What is “gambling”? Dictionaries define “gamble” as “to play games of chance for money,” “to risk money on uncertain gain,” “to stake or risk money, etc. in the hope of great gain.” But gambling is not just taking a risk. Gambling takes place when risk is artificially created in order possibly to lose one’s own possession. It is an attempt, through chance, to gain the possession of another. Both cannot win—someone must lose.
Forms of gambling in our society include card games, throwing dice for money, slot machines, betting on horse or dog races, betting on sporting events, buying lottery tickets, and playing bingo for money or prizes. We must take the time to study God’s Word and then think through these activities. Otherwise, we may well consider them to be harmless forms of entertainment. But we simply must think and meditate upon what God tells us in His Word.
One principle that runs throughout the Bible is that of stewardship. The Bible repeatedly and consistently paints the picture that God is the ultimate owner of all earthly possessions. The psalmist observed that the Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). James wrote that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). Jesus referred to humans as stewards—those who are entrusted to take care of another’s property (Luke 12:42). And He declared that every person has the moral responsibility to be a faithful steward of the money that has been entrusted to him (Luke 16:10-11). Yet, each year people shell out billions of dollars gambling away the money that has been entrusted to them by God. Imagine the good, wholesome projects that could be supported annually by such enormous stores of cash—children could be fed, the Gospel could be preached, houses could be built, and the list goes on. Instead of such worthwhile projects, however, these billions of dollars are pumped into a system that leads to addiction and abuse. It would be difficult, indeed, to conclude that gambling is good stewardship of the money with which God has entrusted a person. In reality, to pour one’s money into a system that mathematically and statistically has been proven, time and again, to benefit the “house,” and take from the gambler, certainly would fall into the category of unfaithful stewardship. Concerning unfaithful stewardship, Christ said: “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [money or riches], who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11). To stand before the throne of Christ, having squandered the money God entrusted to you on an idle and degenerative activity like gambling, would be a frightening thought indeed.
Gambling also does not fit with the work ethic that is so clearly taught in God’s Word. God wants people to labor, to work with their hands, to toil with the sweat of their brow. Paul said: “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). He also wrote: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). In order to have food to eat in Thessalonica, he “worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:8). He also wrote: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat,” and those who were not working were to “work in quietness and eat their own bread” (vss. 10,12). God wants people to work, toil, and labor—not gamble!
The Bible also teaches that we should not be covetous or greedy. God wants people to work to have money for daily living—for self, family, and the needy (1 Timothy 5:8; Galatians 6:10). But “making money to live” is very different from “living to make money.” God has always warned people not to lust after this world’s riches (Colossians 3:5; 1 John 2:15-17). Paul spoke of those who “are minded to be rich,” who have “the love of money” and who “trust in uncertain riches” (1 Timothy 6:9,10,17). Gambling is extremely addictive and promotes the “love-of-money” attitude that God’s Word so clearly condemns.
The fact is, Christians can have good clean fun and enjoy themselves, without gambling!