The Sin of Gambling
Rev. Doug Kuiper
To preach the Word of God, we believe, is the
fundamental task of the church of Jesus Christ on earth. It is not her
only task; she must also administer the sacraments rightly, exercise
discipline amongst her members, and care for her poor. But none of
these may she do, without also preaching the Word. Her work, in other
words, is a spiritual work.
This means that the church of Christ must stay above politics. That
is, she ought not endorse a particular party or political candidate,
and she ought not open her pulpits to politicians. Individual
Christians must be concerned about political matters, for they are
also citizens of an earthly kingdom. The church as an organization
ought not, because she represents the spiritual kingdom of Jesus
Christ, which is not of this world (John 18:36).
However, because the truth that she preaches does bear on political
and social issues, she may—and must set forth the truth of God's Word
as it pertains to those issues.
One such issue is that of gambling. Gambling is prevalent in our
society. And gambling is sin, when evaluated in light of God's Word.
The church of Jesus Christ must condemn gambling.
This the Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church
does. Her evangelism society publishes this pamphlet, in which she
condemns all forms of gambling on the basis of the Word of God, with
the prayer that this will encourage God's people who are given over to
the sin of gambling to leave it, and strengthen all His people to
speak out against it.
May God's name be honoured and glorified!
Gambling has a bad effect on society. It promotes
crime, as those who lose their money steal to get more, or get drunk
to drown out their sorrow. It contributes to greater poverty, as those
who cannot afford to gamble do so anyway. It leads to addiction, for
some are so obsessed by the hope of winning the jackpot that they
gamble compulsively. And all these, in turn, put great stress on
families, which results in more broken homes. Studies have
demonstrated the truth of these assertions.1
These negative consequences of gambling are a commonly heard reason
why many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, oppose gambling.
Political organizations that oppose gambling emphasize these
consequences as being the real reason to oppose gambling. And the
Christian agrees that it is in every man's best interest that our
society be free from social evils, in order that life may be more
pleasant and safe.
These are reasons to oppose gambling, indeed; but are they the only
reasons? Is there a more fundamental reason why we should oppose
The answer of the church of Jesus Christ, on the basis of the Word of
God, must be: "Yes, indeed!" The more fundamental reason why we should
oppose gambling is this: gambling is sin!
Let us give this reason due consideration when we speak out against
gambling. For, first, this reason explains why gambling has the
negative consequences mentioned above. Sin leads to more sin, and to
the corruption of society. These consequences are God's judgment on
the sin of gambling. And, second, this reason explains why the
Christian should be concerned not merely with the negative
consequences of gambling but with gambling itself. We may not gamble,
for gambling is sin.
Why, then, is gambling sin? Why must we know it to be sin? And how
must Christians respond to this sin? To answer these questions is the
burden of this pamphlet.
Why is Gambling Sin?
The gambling industry is immoral.
We begin our argument by noting that the gambling industry as such is
immoral. By the gambling industry, we have in mind the organizations
that sponsor and benefit from gambling. Those that sponsor gambling
include casinos, lotteries, bingo parlours, and other places in which
gambling is legally permitted. Those who benefit are Indian tribes or
any other group which runs casinos; the state or federal government,
which runs the lotteries; any churches which might sponsor the bingo
games; any businesses or industries, such as car racing, which might
sponsor gambling houses.
What is wrong with running such institutions? What is wrong with
benefiting from gambling?
The question must be faced, in light of the fact that many consider
the gambling industry to be right and good. We are told that gambling
is good because it raises money for good social causes. Because the
excess money from state lotteries supports the state education system,
some say that gambling is an investment in our children. Because the
casinos are often willing to pay a percentage of their earnings to the
local communities, which use the funds to fight crime, some argue that
gambling is good because it makes a positive contribution to society,
and even lowers taxes.
In other words, the end justifies the means. The motive excuses the
Our response is different. Running such institutions, and benefiting
from their activity, is wrong! The industry of gambling is morally
This is true, first, because it is motivated by greed. The goal of the
gambling institutions is to get lots of money quickly! And they
accomplish their goal well; gambling is a lucrative business. Notice
that the goal of the gambling industry is not merely to get money; any
businessman has that goal, because he needs money to live. But the
goal of the gambling industry is to get lots of money quickly, without
providing a beneficial service or a sound product in return. It
manifests covetousness, which God's law forbids ("Thou shalt not
covet," Exodus 20:17), and the love of money, against which God's Word
also warns us: "But they that will [the word "will" here means "desire
to," DJK] be rich fall into temptation and a snare, ... For the love
of money is the root of all evil" (I Timothy 6:9-10).
