A gracEmail subscriber writes, “Does the Bible actually condemn gambling? If not, where does my church get the notion that gambling is wrong?”
* * *
I do not know any biblical text which specifically says that gambling is wrong. However, it becomes wrong when it springs from improper motives or manifests lack of self-control. “Thou shalt not covet” is as ancient as the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:17). The New Testament also prohibits greed or covetousness, which it classifies as a form of idolatry (Eph. 5:5). “The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil,” warns the Apostle Paul — a warning with implications for many areas of life (1 Tim. 6:10).
Compulsive or immoderate gambling is inconsistent with a Christian lifestyle, which includes working for an honest living, providing for one’s own family and giving to those in need (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thes. 3:11-12; 1 Tim. 5:8). One does not need to open a Bible to know that gambling can be addictive, or to understand the variety of harmful consequences this particular addiction often produces.
Gambling might also betray a lack of trust in God to provide. Seven centuries before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah warned some who had forsaken God, who banqueted in honor of Fortune and offered toasts to Destiny (Isa. 65:11, NASB). Both King David of Israel and Jesus Christ himself urge us to concentrate on doing good, assured that God will provide for our actual needs (Psalm 37:3-5; Matt. 6:25-34).
All that said, some people who do trust God and exercise self-control play occasional games of chance or buy a lottery ticket, spending no more than they would on any other form of entertainment. State or local governments which forbid gambling in general often allow official lotteries, or Bingo games sponsored by nonprofit organizations as fundraisers. With regard to such gambling, right-thinking people will examine their motives and conduct themselves responsibly. I respect those who totally abstain, but I cannot condemn the choice of those who, under such restrictions and guidelines, do not.