by Mark duBarry



Gambling in America has become a large part of many people's daily life.  It's big business; fortunes are made and lost every day.  To some, it's going to Atlantic City or Las Vegas to the extravagant casinos and playing slot machines, roulette, or blackjack.  Others buy lotto tickets or play poker machines in the corner convenience store.  Some shoot dice in the back alley.  Yes, some so-called "churches" promote gambling through bingo or raffles as a fund-raisers.  Many of these and other activities have achieved legal status and the support of the general public.  Why are we as New Testament Christians opposed to such a widely accepted and legal activity?  Isn’t it harmless? Can you answer why you are opposed?  Does the Bible say we shouldn’t gamble?  Where?


            Which of the following is gambling?

·        Bingo?                                                     Sometime.

·        Pool/Billiards?                                        Sometime.

·        Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes?               Technically, No

·        Lottery?                                                    Always.

·        Slot Machines?                                        Always.

·        Casino?                                                     Always.

·        The Kentucky Derby?                             If you bet, yes!

·        The NCAA Basketball Tournament        If you bet, yes!

·        The Super Bowl?                         If you bet, yes!


I. What is Gambling anyway?

A. Definition: "A transaction of artificial risk for hope of excessive gain far beyond what the investment would justify."  The artificial risk is because the gamblers create the risk for themselves by voluntarily entering into the transaction.  It would not otherwise exist without it.  This is also a good way to judge if a thing is gambling or not: Is there an investment that could be lost in an artificial risk?  No risk of loss--No gamble.  If a game or sweepstakes doesn't require a purchase to enter, it's technically not gambling.  If you have to buy something, or pay something to enter, it is gambling (i.e. “No purchase necessary” clause).


II. What gambling is NOT.

A.  Gambling is not the casting of lots in the Bible.  Proponents of legalized gambling have pointed to this many times to "prove" the harmlessness and acceptability of gambling.  The casting of lots was a way of determining God's will in certain instances. 


·        Aaron, the High Priest cast lots to determine which of the two goats was to be the used for the sin offering and which would become the scapegoat. (Lev. 16:8-10)

·        It was used in the allocation of the Promised Land between the twelve tribes in Joshua 18:1-6. 

·        The porters of the gates received their gate assignments through the casting of lots in I Chronicles 26:13-14.

·        The sailors cast lots to reveal Jonah’s disobedience to the Lord was causing the problem for them in Jonah 1:7


Many other Old Testament decisions were made in this way.  This was not gambling.  Notice, nothing was wagered and nothing lost.  While this is not a valid method of determining God's will for us today, it absolutely was not gambling!  No one entered into a risk situation through wagering an investment.  It is ridiculous to use the biblical casting of lots to attempt to justify gambling.


In the New Testament, the replacement apostle, Matthias, was selected by lot in Acts 1:21-26.  In this instance, the casting of lots was the casting of votes.


B.  Buying insurance is not gambling.  It does not create the chance for excessive gain, nor does it create risk for the buyer.  There is no gamble here.  It is certain when the insurance company gets your premium money they will keep it!  Insurance, to the contrary, seeks to eliminate risk.


C.  Buying stock is not gambling.  When you buy stock, you as a stockholder, own part of the company.  If the company does well and makes a profit, you as an investor, or part owner (not a gambler) may profit.  If the company does poorly, you as part owner of the business, share in that outcome.  Investments of any kind should be approached cautiously and wisely, not by blind chance.  “Day trading” and jumping in and out of the stock market is not only foolish, it is quite risky and can be financially fatal.  In these cases, buying stock can indeed be gambling—the gambler is choosing stocks like horses in the Kentucky Derby, hoping for the big payoff (note the hope of excessive gain—beyond reason).


D.  Life itself is not gambling.  Some who want an excuse to gamble say that any aspect of life is gambling.  Marriage is a gamble.  Driving a car is a gamble.  In this way, they rationalize it (or make it right in their own mind) so they can do it without a guilty conscience.  Such logic is silly; anyone using this kind of logic can justify anything they would like to do in their own mind.  That’s the same way people justify abortion or drinking alcohol.


III. The Biblical Principles Against Gambling

A. Although the word itself does not appear in the Bible, some very clear principles are set forth:

1. Gambling violates God's commandment against covetousness (Ex. 20:17).  To covet something means that you have an obsessive strong desire to acquire or possess something.  Gambling provides the theoretical means to obtain a desired object or lifestyle.  If people did not badly want (covet) an object, they probably would not think of gambling for it.

2. Gambling violates the Biblical principle of work.  From Adam, men have had to earn their living “by the sweat of thy face”.  Gambling gives the impression that honest work is not required to provide for your family.  It says all you have to do is to bet on the right horse, draw the right card, select the right sequence of numbers on the lottery card, roll the dice properly, or support the best team.  2Thess. 3:10 says if an able bodied man doesn't work, he shouldn't get to eat either.  Gambling provides a way to get an abnormal windfall without labor.  For every gambler who wins the lottery, millions have to lose.  It’s funny—the headline story is that this person won the million-dollar lottery jackpot—while the real story is that millions of people lost multiplied millions of dollars!  Some may object saying that gambling is perfectly legal.  If that argument held up, we could not oppose abortion, the killing of babies, which is also legal.  Nowadays, there are many things that are legal but ungodly and sinful.

3.  Gambling violates the New Testament principle of love for each other and putting others before self.  True love is unselfish.  Gambling concentrates on one's own advantage, without regard for others who may have lost their money.  In order for a person to win at gambling, someone else must lose!  See Matthew 5:43-46; Galatians 5:13-14.  I Corinthians 13:5 says love ". . .seeketh not her own. . ."

4.  Gambling violates the principles of faith in God.  We as Christians are to trust God to deal righteously with us.  We are to see all things for our good (Romans 8:28).  God is not operating on chance.  We are not victims of "bad luck" (or good luck for that matter!).  To believe that we live by luck or chance is inconsistent with the sovereignty of God.  He works all things out according to His own will (Ephesians 1:11), not hoping things will work out like He thought.  Some would tempt God by gambling and asking Him to bless it.  They are deceived.  God does not lead His children away from the principles of His Word.  If so, one could believe God lead them to rob a bank.

5.  Gambling violates common sense.  It implies that if a person just had some more material wealth, then they would be happy, and all their problems would be solved.  This is far from the truth.  The more things a man has, the more things he has to worry with and about.  It is true that the constant obsession to get more and more will bring even greater unrest in one's life than before.  See Luke 12:15Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”.  Only Jesus Christ can bring real joy and peace to your life; not the things you own.


IV. A Sure Thing

Many people are, in a sense, gambling with their own soul.  They seek for happiness and contentment in the world through material things, drugs, or alcohol.  They hope they are right that once they die, they will not exist or have an eternal soul that can be held accountable to an Almighty Creator.  Or they hope they will acquire enough good works to out weigh the bad.  This is fiction and false hope.


On the other hand, receiving Christ as your personal Savior is not a gamble, it's a sure thing!  It has nothing to do with beating the odds or good luck.  It’s not how good you can be or how little sin you have committed.  Salvation is the free gift of God, it's not a prize or payoff (Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:).  There is no risk, and no investment required on your part.  Ask God for His gifts of repentance and faith today.  Don’t gamble with your eternal soul!