Gambling and the Bible

Recently in a southern city a young man was canvassing the community selling chances on $25.00 to be given away by local church of which the boy was a member. After carefully learning from the youngster the facts, one of his contacts asked him, "Isn't that gambling?" The reply was, "Not if I do it for the church".

It is a modern tragedy that some religious organizations resort to methods of gambling in order to raise money for their operations. Here a boy was being taught by a religious group to feel that a thing wrong in itself was all right if done in the interest of his church. The New Testament teaches the Christian to give of his free-will unto God and the church (I Corinthians 16:1-2). This story illustrates that not only secular groups, but religious groups as well are involved in this widespread sin of gambling. The argument that the end justifies the means is not new. It has been the rallying cry of every tyrant throughout history. It is a double tragedy, however, when it it used as a means of justifying the sin of gambling by those who claim to represent God's work.

Gambling is defined by Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as "to play or game for money or other stake; to hazard; wager." Connected with gambling is the strong element of uncertainty, the large chance of losing. It has been popularly defined as "getting something for nothing without rendering service or exchange of goods, and is essentially stealing and a form of robbery". It involves taking a risk in order to obtain something for nothing and often means losing what one has and obtaining nothing.

Why do people gamble? Some people gamble because of the thrill they receive from the uncertainty connected with it. The more that this attitude pervades them, the more gambling becomes a kind of incurable disease with them. Others gamble because of their strong desire to obtain something for nothing, Others gamble because it makes an egotistic appeal to them to excel over others and win the rewards of the game. Whatever the motives and purposes, gambling is contrary to the teachings of God's Word and is therefore sinful.

Gambling is a way of practicing dishonesty. It is a form of taking what does not rightfully belong to a person. Interested in obtaining something for nothing, the gambler tries in every way to attain his ends, and usually is concerned to learn all the "tricks" he can. He is interested in "fleecing" those that are inexperienced. Gambling often takes the wages from innocent mothers and children and returns nothing. Along with gambling frequently goes cheating, and both are forms of dishonesty. Paul states, "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth" Ephesians 4:28. Although the word "gambling" does not appear in the Bible, the practice is clearly condemned in numerous passages of scripture. Gambling is based on the evil desire to get money or goods which belong to someone else without giving fair value in exchange. The Bible calls this sin "covetousness" and makes it clear that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Romans 1:28-32).

Because gambling encourages the "getting something for nothing" philosophy, it also encourages laziness and indolence. Men and women who set out on a career of gambling shun honest labor and become parasites. States and cities where gambling is legalized and a "big business" become mere parasites living off the productive labor of others. Such statements as Paul made in II Thessalonians 3:10,11, certainly conflict with the gambler's ideal of living.

Will Oursler in an article on graft and corruption in New York City, makes this frank statement: "Large scale gambling, traditionally the fountainhead of all crime, cannot be carried on without police knowledge and acquiescence." When gambling flourishes the underworld is strong. Murder and government corruption are its companions. "Evil companionships corrupt good morals" (I Corinthians 15:33 American Standard Version). Paul teaches Christians to "Abstain from all appearance of evil" I Thessalonians 5:22.

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