Playing cards have long been associated with gambling, divination, and leisurely games. As harmless as a deck of cards may seem, many Christians view them as dangerous and sinful. In this article, we will explore the symbolic meanings and spiritual implications behind playing cards from an Evangelical and Charismatic Christian perspective.
Playing cards originated in China in the 9th century and spread to Europe in the 14th century. While initially used for gaming and gambling, over time playing cards developed deeper occult, mystical, and divinatory meanings. Today, a standard deck of 52 cards consists of four suits (spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds) with 13 cards per suit (Ace through 10, plus Jack, Queen, and King). Jokers were later added as wildcard cards.
This seemingly innocuous pastime raises spiritual concerns for many believers. What values and worldviews do playing cards promote? Do they open doorways to demonic oppression or the occult? As Christians, we are called to avoid every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). So we must carefully examine playing cards through the lens of Scripture.
- Playing cards have pagan origins and symbolism that conflicts with Christian values.
- Throughout history, playing cards have been associated with gambling, divination, and the occult.
- Cards promote a love of money, greedy gain, obsession with luck, and an ungodly view of the future.
- The four suits and face cards contain esoteric meanings traced back to mysticism and the tarot.
- Christians should avoid playing cards because of their spiritual implications and associations.
- The Bible calls us to be holy, set apart, and think on whatever is pure and praiseworthy.
The Pagan Origins of Playing Cards
As followers of Christ, we are called to come out from the world and be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17). But playing cards by their very design are intertwined with pagan symbols, superstitions, and polytheistic mythology.
The four suits we still use today – Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades – originated in the Middle East. The suit signs were likely derived from the suit marks on Turkish/Persian playing cards used for divination. The English names for the suits reveal deeper meanings:
Hearts represent the Catholic Church and the Holy Grail legend.
Diamonds symbolize the 4 elements (earth, air, fire, water) and Pentacles in occult Tarot decks.
Clubs stand for the three-leaf Shamrock charm and mythic Druid sorcery.
Spades signify the Blade of Death wielded by the Grim Reaper.
The French gave us the names for the face cards – Jacks, Queens, and Kings. But these royal figures stem from legends and deities of Greek, Roman, Norse, and Hindu mythologies:
Jacks portray youthful mythic heroes – Hector of Troy, Alexander the Great, Lancelot, or the Norse god Loki.
Queens depict pagan goddesses – Pallas Athena, the Queen of Sheba, Rachel, or Norse goddess Frigg.
Kings represent great kings and warrior gods of antiquity – David, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Odin.
This mythological symbolism forms an intricate divination system within the tarot and cartomancy. But as Christians, we must reject these pagan foundations. We serve the one true King of Kings who rules above all earthly authorities (1 Timothy 6:15).
The Occult History of Playing Cards
Beyond their pagan origins, playing cards have long been associated with the occult, mysticism, and divination arts forbidden by Scripture. Cards first spread through Italy and Spain by gypsies who used them for fortune telling. In the 15th century, mystical and magical significances were assigned to the cards in cartomantic practices.
Today, the most well-known occult use of cards is the Tarot – a mystical deck used for gaining occult knowledge. Standard playing cards evolved directly from the Tarot. The stylized artwork and secret symbols in the Tarot were eliminated to create simpler pip cards. But much of the esoteric symbolism remained intact.
In the 16th century, Protestant reformers rightly condemned playing cards for their association with gambling, drinking, idleness, and the occult. Many Christian denominations have continued to caution against card playing to this day. Cards open doorways to the demonic supernatural through divination, obsession, and appeal to pagan deities represented in the cards.
As Christians, we are called to avoid every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). The occult connections woven throughout the history of playing cards should cause us to reject this pastime. We walk by faith, not by sight. And we must avoid ungodly spiritual pursuits and fascinations.
The Sinful Attitudes Promoted by Card Games
More fundamentally than their pagan origins and occult associations, playing cards promote sinful values that contradict Christian living. Card games tempt us with greed, materialism, obsession with luck, and a desire to know the future apart from God.
Cards Promote Greed and Love of Money – Most card games use gambling to raise the stakes. But Scripture warns that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Gambling feeds selfishness, ruins lives and families, and fails to trust God’s provision. Even as entertainment, the lure of winning valuables keeps players fixated on greed.
Cards Foster an Obsession with Luck – Trusting in lucky cards, hands, and deals places faith in meaningless chance rather than Almighty God. But as Christians, we are called to seek God, not Lady Luck (Matthew 6:33). Belief in any kind of good or bad fortune denies the sovereignty of God over all things.
Cards Provide a Substitute for God’s Will – When used for divination, cards become a source of guidance apart from God’s will. But Christians have no need to dabble in fortune telling. We have the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us (John 16:13). And we have God’s word to light our path through the uncertainties of life (Psalm 119:105).
This fascination with knowing and even altering the future through cards shows a lack of trust in God’s perfect plan. As believers, we must surrender the future to Jesus, come what may.
Called to be Holy and Set Apart
As born again believers, we are called to be holy just as the Lord our God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). We cannot conform to the ungodly culture around us (Romans 12:2). Playing cards promote values and worldviews contrary to the Christian walk.
Yes, we have freedom in Christ. But not all things are helpful and expedient (1 Corinthians 6:12). Paul instructs us: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Playing cards appeal to the flesh, not the Spirit. They glorify pagan symbols, gods, and ungodly attitudes. A deck of cards offers much that is impure, unlovely, and unpraiseworthy. As Christians, we are called to separate ourselves from these influences.
From their pagan origins to occult associations, playing cards promote values incompatible with sincere Christian faith. They fail to conform to what is pure, lovely, and praiseworthy. God calls his people to holiness and complete devotion to Him alone. For these reasons, Evangelical and Charismatic Christians should prayerfully avoid the pastime of playing cards.
Instead, we devote ourselves to kingdom pursuits that honor the Lord. We set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). And we find true fulfillment in pursuing an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, not the fleeting thrills of games and gambling. May we honor God with undivided hearts in all that we do.