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What's the problem with gambling?


Gambling is promoted widely in our society. Together with the lottery, gambling is presented as an opportunity for a financial windfall - often beyond your wildest dreams. Yet there are those addicted to it - they have a gambling addiction! How should a Christian view gambling and the lottery? Could it be OK or might it be a problem?"


The following is a question I received on the very topical and current issue of gambling and the lottery:

"I hear many say there's nothing wrong with playing the lottery or gambling or just playing cards as a leisure activity. What does scripture say about these things?"


For the Christian, what this matter of gambling or playing the lottery really comes down to is a question of who or what your faith and expectation is in!

Is it right to be looking to "luck" for your prosperity or should you be looking to God's blessing? Shouldn't you be living through Jesus so that the blessing of Abraham can come on you through Him to His glory and honour? Listen to what scripture declares Jesus has done for you,

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us...that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:13-14 - NKJV


Jesus paid a high price to redeem us from the curse and make that blessing of Abraham available to you and to me. It cost Him His life, sacrificed for us on the cross. How can a Christian therefore be looking elsewhere other that to Him and His Father for prospering in their lives?

Here's what the psalmist David felt about where his expectation in life should rest,

My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved.

Psalm 62:5-6 - KJV


In regard to other "sources" of gain, I like the answer Abram (Abraham) gave to the king of Sodom when the king offered him all the goods he had taken back from those who had plundered Sodom and Gomorrah. He said,

I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich'

Genesis 14:23 - NKJV


Having said this it must be added that gambling has other dangers also. For one thing, gambling can clearly, very easily grab ahold of people and become addictive and in a way that suggests to me a spiritual oppression at work.

There was one dear Christian brother I was ministering to some years ago who struggled terribly with a gambling addiction. The apostle Peter wrote in one of his letters,

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

1 Peter 5:8-9 - NKJV


The devil recognises an inclination to gamble as a spiritual weakness and sends his spirits to establish a hold over people through it. He wants gambling to become a ruining addiction in them. Resist him, steadfast in the faith!


As for card playing, the problem with this one is that there is often a worldly culture surrounding it that is contrary to Christian culture. Paul, in describing how we should live in Christ, brings out plainly for us the difference between walking in a worldly culture and walking in the culture of the kingdom of God. He writes,

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of this world and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him.

Colossian 2:6-10 - NKJV


Follow in this counsel of the Holy Spirit given through Paul and you will come to know the peace and well-being of a life protected, provided for and prospered in Christ.


I was asked,

"I just wonder if you were say gambling and you were giving all your winnings to the church and, even if you lost, you would still tithe the same amount as you would normally tithe - would that be okay?"


In response I wrote:

This question surprised me somewhat. It comes across as though you are trying to ascertain if there is a Bible law against gambling and then, if you suspect there is, you are looking for a legal loophole that absolves you from keeping such a law.


What you need to understand is that the New Testament is not formed around a legal code, that is, Old Testament style law. Rather it is formed around a relationship with God made possible by Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. In this relationship the Word is ministered to you and the counsel of the Holy Spirit provided for you in order that you may know in this life well-being of body, soul and spirit. 1 Thes.5:23.

If the ministry of the Word and the counsel of the Holy Spirit indicates a certain action is liable to cause harm to body, soul or spirit you will do well to heed that. If you do the potentially harmful, you determining to give the result of that activity to the church or a good cause will in no way make of no effect the harmful nature of the activity.

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