Second, gambling is an improper way for the church or state to
raise its funds. A government has the right to tax its citizens, and
members of a country are required to pay taxes. Jesus said, "Render
therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's" (Matthew 22:21).
Paul, having emphasized the importance of civil government, and that
government is the servant of God, commands under inspiration of the
Spirit: "For this cause pay ye tribute also: ... Render therefore to
all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom;
fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour" (Romans 13:6-7). We see,
then, that Scripture tells us that a government should raise its money
by taxation! This is the right way, because it treats all
citizens equally; every member of the country contributes to the
support of that country. Taxation should also impress upon every
member of the country the benefit that government is to us, and it
should encourage responsible citizenship.
Also, a church should get its funds from its membership by freewill
offerings. Jesus said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which
are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21).
In Old Testament Israel, a temple tax of one half a shekel for every
person over twenty was required (Exodus 30:11ff.). The support of the
ministry of the gospel (which is the fundamental work of the church)
must come from those who benefit from that ministry, Paul taught the
church of God in I Corinthians 9.
Gambling, however, is an attempt to raise money for church (bingo
games) or civil government (lotteries) by offering an incentive to
give, and the hope of something in return (winning the jackpot). This
is not the God ordained way for legitimate authorities, such as church
and civil government, to raise money.
Third, we can argue that they are essentially legalized thieves.
Just as a thief takes and does not return, so these organizations take
and do not return. The instances in which they return are the
exception; most people leave without the money with which they came.
The gambler is asked to spend money on something for which he gets no
tangible benefit. That is stealing. Furthermore, just as a thief takes
with force that which is not his, so the organizations use force. It
is not physical force, but psychological force, using advertisements
and other gimmicks to encourage people to part with their money.
Stealing, we know, is clearly forbidden by God's law. The eighth
commandment says, "Thou shalt not steal" (Exodus 20:15). And
every human being desires that none steal for stealing puts one's own
possessions in jeopardy.
One might argue that gambling organizations are not guilty of
stealing, because they take money with the consent of the owner. It
is, of course, true that no one gambles unwillingly; therefore some of
the responsibility for this falls on the gambler himself. This does
not, however, absolve the organizations of guilt. If I run a scam, I
cannot argue that people parted with their money willingly. It is
still a scam, and a theft, for which I would be held liable. Or if I
sell an item that is not worth the price I charged, I cannot explain
it away by saying that the buyer paid me willingly. God still
considers that stealing on my part. Proverbs 11:1 says, "A false
balance is abomination to the LORD." The examples just offered are
modern day equivalents of a false balance—a way in which a man tries
to get more money for an object than what it is worth. Because
gambling organizations do this, they are guilty of theft.
Having seen that the gambling industry as such is wrong, let us now
consider that gambling is sin also on the part of the gambler.
Compulsive gambling is sin.
Few sincere, Bible-believing Christians would disagree with the
assertion that compulsive gambling is sin. That is, gambling is
sinful for those who are addicted to it. This is true for a number of
Compulsive gamblers sin by wasting time. Gambling is for them such an
addiction, that most or all of their spare time is spent gambling in
one form or another (lotteries, casinos, sports betting, video poker
machines, etc). Weekends and vacations are taken up with trips to
cities that have casinos. The more addicted to gambling a person
becomes, the more likely he is to neglect his job and family, and to
focus exclusively on gambling.
We must remember that time is a gift from God! God created time when
He created the world. The first day of creation week, we read, God
created light, divided it from the darkness, and "called the light
Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning
were the first day" (Genesis 1:4-5). On the fourth day,
He created the sun, moon, and stars, which were intended to be "for
signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years" (Genesis 1:14).
After all of this, He created man. Time was created first, for man's
sake! That is, man must use his time to the glory of God, and in the
service of God. This same truth is emphasized in the fourth
commandment of God's law: "Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy
work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God" (Exodus
The compulsive gambler wastes this gift of God, by using it for
himself instead of for God.
