Playing cards have long been a source of controversy among some Christians who believe they are associated with gambling, divination, and even demonic influences. As Christians, it’s important we evaluate such claims Biblically and seek God’s wisdom. This post will examine the history of playing cards, claims of occult associations, relevant Bible passages, and provide some guidance for Christians on this issue.
Playing cards have been around in various forms since the 14th century. Today, a standard deck has 52 cards divided into 4 suits – hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades. Each suit contains numbered cards from 2 to 10, plus a Jack, Queen, King and Ace. They are most commonly used for games, magic tricks and gambling.
While a harmless pastime for many, some Christians argue that cards are evil and should be avoided. Often cited are associations with gambling, cartomancy (divination using cards), and ties to the occult. It’s true that cards are used in fortune telling and spiritualist practices. So are these reasons enough to abstain from cards completely? Let’s dig deeper.
- Cards themselves are not inherently evil, but how we use them can be. As with many things, discernment is required.
- The Bible does not specifically mention playing cards. Principles on divination and luck are relevant.
- Avoiding cards because of gambling ties is understandable. But occasional games between family and friends may be fine.
- Abstaining from cards can be a personal conviction. But take care not to judge others unnecessarily.
- As with all entertainment, be wary of addiction. Make sure cards don’t distract from godly living.
- Seek God in prayer over this issue. Your convictions may differ from others.
Are Cards Inherently Evil?
To answer this question, we need to first recognize that objects themselves are not good or evil. Even if cards have ties to immoral practices like divination, the cards themselves have no moral value. The morality or acceptability comes in how we use them.
Consider a knife. It can be used by a surgeon to save lives. Or it could be used by a murderer to end lives. The knife itself is neutral – it is the purpose and manner in which it is used that determines whether it is used for good or evil.
The same goes for playing cards. The plastic or paper they are printed on is not inherently moral or immoral. They are simply tools that can be used for recreation, gambling, divination or other purposes. Their acceptability comes down to how and why we use them.
This is an important distinction because some Christians go so far as to claim cards are literally portals for demonic oppression or dark spiritual forces. There is no credible evidence that this is the case. Cards are physical objects made of paper or plastic. The symbols, artwork and numbers printed on them have no supernatural powers.
The Bible does not mention standard playing cards anywhere. Claims of demonic ties are speculation at best. This is not to dismiss genuine cases of occult practices that utilize cards – but the solution is to avoid those practices, not the cards themselves.
The Bible on Divination and Luck
While the Bible does not mention playing cards, it has much to say about practices like divination, sorcery, and luck – things that playing cards are sometimes associated with.
Several Old Testament passages condemn divination and other occult practices:
- “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12)
- “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them.” (Leviticus 19:31)
Divination and sorcery were clearly forbidden as pagan/occult practices. The motive was worshipping false gods and having sources of guidance apart from God.
Some Christians go further and argue that since cards are used in fortune telling, they should be completely avoided. However, this logic would also apply to tea leaves, crystal balls, Ouija boards and a great many things appropriated by the occult. The evil is in the practice of divination, not any objects that may be involved.
As for luck, the Bible condemns putting faith in chance or random outcomes rather than in God’s sovereignty:
- “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)
- “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)
Relying on “luck” via games of chance is foolish, since God determines all outcomes. However, this is different from playing an occasional game with friends or family without treating it as real gambling. The problem comes when the activity becomes addictive, risky, or supplants trust in God.
So in regards to cards, what matters most is the purpose, manner of use and level of obsession – not the cards themselves. Discernment about specific situations is key rather than blind avoidance.
Are Cards Acceptable in Moderation?
Given the above, are playing cards acceptable for Christians in moderation? Opinions vary on this, and convictions may differ between individuals. There are several factors to consider:
- Your Conscience: Some may feel any use of cards has occult ties they want to avoid. Others have no issue if cards are used casually and not for divination/gambling. Let your personal convictions guide you, and don’t force them on others (Romans 14:1-6).
- Stumbling Block: If your use of cards could make a brother or sister stumble, it may be loving to abstain (1 Corinthians 8:9-13). This likely depends on your Christian community.
- Associations: Completely avoiding cards may be prudent if you have struggled with addiction to gambling or divination. Fleeing temptation can help break bonds from sin (2 Timothy 2:22).
- Motive: Using cards purely for innocent recreation between friends is far different than fortune telling or high-stakes gambling. But be wary of rationalizing questionable motivations.
- Addiction: As with all entertainment, be cautious of excessive use that wastes time, causes isolation or distracts from godly living. Games becoming obsessions is a real concern.
- Alternatives: If abstaining from cards, consider substituting family games that avoid occult ties, gambling associations and addictive properties.
Overall, the moderate use of standard playing cards between family and friends is likely acceptable. But this assumes avoiding gambling, divination, addiction and any occult/demonic elements. Err on the side of caution when unsure. Always seek God’s wisdom humbly in prayer.
Romans 14 and Personal Convictions
Romans 14 contains great guidance on handling differences over personal convictions between Christians. In disputes over eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul writes:
“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters… Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” (Romans 14:1,4)
The chapter argues that rather than judge each other harshly, we should keep personal convictions between ourselves and God. We will each answer to Him directly.
This applies neatly to disagreements over cards between Christians. One may feel complete avoidance is best. Another practices moderation without issue. As long as no objective sin is occurring, we should accept each other charitably (Romans 14:13).
Conclusion: Seek Discernment from God
The issue of playing cards is complex with good cases on both sides. As Christians, we should seek to apply Biblical principles in our evaluation, while exercising personal discernment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Cards themselves are not inherently good or evil. But the manner we use them, our motivations, and potential for excess are important considerations. Complete avoidance of cards due to associations with gambling and divination is understandable. But moderate use between family and friends need not be prohibited.
As in all areas of Christian freedom, rely on Scripture, prayer, and your Spirit-guided conscience to make wise decisions. Be especially mindful not to develop additions or stumble younger believers.
Above all, remember that our righteousness comes not from rule keeping but from Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Seek to build each other up in love, not tear down over disputable matters.