Gambling is big business for some cities, and for a good reason: People spend lots of money trying to get rich quickly. Unfortunately, most people tend to get poorer instead of richer when gambling. But an interesting question can often arise in the minds of people trying to do God’s will: Is gambling sinful? Is it a sin to gamble or place bets? Should Christians gamble? What does the Bible say about gambling?
Is It a Sin to Gamble or Place Bets? What Does the Bible Say?
First, the word “gambling” is not actually listed in the Bible. This is because gambling wasn’t as big as it was today, and there certainly weren’t big casinos with neat machines and fancy playing cards. I mean, can you imagine someone playing poker with a stack of clay tablets or parchment paper?
But just because something isn’t listed in the Bible by a specific name (or because it didn’t exist as largely as it does today), doesn’t mean it is perfectly fine to do (hence, many drugs would be a great example as it is obviously wrong but the Bible never mentions many of today’s “drugs” by name).
While the Bible does not mention gambling, it does mention “casting lots,” which is somewhat similar to gambling (it is like drawing straws or flipping a coin). People in the Bible are often recorded as “casting lots” in order to make a decision. This isn’t necessarily condemned in the Bible (although it is associated with a few very bad events such as the crucifixion of Christ).
Here are a few verses regarding casting lots:
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
According to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.
So it is quite clear that this was used by many (even Godly men) to make decisions, much like you may flip a coin for a simple decision of what you want for lunch today. But again, this is different than going to a casino or waging huge bets. Casting lots is primarily a method for decision making, whereas gambling is an attempt to build rapid wealth at the expense of others. So there are clearly important distinctions to be made between gambling and casting lots.
By the way, the interesting thing about casting lots is that regardless of what you choose, God’s sovereign will always override it anyway in the future.
One of the biggest problems with gambling is this: It’s win-lose. True wealth building should be win-win, not win-lose. In gambling, millions have to lose for one to ultimately win. This is not God’s design. God wants win-win. When a person creates a product, another person buys it. The customer gains something (the product), and the seller gains something (income). It’s win-win. In gambling, it’s the opposite. It’s win-lose. Millions will lose, only one (or a few) will win.
Scriptural Warnings of Rapid Wealth Gain
The scriptures have serious warnings about money, and the improper use or attainment of it. Here are some quotes from the scripture about money that relate with gambling:
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
Other Reasons Why Gambling is a Sin
- The Motivation–What is your reasoning for wanting to gamble? Is it to get rich quick? The Bible commands we should labor and earn wealth honestly–not by some luck of the draw. Being a compulsive gambler is certainly just as sinful as being a drunk, drug addict, or being greedy. If you gamble to get rich, you may be loving money more than God (a sin).
- The Context–Where will you be gambling? In a casino filled with women in skimpy clothing with lots of alcohol, prostitution, smoking, swearing, and so forth? If so, we can all agree that this is no place for a Godly person to hang out.
- The Amount–Are you gambling away your child’s college fund, your 401K savings account, your house, or other valuable items? Sadly, many people have gone bankrupt do to the sin of gambling, when they could have otherwise thrived financially.
- The Frequency–Do you find yourself wanting to place a wager daily, or even weekly? Do you make a trip to a casino every month, or bet on every big sports game? If so, you may be addicted to gambling (a very serious problem). In this case, you should avoid all gambling just like an alcoholic should avoid all alcohol.
- What if You Win?–What will you do if you win money or other valuables? What will you do? Is your goal to get rich and retire? To covet other people’s possessions so you don’t have to work? If so, this is sinful. What would you do with any winnings? Would you manage them properly and do good, or evil? Would they be spent on Godly purposes? Or just excessive luxuries such as gold fountains in your house?
Conclusion: Gambling Is a Sin
Do you know the best way to never be an alcoholic? Never take the first drink. Do you know the best way to avoid the sin gambling, or the risk of becoming addicted to gambling? Never gamble in the first place.
There is nothing wrong with flipping a coin to decide what to eat for lunch, as this is similar to casting lots. But when people gamble in a haste to have rapid wealth, it is sin. People have lost homes, been killed, and much more all over gambling.
The Bible clearly teaches that wealth should be gained from honest labor, not at the expense of losers in the context of gambling. Though gambling may seem innocent, Christians should avoid the temptation to do so.