Compulsive gamblers sin also by wasting money and possessions. Any
money on hand they will use in gambling. They will sell or pawn off
their belongings to get more money with which to gamble. And when
their resources are gone, they are very likely to turn to stealing to
But money and possessions are also gifts from God, to be used in His
service. The eighth commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," reminds us
that God gives humans enough resources to live on, in order to
accomplish His purpose for us on earth. It is our duty to use those
resources wisely, and not desire what is another's. The child of God
who prays, "Give us this day our daily bread," expresses that he looks
to God to provide for his needs. Jesus commanded His disciples, "Seek
ye the kingdom of God; and all these things [food, drink, clothing,
DJK] will be added unto you" (Luke 12:31). But the gambler spends what
God has given on gambling, and loses it. The result is that he and his
family become poor. They lack the necessities of life—not because they
were never able to have them, but because they have squandered what
Related to these two reasons why compulsive gambling is wrong is a
third: God commands us to work, and in that way He will supply our
needs. The proverbs of Solomon, inspired by God, teach us this: "The
desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. He
coveteth greedily all the day long ..." (Proverbs 21:25-26).
Proverbs 28:19 says, "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of
bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty
enough." The reader ought to note that in this passage the KJV puts
the word "persons" in italics, meaning that it was an editorial
addition. This is an unfortunate addition, for the sense is really,
"he that followeth after vanity," or "after vain things," unprofitable
things, such as gambling. The apostle Paul had to command the
Thessalonian saints very frankly "that if any would not work, neither
should he eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10).
The gambler, however, hopes to get money without working; and if he
should win the jackpot, he often quits his job, to revel in his
Fourth, compulsive gambling is wrong because it is motivated by greed
The reason why such people gamble is their hope to win the jackpot.
They are willing to sacrifice all their possessions, in the hope that
they will get much more in return. This is not a conjecture, or a
judgment, all my own; compulsive gamblers readily admit this.
Scripture condemns greed and covetousness. "Thou shalt not covet..."
is the tenth commandment. Three passages show that God hates and will
not save a covetous man. Psalm 10:3: "For the wicked boasteth of his
heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD hateth." I
Corinthians 6:9,10: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not
inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither ... thieves, nor
covetous ... shall inherit the kingdom of God." Ephesians 5:5:
"For this ye know, that no ... covetous man, who is an idolater, hath
any inheritance in the kingdom of God and of Christ."
Jesus warned us against covetousness in Luke 12. His warning begins in
answer to a question from a man: "Master, speak to my brother, that he
divide the inheritance with me" (v. 13). Jesus' response in verse 15
is: "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life
consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth"
(Luke 12:15). Then Jesus spoke the parable of the rich fool,
whose death was God's judgment on him for laying up treasure for
The apostle Paul warned against covetousness in I Timothy 6:9-10: "But
they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many
foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and
perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while
some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced
themselves through with many sorrows." The writer to the Hebrews said:
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with
such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor
forsake thee" (13:5).
From Hebrews 13:5 we can also see that, while covetousness is
forbidden, contentment with what we have is positively commanded. The
tenth commandment shows this also. When God forbids one thing, He by
implication commands its opposite. So when He said, "Thou shalt not
covet," we must understand Him to be requiring contentment of us. In
other places in Scripture, the same duty of contentment is set forth.
In Luke 3:14, John the Baptist tells the soldiers to be content with
their wages. Paul says in Philippians 4:11: "I have learned in
whatsoever state I am, therewith to be con tent." And again in I
Timothy 6:6, 8: "But godliness with contentment is great gain ... And
having food and raiment let us be therewith content."
Such contentment certainly does not characterize the compulsive
gambler; he is interested only in getting more. And were he to get
more, he would very likely still not be happy, but keep gambling, for
greed motivates him.
Compulsive gambling is wrong. What about the other kind of gambler,
the one who does it only for recreation?
Recreational gambling is sin.
Those who would defend recreational gambling come up with several
arguments in support of their position.
One attempt to defend it on the basis of Scripture is to point out
that Scripture nowhere forbids gambling in so many words. Therefore,
the argument goes, gambling falls under the realm of Christian
liberty—we are free to do it, so long as we do not violate any of
God's commands or scriptural principles. One who uses this argument
may grant that compulsive gambling is wrong because it violates
express commands regarding how to use our time and money, and that
one's motive for gambling may be wrong (greed). However, the argument
is, if one's motive is not wrong, and one gambles merely as a
recreation, one does not sin. Some who use this argument seem to
clinch it by reminding us that we must not add to God's Word
Another attempt to defend it is to point out so many other recreations
in which much money is spent and nothing is gained. Is there really a
difference between gambling and eating out? Between gambling and
getting the best seat at the baseball park? Between gambling and a
nice cruise in the Bahamas? In fact, the argument goes, recreational
gambling is less expensive than some of these things.
We have answers to these attempts to justify recreational gambling.
