The Truth about Gambling


      A simple definition of gambling is: "To play at any game of chance for stakes…to stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance…bet; wager…any matter or things involving risk or hazardous uncertainty" (Random House College Dictionary, pg. 542). Much of America is currently obsessed with gambling. Statistics (several years old) inform us that some 50,000,000 Americans gamble. Fifty billion is spent annually on gambling. Statistics from the mid sixties reveal more is spent on gambling than on education, religion, or medical care (Mr. Money, Mania and Morals, by Starkey, 1964). One book dedicated to the facts of gambling informs us that the total taken away from the public by gambling in America is greater than the combined profits of the United States steel, General Motors, General Electric - in fact, more than the combined profits from all the one hundred largest U.S. companies (Gambling in America).

     A large number of States and municipalities have now turned to gambling (lotteries, etc.) to generate revenue. Many Americans never think about gambling from the standpoint of right or wrong. Calling gambling gaming has cleverly removed much of the societal stigma which once rightly plagued gambling. What is the truth, as found in the Bible, pertaining to gambling?

     Gambling is often big business in religion.  Bingo is a big money generator in a number of religions.  Church raffles where money is staked in order to win money is common and seldom questioned by many religionists today.  "So what if it is gambling," some argue, "the money is for a good cause!"  Some of my brethren gamble by staking money (paying an entrance fee) upon entering a golf or fishing tournament in order to win a prize or purse.

     Gambling violates God's legitimate laws of obtaining money. The Bible contains legitimate ways for man to obtain moneys. There is the law of labor (Gen. 3: 19, Eph. 4: 28), the law of exchange (Matt. 25: 9), and the law of love (gift, Eph. 4: 28, Jn. 3: 16). Gambling, stealing, etc. do not come under any of these legitimate methods; hence, gambling is wrong. Gambling bespeaks the mentality of "something for nothing."

     Gambling involves tragic waste. Material things are to be used for the glory of God, not squandered away in gambling (Lk. 16: 9, Eph. 4: 28). John Gates, once a multi-millionaire, advised: "Do not gamble, do not bet on cards, do not bet on horse races, do not throw dice." Gates played bridge for $1,000.00 a point and matched pennies for $1,000.00 a turn. He lost all he had and died broke in 1911. A sign advertising a business close to my house reads, "Win 25 percent of the time." Of course, that means you lose 75 percent of the time!

     Gambling involves covetousness. Epithumeo, one verb translated covetousness in the New Testament, is a compound word consisting of epi, upon and thumos, passion. Hence, to fix passion upon. Epithumeo vividly describes much of the mind-set which often surrounds the gambling climate. Appreciate the fact "thou shalt not covet" is mentioned in the same sentence as "thou shalt not commit adultery…kill…steal, and …bear false witness (Rom. 13: 9). Greed and avarice characterize gambling from the tossing of dice for gain in a dark alley to the multi-million dollar well lighted gambling palace.

     Gambling is wrong because of its fruit. Jesus said, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7: 20). The State where I live (Colorado) brags about all the good being accomplished with the State generated gambling revenues. Our governor, who initially opposed State gambling, said "It is inconsistent for the State to sponsor and resort to gambling as a means of funding the building of prisons when many of the convicts serving time therein are there because of gambling related infractions" (paraphrase mine, dm). J. Edgar Hoover said, "Gambling is a vicious evil, it corrupts our youth and blights the lives of adults. It becomes the spring-board for other crimes - embezzlement, robbery, even murder." Two writers of antiquity wrote: "…by gambling men are led to fraud, cheating, lying, perjury, theft and other enormities" (Tacitus and Marcellinus).

     Beloved, the foregoing is the truth about gambling. Striped of all its euphemisms and white-wash, it is a practice which continues to destroy lives and reap havoc on families in a country which once vehemently denounced gambling for the vice it is!