What Does the Bible Say About Playing Cards?
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What Does the Bible Say About Playing Cards?

Playing cards have been a popular pastime across many cultures for centuries. However, some Christians view card games, especially gambling with cards, as sinful vices to be avoided. What guidance does the Bible provide on the subject of playing cards? Let’s explore some key principles and passages.


Gambling, games of chance, and obsession over money are certainly warned against in Scripture. However, responsible recreation and entertainment which builds fellowship and community are viewed positively. Discernment is needed to determine if playing cards falls under acceptable recreation or problematic vice for each individual.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Bible directly prohibits drunkenness, greed, obsession over money, and idolatry – vices associated with irresponsible gambling.
  • Principles of discretion, good stewardship, moderation, and avoiding addiction are emphasized for Christians.
  • Fellowship, joy, and celebration are viewed positively, suggesting some recreation is acceptable.
  • Passages about food and drink illustrate that activities are not inherently sinful, but can become so in excess.
  • Christians have liberty in Christ, but should avoid causing others to stumble through their actions.
  • Discernment is required to decide if playing cards risks vice or supports community for each person and context.
What does the bible say about playing cards?

Old Testament Warnings Against Gambling and Greed

Several Old Testament passages warn against the dangers of exploiting others through gambling, obsessing over money, and economic exploitation. These warnings are relevant when considering playing cards which are often associated with gambling.

In Proverbs 28:20-22, Solomon warns:

A faithful man will abound with blessings, But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. To show partiality is not good, Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress. A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth And does not know that want will come upon him. (NKJV)

The desire to “hasten to be rich” through gambling is criticized here. The greedy mentality cannot be satisfied and ignores the harm caused to others. Proverbs 15:27 states that:

He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house, But he who hates bribes will live. (NKJV)

Selfish gain from exploiting others is again warned against. Gambling with cards risks developing this greedy disposition of mind.

In Isaiah 65:11-12, God rebukes Israel for obsessively pursuing pagan practices:

“But you are those who forsake the Lord, Who forget My holy mountain, Who prepare a table for Gad, And who furnish a drink offering for Meni. Therefore I will number you for the sword, And you shall all bow down to the slaughter; Because, when I called, you did not answer; When I spoke, you did not hear, But did evil before My eyes, And chose that in which I do not delight.” (NKJV)

Gad and Meni were Babylonian deities representing fortunes and destinies. Rather than trusting God, Israel became obsessed with money, luck, and chance through pagan practices. Gambling with cards risks similar idolatry and greed which displeases God.

In Ezekiel 22:12, God condemns Israel’s greed:

“In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take usury and increase; you have made profit from your neighbors by extortion, and have forgotten Me,” says the Lord God. (NKJV)

Economic exploitation through dishonest gain from others is reprehensible to God. Gambling with cards for profit risks falling into such greed and neglect of God.

Principles For Righteous Living

While specific prohibitions against cards are not given in Scripture, some broader principles for living righteously are relevant when considering playing cards and gambling.

First, the Bible constantly warns against drunkenness which impairs judgment and self-control. Drunkenness and card playing often accompany each other in gambling contexts. Ephesians 5:18 states:

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit. (NKJV)

Second, good stewardship of money, time, and abilities is emphasized for Christians. Gambling often wastefully consumes these resources. As 1 Peter 4:10 states:

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (NKJV)

A third key principle is moderation in all permissible activities. Obsessive passion for any pursuit risks becoming idolatrous. As 1 Corinthians 6:12 states:

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (NKJV)

Gambling with cards risks becoming addictive and controlling.

Finally, living for Christ’s glory rather than selfish pleasure is emphasized. 1 Corinthians 10:31 states:

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (NKJV)

Playing cards should be avoided if done mainly for selfish gain rather than honoring God.

Positive Portrayals of Recreation and Fellowship

While directly prohibiting certain extreme behaviors, the Bible has a generally positive view of recreation and fellowship activities that build relationships and community. This suggests card playing may be acceptable in moderation if it supports positive fellowship rather than destructive vice.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 presents a balanced view of time for every purpose:

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance; (NKJV)

Recreation and entertainment have an appropriate time and purpose.

In the Old Testament, feasts included times of celebration, singing, fellowship, and leisure. Nehemiah 8:10 encourages Israel to enjoy feast days:

Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (NKJV)

Celebration and leisure were part of life, in balance with work and worship.

Jesus attended a wedding feast in John 2:1-11 which included dining, drinking wine, and fellowship – implying appropriate recreation. Jesus also harshly criticized the Pharisees for being overly somber and opposed to community celebrations. Luke 7:34 states:

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'” (NKJV)

Some degree of recreational leisure and community building can be appropriate for Christians. Discernment is needed regarding specific activities like card playing.

Examples About Food and Drink

Since no Bible passages directly address playing cards, it is helpful to examine examples about eating food and drinking wine which are also amoral activities that can become immoral in excess.

In Romans 14:14, Paul states:

I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. (NKJV)

Eating particular foods or playing certain games are not inherently sinful, but can become so for someone predisposed to abuse them.

In 1 Corinthians 8:9 Paul warns:

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. (NKJV)

Even beneficial and permissible freedoms can be avoided if causing others to stumble.

Finally, 1 Timothy 5:23 instructs:

No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities. (NKJV)

Alcohol in moderation can be acceptable and even recommended in some cases. Likewise, card playing might be permitted in moderation if it builds positive community without becoming excessive or causing others to stumble.

Liberty with Accountability

Christian liberty is emphasized in the New Testament, along with cautions against abusing freedom and harming others. This principle is relevant when considering card playing.

Galatians 5:13 instructs:

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (NKJV)

While we have freedom in Christ, we are accountable for how our actions affect others. We should restrict freedoms that fuel fleshly desires.

1 Corinthians 10:23 similarly states:

All things are lawful for me,[a] but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me,[b] but not all things edify. (NKJV)

Even permissible things should be avoided if not helpful for building up others.

1 Corinthians 6:12 concludes:

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (NKJV)

If card playing becomes compulsive, it is clearly sinful. Moderation and restraint should always be exercised.

Conclusion: Need for Discernment

In conclusion, the Bible does not prohibit all forms of recreation and entertainment, but gives wisdom and principles for living righteously. For something amoral like playing cards, the context, motivation, effects on others, and potential for abuse must all be considered. With moderation, discernment, accountability, and avoiding harm to others, cards can potentially be acceptable for fellowship and recreation for Christians. However, each individual needs to honestly evaluate if playing cards tends to fuel temptation and vice or sincerely serves Christian community.

The Bible emphasizes fleeing from socially destructive vices associated with greed, addiction, exploitation, and idolatry. But it also portrays balance through enjoying life, community, celebration, and recreation in proper contexts. Discretion and moderation are always essential. The decision about playing cards requires honest spiritual discernment for each person and situation. Christians should seek God’s wisdom and strength to enjoy positive fellowship while avoiding the traps of sinful excess.

Pastor duke taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.