With regard to the first argument, we grant that we cannot find in
Scripture a text that says, "Thou shalt not gamble." But Scripture
need not tell us in so many words that a particular activity is a sin,
for it to be sin. We are not necessarily guilty of adding to God's
Word (which would be a terrible sin, indeed!) by calling sinful that
which Scripture does not say in so many words is sinful. In
interpreting Scripture and applying it to our lives, God's people
ought to follow this sound rule, set forth in the Westminster
Confession, I, 6: "The whole counsel of God concerning all things
necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is
either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary
consequence may be deduced from Scripture" [emphasis mine, DJK].
That is, in addition to giving us specific positive and negative
commands, Scripture also gives us principles by which to live our
life. All that is in accord with these principles is good, and all
that violates them is bad.
When determining whether or not an activity is
proper for a Christian, three principles must guide us. They are those
set forth in the Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 91:
"But what are good works? Only those which proceed from a true faith,
are performed according to the law of God, and to His glory." (Cf.
Romans 14:23, I Samuel 15:22, I Corinthians 10:31, for scriptural
support of using these criteria in this manner.) If a particular
activity violates God's express command, it is not proper. If it does
not violate God's express command, but still cannot be done to God's
glory or in manifestation of the faith that is in our hearts, it is
still not proper. All three criteria must be met, in
order for the child of God to be convinced that he served God in this
activity and that God was pleased with his service.
Therefore, even though Scripture nowhere gives an explicit
condemnation of gambling, we may still evaluate recreational gambling
as sinful, without being afraid that we are adding to Scripture,
because we make this judgment on the basis of scriptural principles.
With regard to the second argument, we must remember that even if
there are worse things a person could do than some particular
activity, that does not mean the particular activity is not bad. One
might argue that to rob a bank is worse than stealing a toy from the
neighbour's backyard, but that does not justify stealing the toy from
the neighbour's backyard. So here. Even if the argument were granted
that it is a bigger waste of money to take a nice cruise, get the best
seat in the ball park, or frequent expensive restaurants, than to
spend money occasionally on a lottery ticket, or in the office
football pool, that does not justify these acts of gambling.
However, we must remember one fundamental difference between
infrequent recreational gambling and these other activities: the
gambler gets no tangible benefit in return for his money, as one does
who rents a seat at a ball park, or who buys a nice meal. The only
benefit gambling is sure to give is intangible, namely, the hope of
the thrill of winning. And this benefit is not proper for the child of
Why, concretely, is recreational gambling sin?
The fundamental reasons have been given already, in connection with
compulsive gambling. It is a waste of time, because productive work is
not being done, nor is wholesome recreation being enjoyed. It is a
waste of money, because no tangible benefit is gained, nor an
intangible benefit of any lasting and spiritual value. It is a wrong
way to obtain money; God promises to supply our needs in the way of
honest work. And its motivation is also greed. Why play the lottery,
except in the hope of winning it big? Why go to a casino even for a
day, except in the hopes of striking it rich? One must give reasons to
God for his motivation for this; and one would be hard pressed to say
that his motivation was right.
We use the same reasons to show why recreational gambling is wrong as
we did to show why compulsive gambling is wrong, because the sin is
the same sin. Gambling is gambling. The compulsive gambler sins more
often, and to a greater degree, while the recreational gambler sins
less often in that respect, and to a lesser degree. Either way,
however, it is gambling.
Why is it Important That We Know Gambling to be Sin?
One reason why it is important to know gambling to
be sin is that we are then able to understand why gambling will have
sinful consequences. Admittedly, some of these consequences apply more
to compulsive gamblers than to recreational gamblers. The fact is,
however, that where you have gambling institutions, you will have
compulsive gamblers, and society will feel the consequences.
What are these consequences?
One consequence is addiction. Sin is always addictive! Men by
nature love sin! This is true in particular of gambling. Even society
in general recognizes the addictive nature of gambling, for programs
such as Gamblers Anonymous have been formed to help people break the
A second consequence of gambling is increased crime. It is not hard to
understand how instances of drunkenness will rise, as men who have
lost their savings at the slot machine turn elsewhere for comfort in
their sorrow. Nor is it difficult to connect an increased rate of
theft to gambling, as people steal in order to get more money to feed
Another consequence is the devastation of the family. Any addiction
will strain family relationships, for the addicted person leaves off
proper care for his family, and puts all his time and energy into
satisfying his cravings. Furthermore, one major cause of distress and
divorce in families is money—of which there will always be a shortage
in the families of gamblers. Children of gamblers will also suffer
from lack of attention by their parents, as those parents busy
Because of these consequences, as we have noted already, many oppose
gambling. In areas where gambling is prevalent, others work hard to
overcome these consequences of gambling, without realizing that they
have never attacked the source of the problem—gambling itself.
