Ethics: Labor and Lucre (part II)

Gambling (aka Gaming) is legal, in some form, in 48 of 50 states. Utah and Hawaii are exceptions. However, Hawaii has a bill gaining momentum which would legalize such.

Gambling is nothing new. Antiquities speaks of such. Hundreds of years before Christ walked the earth, men were gambling. Homer (c. 9th century B.C.), Herodotus (c. 5th century B.C.) and Aristotle (4th century B.C.) spoke of such. It was known in ancient Babylon, Egypt, Crete, Greece, and Rome (see Garland Elkins, Robert R. Taylor Jr., Gambling: National Pastime to Prosperity or Sure Bet to Poverty and Perdition; Don Walker, Gambling is Immoral, 2005 Contending For the Faith lectureship).

How should a Christian view this subject? Are there any Biblical principles to consider when contemplating this issue?

Definition
Some define “gambling” to mean anything involving “chance” or “risk”. Most of us use the term “gamble” in such a way in every day conversation. If we use the term in this way, then – farming, investing, marriage, and really all of life may be considered gambling. Let it be pointed out that the Bible does not condemn risk taking (see Proverbs 31:16; Matthew 13:3-8; Matthew 25:14-30; James 5:7).

When one thinks of dog tracks, horse tracks, casinos, and the like the above definition seems inadequate. We’re not speaking of the kind of risk a farmer takes by planting seed, or a person takes in crossing a street. The gambling we’re speaking of involves the following components: (1) the artificial creation of a risk of losing one’s own possession; (2) an attempt through chance to gain the possession of another; (3) the giving of no equivalent in return (cf the farmer who produces food needful of society).

Unwise
Multitudes of Americans have money problems. Money problems can occur for a variety of reasons: (1) laziness (Proverbs 10:4; 19:15; 22:13; 24:30-34); (2) wastefulness (Proverbs 12:27; 19:24; 21:20); (3) living the high life (Proverbs 21:17 cf. Luke 15); (4) running with the wrong crowd (Proverbs 23:20-21); (5) abuse of credit (Proverbs 6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 22:7); (6) lack of preparation for the future (Proverbs 30:25); (7) Issues beyond one’s control (book of Job). More than half of working Americans have less than two months emergency reserve (Dr. Frank Luntz, What Americans Really Want… Really, p. 53).

Gambling is far from a wise use of one’s hard-earned money. The odds of a person dying in a car crash are 6000:1. The odds of a person dying in an airplane crash 500,000:1. The odds of a person being killed by a shark 1,000,000:1. The odds of being struck by lightning 2,000,000:1. The odds of winning the average state lotto are 5,000,000:1 (source: US News and World Report, Nov. 21, 1989).

Gambling tends to attract those who have the least. A Texas A&M study found that the lowest income group in the State of Texas, those who earn just two percent of the state’s total income, provided ten percent of the lottery’s revenue (Crystal Humphress, Survey shows poor lose more to Lottery, Dallas Morning News, March 10, 1994). Similar reports can be found in other states (see http://www.casinofree phila.org/research/gamblingandpoor).

Principles

1. All that we have ultimately belongs to God (Psalms 24:1; 50:10-12; Ezekiel 18:4). We are stewards (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27).

2. Man is to use the money he has to: (a) support self (2 Thessalonians 3:10); (b) support family (1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16; 2 Corinthians 12:14); (c) meet financial obligations (Psalm 37:21; Proverbs 6:1-5; Romans 13:8; James 5:4); (d) pay taxes (Matthew 17:24-27; 22:15-21; Rom. 13:1-7); (e) be benevolent (Luke 10:25-27; Acts 11:27-30; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:17-18; 1 John 3:16-18); (f) support the work of the church (1 Corinthians 9:1-11; 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8-9; 11:8-9; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:3, 16, 17-18; 3 John 5-8). Man should be careful not to hurt his ability to do these things. The destructive impact that gambling has had on some families is well documented (Read “Kathy’s Story” and “Horror Stories” at oagaa.org).

3. We are to have authority for what we do (Colossians 3:17, etc). The scriptures speak of six ways of transferring wealth or valuables from one person to another: (a) one can work, or employ another’s work (Matthew 10:9-10; Acts 18:3; 20:33-34; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; James 5:1-5). (b) One can buy and sell goods (Proverbs 31:16, 24; Matthew 13:45-46; Acts 2:45; 4:34; 5:4; 16:14; James 4:13-15). (c) One can engage in banking transactions (Matthew 25:27; Luke 19:23; cf. Deuteronomy 23:19-20). (d) One can give (Luke 10:33-35; Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-37; 5:1-11; 20:35; Ephesians 4:28; 2 Corinthians 8-9; 1 Timothy 5:3-4, 8,16; 1 John 3:16-18). (e) One to pay required taxes to the government (Matthew 17:24-27; 22:15-21; Romans 13:1-7). (f) One can leave an inheritance (Genesis 25:1-6; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; Proverbs 13:22; Luke 15:11-12; 2 Corinthians 12:14). These six ways are approved. However, gambling, as we’ve defined it, is not authorized.

4. Gambling is an effort to bypass the need for work and productivity. God has always expected man to work (Genesis 3:17-19, 23; 4:2; Exodus 20:9-11; Deuteronomy 5:13-14; Acts 20:34-35; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-15).

5. The very nature of one on one gambling is contrary to the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). One wants self to profit off the other’s loss.

Objections
1. Gambling is done by mutual consent, therefore, it can’t be wrong.

Need I remind you that fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and prostitution all involve mutual consent?

2. The Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn it.

True, but where is it authorized. There are principles which should be considered.

3. All of life is a gamble.

Risk is only one part of the definition (see definition provided earlier). Dave Miller provided this thought, “If you walk across a busy intersection blindfolded during rush hour, you are creating artificial risk and gambling with your life in an effort to receive cheap thrills. If, on the other hand, you cross a main intersection with the light looking both ways and obeying the law, you are not gambling with your life, though you would be facing some measure of risk associated with normal living” (Miller, Piloting the Strait, p.357).

4. It is just like farming or investing.

The farmer plants a crop. Natural risk is involved (not artificially created risk, reckless risk). The aim is not to get something for nothing. He produces something. His gain does not necessarily mean another’s loss.

The investor puts his money into a business. The business produces goods or services. These goods or services are purchased by consumers. Neither the buyer or seller is after something for nothing. One’s gain does not mean the others loss.

5. It is for a good cause.

Many schools, PTOs, youth sports leagues, charity organizations, and churches (though, this brings up an issue beyond our current study concerning how churches should raise money) are now selling raffle tickets. It is a very popular form of fund-raising.

Don’t people just buy tickets to be charitable? I don’t think so. I have set through PTO meetings, youth sports league meetings, civic club meetings. I have heard great discussion about which items should be raffled, which items would bring in the most money. I think many buy the ticket wanting to win the big prize (getting the gun, or TV, or quilt, or new car, or vacation for nearly nothing).

Suggestion: If it is a good cause you want to support, why not just donate the money and skip the raffle ticket?

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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