GLEANINGS FROM THE SCRIPTURES
A Scriptural View of Gambling
By Keith L. Estes
The late Larry Burkett in his book, "Using Your Money Wisely- Guidelines from Scripture" reminds us of our responsibility as Christians.
In order to evaluate gambling scripturally, we must first determine what it is. If it's labor, then it has scriptural value. "In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty" (Proverbs 14:23)
Well, gambling may be labor for a pit boss in Vegas, but for the gamblers, it's a scheme to escape labor, at least in most instances. Gambling is perhaps the ultimate in get-rich-quick schemes. It satisfies every element of get-rich-quick schemes. It satisfies every element of get-rich-quick: 1. The participants are encouraged to risk money they usually can't afford to lose. (2) They know little or nothing about what they are doing. (3) They're forced to make hasty decisions. (4) The whole idea is to operate on the "greater sucker" theory. In other words, when you dump money into the slot machine, you believe there was a greater sucker who risked his money and then quit just before the big jackpot.
Any get-rich-quick scheme is developed to entrap the weak and especially the poor. After all, what does a wealthy man need with a get-rich-quick scheme? Gambling is an almost irresistible enticement to someone who desires to meet the wants and desires of his family but finds that he cannot. That's why the state lotteries are so popular. We don't have to wonder about the state of our society when governments resort to enticing their citizens to gamble to raise funds.
"Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit" (Matthew 7:17)
Gambling, in the strictest sense, is as much a sin as having a false weight in your bag. To entice someone to gain money at the certain loss of another violates virtually every principle taught by Christ. It breeds and promotes selfishness, greed, and covetousness.
"For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things" (Philippians 3:18-19)
A sin, according to God's Word, means missing the mark. Regardless of how socially acceptable the practice of gambling has become, it is still preying upon the weaknesses of others. It does not help to expand the gospel and, therefore, is a sin to a follower of Jesus Christ.
"So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:10)
To preempt the question about this conclusion's being a legalism rather than a principle, you need only do a survey of Paul's letters We are first told, as believers, to live by a standard higher than the world's (Romans 12:2). Also, we are told to do nothing that would give cause for offense or that might discredit our ministry (2 Corinthians 6:3). Even if a Christian believes that he is free to gamble, the truth is it will cause others to stumble. We are clearly directed in 1 Corinthians 8:13 to avoid anything that would cause a weaker brother to stumble.
Many people are compulsive gamblers. A compulsive gambler is as addicted to risk taking as a dope addict is to drugs. He will bet on virtually anything and will rob his kid's piggy bank if necessary. Every church has at least one compulsive gambler, and some churches have several. All too often, they are supported out of a church benevolence fund without the benevolence groups even knowing about the gambling. The way to overcome this is to require counseling for any benevolence fund recipient and absolutely require that both husband and wife attend.
Larry Burkett, who has counseled several gamblers says, "I have found several common characteristics to look for. First, there is an unusually high debt load with little or no logical explanation for it. Second, there will be a history of borrowing from virtually every friend and family member. Third, you will find a vehement denial of anything to do with gambling. It is often in response to a direct question about gambling that the spouse will usually reveal the truth. A compulsive gambler may hide his secret from the outside world but not from a spouse. Any gambler needs love and acceptance, but it must be accompanied by accountability. He needs to be held accountable to pay his debts, tell the truth, and stay away from all gambling. If God's people don't hold to this same standard, it's rather hard to give good counsel to a compulsive gambler."