Will gambling inevitably have these consequences? Could these
consequences possibly be avoided?
The answer is NO!
And the reason why that is the answer is that unconfessed sin leads to
more sin. God punishes the sins of a people by allowing them to
develop further in sin, until they are ripe for His just judgment!
Romans 1:18-32 teaches us this; those who denied God's existence were
given over to idolatry as judgment; and that, in turn, led to all
sorts of sexual sins, including homosexuality; and then verses 29-31
speak of a host of other sins to which God gave them over, as judgment
for their earlier sins.
So these consequences of gambling are inevitable. Some will deny this,
of course; those who profit from gambling do not want us to think that
we will suffer from enjoying this activity. And addicted gamblers will
not quickly admit the problems that their gambling has caused.
It takes one whose eyes are opened by Christ, and who truly
understands what sin is and what sin does, to know this.
This leads us to the second reason why it is important that we know
gambling to be sin: because such is God's assessment of
gambling. That it is God's assessment of gambling we have shown, in
demonstrating that gambling violates various principles of life and
conduct which God has set forth in Scripture. And this reason applies,
not only to compulsive gambling, but, as we have shown, also to
The child of God must always strive to see things as God sees them. In
our own strength we cannot do this. Apart from God's grace we call sin
good, and what is truly good and pleasing to God we call foolishness.
To call gambling sin, therefore, will not make us popular with many
people. To call gambling sin does not put us in the camp of the
majority. Many think it is good.
Others think it is not good for social reasons, but would not
go so far as to call it sin and oppose it for moral reasons. We who
call gambling sin are in a minority. Nevertheless, we are on God's
side! We are viewing the activity of gambling as God views it.
Why be so concerned to evaluate an activity as God does? The Christian
must be concerned to do so, because he desires to express in all that
he does his thankfulness for the salvation God has given him. And
thankfulness will be shown in doing that which pleases God, and
avoiding that which God hates.
There is another reason why we should be concerned to evaluate an
activity the same way God does, and this reason applies to Christians
and non-Christians alike: we will stand before this God in judgment!
Many ignore or deny the reality of this day of judgment, because they
deny that Jehovah is the only true God, and that Jesus is the Christ.
The fact is, however, that Christ will return to judge all men who
have lived, and pass sentence on every man, whether he has done good
or evil. With a view to that day, we ought to know gambling to be sin,
so that we can avoid it!
Third, it is important for us to know that gambling is sin because
only then will we be motivated to respond rightly, guarding against
this sin in ourselves, and working to deliver our loved ones and
neighbours from the trap of this sin. If a thief, a covetous person,
or an extortioner cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, except he turn
from his sin; if his everlasting existence after this life would be in
hell; then let us call sin sin, and work to deliver others, and
ourselves, from it! This must be our response.
How Should We Respond to This Sin?
Denounce and fight it.
The church and Christians must denounce and fight against gambling
in all its forms—lotteries, casinos, sports betting, and any other.
The church must do so in her preaching and teaching, in which she
warns her members against it. She must also do so by disciplining
impenitent gamblers in the church, which Reformed churches
historically have committed themselves to doing. The "Form for the
Administration of the Lord's Supper" which Reformed churches have used
for centuries warns "gamesters" to keep themselves from the table of
the Lord, lest they eat and drink judgment to themselves. The Oxford
English Dictionary gives several definitions of the term "gamester,"
some of which are obsolete uses; but one current use of the word is to
designate "one who habitually plays at games of chance for money or
other stake; a gambler." By warning such to refrain from partaking of
the Lord's Supper, Reformed churches underscore the seriousness of the
sin of gambling, as well as the fact that often the elders of the
church do not know who in the congregation is guilty of this sin. Were
they to know that a member gambles, and does so habitually, or without
being sorry for the sin, such elders who are faithful to their calling
would discipline that member.
Also, the Christian as an individual and as a member of a country has
not only the right, but also the calling, to fight
against gambling on a political level. However, even when he does so
on a political level, the Christian should not fail to use the Word of
God to denounce and fight gambling. That Word, after all, is the sword
of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) — through it the Spirit fights sin in
the hearts of sinners! Using this weapon, Christians will fight for
the right reason (gambling is sin!) and the right goal (upholding
God's honour and glory).
Confess and repent of it.
