Gambling is a complex issue that Christians have debated for centuries. Some believe gambling is inherently sinful, while others think it can be acceptable in moderation. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore what the Bible says about gambling and provide analysis from an Evangelical and Charismatic Christian perspective.
Gambling is commonly defined as risking money or belongings on games of chance or betting on uncertain outcomes. It includes activities like playing the lottery, betting on sports, playing cards or casino games for money, and participating in raffles or sweepstakes.
For many Evangelical and Charismatic Christians, gambling raises ethical concerns related to stewardship, covetousness, trusting in chance over God’s providence, loving money, and the potential for gambling addiction. However, the Bible does not explicitly prohibit gambling. As with many issues, there are thoughtful Christians on both sides of the debate.
By examining relevant Biblical principles and passages, we can develop a thoughtful perspective on what the Bible says about gambling. We should seek God’s wisdom with humble hearts, recognizing that followers of Jesus hold a diversity of views on this topic.
- The Bible does not directly prohibit gambling, so views vary among Christians.
- Biblical principles related to stewardship, greed, trusting God, and loving money are relevant.
- Specific passages that are part of the discussion include the casting of lots, instructions about inheritance, and the Parable of the Talents.
- Perspectives range from complete prohibition to accepting moderate gambling when done responsibly.
- Wisdom and moderation are needed as gambling can become addictive.
- Christians should thoughtfully apply Biblical values as they decide whether or not to gamble.
Biblical Principles Regarding Possessions and Money
Although the Bible does not specifically address gambling, it provides some principles that can inform a Christian perspective on it. Several Biblical values relate to the use of money and possessions.
A key Biblical theme is that everything belongs to God, and we are managers or stewards of the resources He has entrusted to us. Several passages emphasize this stewardship responsibility:
“Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NKJV)
“There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods…” (Luke 16:1 NKJV)
As stewards, we are accountable to God for how we use our finances and possessions. Thoughtful stewardship includes using resources wisely, generously, and in ways that honor God. Gambling with the aim of quick or easy profits could conflict with good stewardship.
Greed and Covetousness
The Bible strongly warns against greed and desires for quick riches.
“…Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15 NKJV)
Gambling often stems from greed and the allure of fast money. The motivation is usually a desire for riches without the hard work normally required to earn them honestly.
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have…” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)
Gambling frequently exploits human tendencies toward covetousness and discontentment. The antidote is finding contentment and meaning that transcends material possessions.
Trusting God, Not Chance
Another relevant principle is the importance of trusting in God rather than relying on chance or luck.
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7 NKJV)
Scripture also warns against loving money, which gambling often enables.
“…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” (1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV)
When gambling winnings become an object of love and preoccupation, it leads to emptiness and enslavement. Our commitment should be to God rather than money.
Relevant Biblical Passages and Examples
In addition to broader principles, there are some specific Bible passages that relate to considering gambling issues. While open to various interpretations, these passages inform the discussion.
In several instances in the Old Testament, people cast lots to make decisions rather than voting or considering merits. The implication was that God would providentially work through the seemingly random process.
“Moreover, the lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33 NKJV)
However, pagan cultures also used lots to make decisions, so it became associated with divination, which the Bible prohibited.
“There shall not be found among you anyone who…practices divination or tells fortunes, or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord…” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12 ESV)
While some Christians see the Biblical examples of casting lots as approving gambling-like practices, others distinguish between looking to God rather than chance. They also note the potential associations between gambling and prohibited divination or omens. This passage reveals ambivalence toward anything resembling gambling as a decision-making process.
Parable of the Talents
In Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, a master entrusts three servants with money to invest while he is away. Through business dealings, two servants generate profits and present the increased capital to their master, while the third buries the money to keep it safe.
“…the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.”[a] (Matthew 25:14-30 ESV)
While not directly about gambling, this parable teaches principles of stewardship and using resources productively for gain. Some see parallels to responsible investing versus gambling, which typically diminishes wealth over time due to negative expected returns. Investing creates value through business activities, contrasted with gambling transfers based purely on chance.
Mosaic Law contained restrictions to preserve family inheritances:
“If a brother dwells with you, and becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave. As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the year of the jubilee. He shall then go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the property of his fathers.” (Leviticus 25:39-41 ESV)
Rules prevented people from being permanently sold into slavery or losing tribal lands. This ensured regular redistribution so the poor had fresh starts. Some connect these laws to protecting vulnerable people from the permanent financial loss gambling can cause. However, the passage does not directly address gambling.
