Sunday, May 22, 2016 am                            Others 2016 Index


Is It ok to Gamble?

     Last week, we began examining some sins of society and how they affect others.  As Christians, we are reminded that what we do has a bearing on our influence.  Therefore, it is imperative that we seek to avoid conduct that is worldly or even questionable.  Last week we spoke about the subject of what we wear.  Today, we want to discuss another very prevalent topic in society – what about gambling? 

                There is much to be said about this topic as gambling is mainstream.    How does it affect others?  When we participate, even in the lottery, we are contributing to a vice in society and all who are wrongfully caught up in that activity.  Furthermore, our example is in play.

As with modesty, and many of the issues we will be addressing, we do not have a, “You shall not…” command.  In fact, the Bible doesn’t even use the term gambling, (even though there are a few examples of it), but we have principles that we must apply.  It is some of these principles that we will address in this lesson this morning.

Gambling is an industry built upon sin.  It is no accident that it is called a vice.  Often accompanying gambling – drinking, sexualization, worldliness, etc.  See Las Vegas as an example.   Sometimes, crime accompanies it as well – especially dealing with those addicted.   In addition to this, there are personal and psychological problems that are documented.  48 states have legalized gambling in one form or another, with some of it state sponsored (Utah and Hawaii are the only two that don’t).    Most states acknowledge there are problems and provide help in dealing with them (lottery tickets have a number on the back for problem gamblers). 
In 2013, Americans spent $119 Billion dollars gambling (, February 5, 2014)
In 2015, lottery sales in the US were $73.9 Billiion as reported by the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, (, May 22, 2016)

But, our concern, as always is with the attitude of the Christian toward gambling and what the Bible tells us about it 

 I.                     What is gambling?

a.       Gambling - Engaging in a game of chance (you cannot control the outcome) with stakes.  

Compulsive gambling – a psychological disorder characterized by a persistent inability to resist the impulse to gamble.  I mention this, because gambling can be addictive which is sinful.

b.       The criteria for something to be gambling:  Legal definitions of gambling include 3 elements:

                                                   i.      “Chance” - A device where the outcome is primarily pure chance – i.e. cards, dice, lottery numbers, etc.

                                                 ii.      “Consideration” is a legal term which means to be eligible to win the prize you must pay something of determined value.  In essence this is the wager.  2 or more parties wager against each other with something of value on the outcome of the device.  Once the wager is placed, it is irreversible.

                                                iii.      A “prize” - There are winners and losers.  Also described as lack of fair compensation. 

An example of this is the casting of lots for the tunic of Jesus (John 19:23-24).  The tunic of Jesus apparently had some value that would have been lost had it been divided.  Therefore, the 4 soldiers each wagered their share of the tunic in a “winner take all” game of chance (casting lots).
Another example of gambling is in Judges 14:12 where Samson poses a riddle with stakes.  If you guess it, I will give you 30 changes of clothes If you can’t guess it, you will pay me.  There was corruption involved in determining the outcome – the vices of the wager. 

c.        This is not the same as simple risk such as crossing the street, driving a car or playing sports.
Nor am I speaking of investing or operating a business, even if risk is involved. (If successful, all parties win)
Nor am I speaking of paying a fee to enter a contest (such as a bowling league, etc.), even though prizes are awarded.  Typically, the outcome is based more upon skill than chance.
Nor are we speaking of drawing straws to determine who goes first or who is randomly chosen to do something.   Often such is just about establishing order in a fair and random way.  For example: The land of Canaan was divided by lot among several tribes (Joshua 14:1-2)
Nor are we speaking of buying insurance – this is about minimizing risk and making provision to provide in case of disaster. 

 II.                   It is not a legitimate means of earning

a.       Work for income – the Bible speaks of work!  1 Timothy 5:18 tells us that the laborer is worthy of his wages.  Ephesians 4:28 calls for man to work being beneficial.  Also 1 Thess. 4:9

b.       Barter – or fair exchange.   You sell something or buy something.    Matthew 13:45, 46. 

c.        Gifts – our spiritual life is about gifts.  Ephesians 4:28 as you work and have a little extra, you can give to those who have needs.

d.       Gambling fits in none of these categories.

 III.                 Poor stewardship

a.       As Christians we are to be wise stewards with our resources.  1 Peter 4:10-11 – whatever we have, we are to use our gifts as good stewards.
 1 Cor. 4:2 calls for stewards to be faithful.  Often times, gambling (especially when it reaches the problem level), involves failures toward family (1 Tim. 5:8), and others (1 Tim. 6:17,18).
And even more than this we are to be good stewards toward God (Prov.3:9,10). 

b.       The success of this industry, whether you are talking about the casinos of Las Vegas or a lottery ticket sponsored by the government or a simple charity raffle, is dependent upon you losing.  And we must not forget that gambling is typically designed so that the house wins.  That is poor stewardship.

c.        Some might argue that they do it recreationally.  Hobbies can be expensive.  Others might argue, we spend money on many things that we do not need.    Good things typically give us some benefit! But in reality you are not getting ANYTHING beneficial from gambling unless you win. 
A prominent radio host describes the lottery as a “stupid tax on poor people.”   
And even if it is measured and done “responsibly”, considering other factors argue against it.

