They will steal from their loved ones, write bad checks, and even commit armed robbery. A Senator from Wisconsin said this in regard to legalized gambling: "The idea that legalized gambling will be a revenue raiser is an illusion. Every dollar raised from such sources means $5 dollars spent in higher police costs and relief costs." A former police officer said: "For every dollar received in gambling taxes, government spends $10 dollars fighting problems directly related to legalized gambling -- prostitution, embezzlement, bad checks, and police corruption." It is a known fact that racketeers and mobsters swarm to gambling communities and bring with them other sordid businesses.
Is Gambling Just A Harmless Game?
The bottom line about gambling is that it totally disregards the warning and teaching of 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."
The entire passage of 1 Timothy 6:6-10 warns us about the dangers of covetousness. Verse 6 teaches that wealth does not bring contentment. The word "contentment" means: an inner sufficiency that keeps us at peace in spite of outward circumstances. Paul used the same word in Phil.4:11, "for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
True contentment comes from godliness in the heart, not wealth in the hand. A person who depends on material things for peace and assurance will never be satisfied, for material things have a way of losing their appeal.
Verse 7 teaches that wealth is not lasting.
Verse 8 teaches that our basic needs are easily met. Food, clothing, and shelter are basic needs. Somebody once said that "a man is wealthy in proportion to the number of things he can afford to do without." We are so glutted with luxuries that we have forgotten how to enjoy our necessities.
Verse 9-10 reveals that the desire for wealth leads to sin, sorrow, and shame. The phrase "will be" (v.9) means to want to above all else. To be in such a position puts you in danger of experiencing temptations, snares, foolish and hurtful lusts. This describes a person who has to have more and more material things in order to be happy and feel successful. But riches are a trap; they lead to bondage, not freedom. Instead of giving satisfaction, riches create additional lusts and desires that must be satisfied. Instead of providing help and health, an excess of material things hurts and wounds. The result Paul describes is a picture of a man drowning.
A world of pain and misery could be avoided if people would steer clear of the gambling trap. Whether it is playing bingo, betting on a ball game, or buying a lottery ticket, we should refuse to participate. It's not the amount of money involved that is the problem; it is the principle of the matter.
"He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity." (Ecclesiastes 5:10) You can be sure that following the Lord and His Holy Word is no gamble. No one is a loser who does that.
In summary, gambling encourages greed; it encourages materialism and discontent; it encourages "get rich quick" kind of thinking; it encourages reckless and wasteful investment of God-given resources; it discourages honest labor; and it discourages faith and trust in an all- sufficient, all-knowing, loving God.
"Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven." (Proverbs 23:4-5) Here we are warned not to be guided by human wisdom which places priority on being successful in this world and making a lot of money. Pursuing wealth is like chasing the wind: a man can never get enough of it and it is hard to keep. Getting rich is the goal of many people. However this is a misleading and deceptive goal because it focuses our attention on the wrong world. We better pay attention to the Bible when it says, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col.3:2).
I believe that God's people can be guilty of falling into the trap of covetousness, coveting after someone else's belongings or possessions. We can be just as easily enslaved by desiring for that which we don't have or being discontent with what we do have.
"A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." (Proverbs 28:20) That word "innocent" means guiltless or unpunished. What we must do is to remain faithful unto God and trust Him, not the lottery, to supply and meet our every need, whether it be physical, material, or spiritual.
The question we need to answer for ourselves is: does God own us or does material gain own us? If the latter is true, you can be sure there are some serious spiritual deficits in your life.
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