Christian Perspectives and Positions on Gambling
Considering principles and passages above, Christians adopt a range of perspectives on gambling. These include complete prohibition, cautious acceptance, and full embrace of responsible gambling.
Some Christians argue gambling should be completely prohibited. One major part of their rationale is that the Bible denounces gaining money through exploitation or without working honestly to earn it. Gambling winners gain money through others’ losses without repaying value to society. It preys on and promotes covetousness.
This position also emphasizes stewardship and using resources to glorify God, not gratifying destructive habits. It views gambling as materialistic and rooted in greed. Chance undermines godly virtues of self-control and diligence. Compulsive gambling destroys lives and families.
Adherents often cite casting lots as showing God’s providence in random processes, not approving gambling for profit. They also distinguish investing, which creates value, from gambling’s zero-sum transfers. Ultimately, they believe gambling fails to show Christian love or stewardship.
Other Christians argue gambling is not inherently sinful in moderation. Motives matter more than particular behaviors. For example, enjoying an occasional lottery ticket to dream a little is not the same as frequent casino gambling out of greed.
This view emphasizes individual responsibility and liberty of conscience. Occasional, low-stakes gambling solely for entertainment is acceptable. However, wisdom is needed to avoid excess. It should also not cause others to stumble in their faith or facilitate exploitation of the poor.
Proponents cite the lack of definitive Biblical prohibition and examples like casting lots. They distinguish sinful coveting of winnings from harmless entertainment with modest gambling. Some also hold that state-run lotteries and regulated gambling are preferable to illegal operations.
Overall, this view permits gambling in moderation when done responsibly without harm to others. However, it acknowledges the risks and urges strong caution.
A small minority of Christians embrace gambling as perfectly permissible. They highlight that the Bible nowhere explicitly prohibits it. All of life is providence, so occasional games of chance are no different than other parts of life. God oversees random processes, and his sovereignty applies equally to gambling wins and losses.
This position emphasizes Christian liberty to participate in cultural practices not forbidden in scripture. It rejects slippery slope arguments about greed, seeing modest gambling for entertainment as no different than hobbies like golf.
Adherents argue gambling presents opportunities to witness to nonbelievers. Regulated gambling also offers revenue for government services. Since the Bible allows free choices about morally neutral behaviors, they see no problem with gambling responsibly.
However, few Christians fully endorse gambling without concerns about excess. This view could downplay principles of stewardship and wisdom.
Applying Biblical Principles with Wisdom
Considering the principles, passages, and positions above, what guidelines emerge for applying Biblical values to gambling? Here are several suggested takeaways:
- Prayerfully consider motives. Why do you want to gamble? Is it for enjoyment, or out of covetousness? Does it reveal misplaced priorities? Pray for self-awareness.
- Exercise caution. Gambling can become addictive. Avoid excess. Set strict limits to minimize harm.
- Be a good steward. Use resources wisely for needs and to bless others, not squandering them for thrills. Earn money honestly through ethical work.
- Keep faith central. Trust God’s providence, not chance. Put your hope and security in Christ.
- Watch for idols. Don’t let money or gambling become too important. Keep God first in your heart and living.
- Care for others. Abstain from gambling if it causes others to stumble in their faith. Don’t exploit or endanger the poor.
- Obey governing authorities. Avoid illegal gambling and ensure activities are lawful.
- Practice wisdom. Use sound judgment. Consider both principles and practical impact. Be willing to sacrifice pleasures that conflict with Christian values.
The Bible does not directly address gambling. However, relevant Biblical principles relate to good stewardship, greed, trusting God over chance, and the dangers of chasing riches. Christians interpret passages about casting lots, inheritances, and talents in various ways. Positions range from complete prohibition to cautiously allowing moderation to full embrace of responsible gambling. Wisdom is required as motives matter and gambling carries significant addiction risks that can damage lives. With prayer and openness to the Spirit’s guidance, we can make thoughtful decisions to apply Biblical values to this complex issue. The central aim should be living as faithful disciples who prioritize God’s Kingdom over any behaviors that distract our hearts from Christ.