 IV.                 Works of the flesh –

a.       Covetousness – perhaps one of the greatest principles to consider.  Covetousness is described as a strong desire to acquire more and more material possessions, especially to possess what others have or MORE than they have.  Is that not what gambling is? (L&N 25.22) 
BDAG defines it as “the state of desiring to have more than one’s due, greediness, insatiableness…”
Colossians 3:5 tells us to put to death covetousness and describes it as idolatry. 
Hebrews 13:5 tells us to let our conduct be without covetousness.  Further it calls for us to be content with such things as we have. 

b.       Greed  is the selfish pursuit of gain.  The greedy desire to have more for themselves and less for others.   Again, is that not what gambling is about?
1 Timothy 6:9-10 -  warns of the desire to be rich and how it can cause one to fall into a snare.  Furthermore, Paul warns, “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”    This causes many to pierce themselves through with many sorrows and straying from the faith. 
In 1 Tim. 6:17-18, we find that the rich are to not be arrogant or selfish.  And they are not to trust in “uncertain riches.”  Question: Is gambling “uncertain riches”?    While the context is probably reminding us that worldly riches are uncertain and can fail, could it not also describe trusting in a form of riches that is uncertain – which would include gambling?

c.        One might add lust to this – as many who gamble are surrendering to the lusts of the flesh (1 John 2:15-16)

 V.                   The golden rule –

a.       Matt. 7:12 – Christians are to treat others the way they would want to be treated.

b.       Furthermore, we are to think about others.   Philippians 2:3-4

c.        The premise of gambling is to put up stakes with the hopes of YOU winning while the other person(s) looses.  Your gain is their misfortune; their gain is your misfortune.

d.       It can be harmful to society in many ways –  
Teens and gambling - there are reasons why it is so strictly regulated, including prohibited by minors (even though many minors break the law in this as well).  According to 4-6% of high school students are addicted to gambling, with another 10-14% at risk of developing addiction.  In general, 60-80 of high school teens have gambled for money in the past year.
Crime.  Think of the videos of criminals crashing trucks into closed stores and stealing the scratcher tickets.  Often when gets in trouble, they might resort to theft, selling drugs, etc. to pay for their habit.
Family problems – divorce, neglect and abuse of spouse and children have been attributed to gambling problems.  1 Timothy 5:8 describes the one who neglects his family.
Debt – many go into debt to finance their problem.
Suicide is also higher among problem gamblers
NOTE: You might say that you don’t get into trouble, but how much of the jackpot is the result of someone else with a problem neglecting their family and financial responsibilities? 
Look at the lines as lottery jackpots reach into the hundreds of millions.  And the solution has been to make the odds of winning even more difficult so the pot will rise more.  Why?  So more people will spend more of their money on it. 

e.       We are to be good neighbors and love our neighbors as ourselves – Romans 13:8-10, Ephesians 5:5-7 – mentioning covetousness, we are told “do not be partakers with them.”

 VI.                 It can become an addictive behavior –

a.       We have seen that mentioned in our lesson thus far.  Much more could be said about this and other behavioral addiction (as opposed to substance addictions).  They can be just as addictive and destructive.

b.       The principles of self-control and soberness both contradict any behavior that is addictive. 

c.        We are warned that we are not to be brought under the power of anything.  1 Corinthians 6:12 – Paul said he would not be ruled by anything.

 VII.               It can affect your influence on others –

a.       1 Corinthians 15:33 tells us that evil company corrupts good habits.  We think of that as it relates to those we associate with.  But what about those who associate with us? 

b.       We must always ask how our behavior looks to others.  We are letting our light – the light of Jesus – shine.  Is that found in gambling halls, etc.   Matthew 5:13-16.

c.        If you are caught up in any of the above problems, what kind of example are you setting?

d.       We have already noted that gambling is a problem for many.  When they see those who are supposed to be examples engaged in activities that affect them, they are tempted to sin.  Barnabas was carried away by the hypocrisy of Peter (Galatians 2:13-14).  He was rebuked.

e.       Paul was emphatic if our behavior affects others adversely (even if it is a liberty) we must consider them (1 Cor. 8:12-13, Romans 14:15).    Jesus warned about causing others to stumble as well – Matthew 18:6-7).

 VIII.             At best it is a questionable behavior. 

a.       If you have any doubts do not be involved.   Romans 14:22-23 – to act in doubt is to sin. 

b.       Incidentally, ignorance is not an excuse in this matter.  

c.        1 Thessalonians 5:22 – abstain from every form of evil.  Every type of evil is to be avoided.  Consider the “such like” in Galatians 5:21.

 IX.                 Justifications:

a.       What about the good it does?  Arguments are made that the lottery supports education.  And it does?  But is a vice like gambling really the best way to support those we are shaping into the future of our society?  Furthermore, NEVER forget, the end does not justify the means!

b.       I do it as recreation, and only spend so much – if so, why not play the game without any stakes, where it’s just a game?   The industry is NOT built upon the responsible participant! 

c.        What about non-profits or charities? The principles still apply.

d.       What about tournaments with prizes?  There is debate over this, but in reality such are based more upon skill than luck.
What about wagering on a game of skill?  This is gambling.  It is not the same as the one using their skills to win the event.  Your wager fits the definition of gambling because you are taking a chance on something about which you have no control.  Odds are designed based upon that risk.  Furthermore, there is a reason why those involved in the activity are not permitted to wager on the event. (I.e.  Referees and athletes cannot gamble on the sport or game they are officiating.)


Gambling, like many other worldly activities, is a behavior that is simply not needed in the life of a Christian.  It may not be looked upon with disdain as in times past, but the evils of gambling are many and well documented.  For the sake of our influence on others and our desire for purity, let us refrain from this behavior.  Think about it.