Is Gambling Wrong?

Poker

This question comes up from time to time. Is it wrong for a Christian to gamble? Gambling is never specifically condemned in the New Testament. This is often pointed out by those who defend it. However, something can still be wrong without being specifically condemned. Can we say that gambling is wrong, despite no specific condemnation? Let us consider the question.

It seems that many who defend the practice of gambling believe that one of the reasons that some oppose it is because it involves risk. So they bring up other risks that those who oppose gambling see nothing wrong with. A parallel is often made with investing. It is argued that when you invest money, you are taking a risk in order to gain more money, just like in gambling. Sometimes the point is brought up that everything we do in life involves risk (a common example is driving a car). These things certainly do involve risk, just as gambling does. But risk is not the issue.

We must be good stewards of God’s blessings (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Some put themselves and their families in financial hardship in order to gamble. Men have the responsibility to provide for their family (1 Timothy 5:8). Women are to do their husbands good and not evil (Proverbs 31:12). We must not neglect these responsibilities for gambling.

But what about gambling in moderation? Some may argue that one can gamble without putting themselves or their family in financial jeopardy. They view it as a form of entertainment like going to a movie or a football game. There are many things we do with our money that we do not need. Some will say there are better things we can do with our money than gamble. But to be fair, that would also be true for any type of wholesome entertainment and recreation. Does that mean we should not use money for anything but our bare necessities? How far will one take this? If one opposes gambling on the basis that there are better things that could be done with the money, then to be consistent they must oppose all forms of entertainment and recreation on the same basis. There will always be better things we can do with our money.

But gambling can be also addictive. Gambling in moderation can eventually become gambling in excess because of its addictive nature. Paul said that Christians are not to be addicted to anything. In speaking of things that are “lawful” and “profitable,” Paul said he would “not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). If we are addicted to something, even if it is lawful, that thing is a master over us and is, therefore, wrong. We are to have no other master but the Lord (Matthew 6:24).

Is it possible for one to gamble, yet never become addicted to it and it never cause him to fail in his financial responsibilities? Maybe. Does that mean gambling is an acceptable practice for a Christian? No. Why not?

The fundamental reason why gambling is wrong is because of the Bible’s condemnation of covetousness (Romans 1:29; 13:9; Colossians 3:5). All gambling – even casual gambling in moderation – involves covetousness. Some may object to that statement, but the whole point of gambling is to obtain something that belongs to someone else. If someone says they are not interested in winning someone else’s money (or whatever has been wagered), then they do not need to gamble. That is the reason why people gamble – they want the possessions of another.

We are to put the best interest of others ahead of ourselves. Paul told the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfishness of empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). One is not doing that when he gambles. The practice does not fit into the New Testament description of a Christian. Therefore, it is not something we ought to do.


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