Before fighting the sin in others, however, we must be sure that we
have first repented of the sin ourselves, if we are guilty of it. That
this is proper we know to be true from Jesus' words in Matthew 7:4-5:
"Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out
of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite,
first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see
clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
Perhaps we have not actually bought a lottery ticket, or even played
in the office football pool, let alone gambled in the casinos. If this
is true of us, let us not be too quick to assume that we are not
guilty, and need not repent! For the sin which is at the heart of
gambling is the sin of covetousness and greed, and this sin
characterizes all of us by nature! We have not always used our money
rightly, in the service of God's kingdom! We have not always trusted
God to supply our needs! So, even if we have never gambled, we are
guilty of the same heart sin of which all gamblers are guilty. Let us
confess and repent of our own covetousness, before we call others to
repentance for their sin.
True repentance is characterized by turning from a sin in true hatred
of sin, and seeking to live a life that conforms more and more to
God's law, and is directed to God's glory.
Truly repenting, we can find in Jesus Christ the forgiveness which we
need. For by His death on the cross, Christ bore the guilt of His
people, suffering God's wrath and punishment against us for our sins,
in order that we might be delivered. And in Christ's resurrection, God
gave His testimony that Christ's work on the cross was complete. God
declares those who believe in Christ to be righteous, and free from
the guilt of sin!
Truly repenting, we can also find in Christ the grace and power to
fight against that sin in ourselves, and to guard against it. And this
guarding of ourselves must also be our response to this sin.
Guard against it.
We guard against it by warning others against this sin. Parents
must teach their children about its dangers. Friends will warn
But guarding always involves some form of positive work. A guard sets
The primary way, then, in which we can guard against this sin is by
having a proper view of God's gifts. The basic principles have been
set forth earlier, in connection with our showing why compulsive and
recreational gambling is wrong. Let me summarize the main points.
First, everything that exists is God's. He is the only true owner of
all things. "For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle
upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the
wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell
thee: for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof' (Psalm
Second, everything that we have and own—including money,
possessions, and time—is given us by God. They are gifts, not in the
sense that God relinquishes His ownership of these things, but gifts,
as a man gives his servant some of his possessions to care for
temporarily. That both possessions and time are gifts from God,
Solomon teaches us by inspiration in Ecclesiastes 5:18- 19: "Behold
that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to
drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under
the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his
portion. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and
hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to
rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God."
Third, therefore, we must use our possessions and time in the
consciousness that God watches us and that He will hold us accountable
for what we have done. The parables of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
and of the pounds (Luke 19:12-27) teach us that God will require
an accounting of us. That we are stewards of God's possessions must
govern everything that we do with what we have! This principle
applies not only to gambling, but also to any form of waste or
frivolous use of our money. One who quickly buys things that he does
not need or will not use; one who spends money like it is water; one
whose heart is set on always having nice things—such must also take
this principle to heart. We all must!
Fourth, understanding that God gives us possessions, we must be
content with what we have been given. He has given me a certain amount
of His goods, over which I am steward; He has given be content with my
lot, and the other person with his. Each must remember that God gives
His people exactly enough to serve Him in exactly the way He would
have them serve! So if we can truly pray the prayer, "Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven," not only will God answer by giving us
the grace of contentment, but He will also enable us to see that what
He has given is His will, and we will be able to glorify and
serve Him with that amount.
Now if we take these points to heart, and govern all that we do by
these principles, then we are guarding against covetousness, and
therefore also against gambling. Then we will use our time, money, and
possessions in a legitimate way, to God's glory, and manifest thereby
our thankfulness to Him for all that He has done for us.
And the power to do this we can find in Christ our Saviour, who is the
faithful steward of all that God has given Him.
Responding in these ways, Christians and the church of Jesus Christ
can win the battle against gambling. Perhaps we can win battles in the
political arena. Perhaps not. The world will not always hear or
appreciate hearing our perspective. But we can win the battle in our
own hearts, and so manifest more and more that we are also faithful
stewards and servants of God.
Let us do this, to God's glory!
1 Cf. Dr.
James Dobson, "Family News from Focus on the Family," January 1999 and
April 1999 issues. Dr. Dobson personally studied the effects of
gambling when Congress appointed him to serve on the National Gambling
Impact Study Commission from 1997 to 1999. Although I will not make
further reference to these letters, the reader may be assured that
they are full of statistics that support assertions that I make in
this pamphlet. I encourage the interested reader to obtain past copies
of them, if they are available, from Focus on the Family, Colorado
Springs, CO 80995.