The Bible and Gambling

Matthew 6:24-34

The God who created man gave him, as a guideline for life, two ethics on which to live; two ethics on which to develop a lifestyle (see Genesis 1:26-28; 2:1-3; 3:19). These two ethics are work and worship.

Work was, and is, God ordained.

The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:2a that God worked. In Genesis 3:19 we discover God ordained that man would work. Work is scriptural (see Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Work is ordained by God, commanded in His Word, and illustrated personally by what He did. Each person is obligated under God to work – at an honest and legitimate labor.
In Genesis chapter 3, the curse pronounced upon the ground, following the fall, is not a curse upon work but a recognition of the frustration and hardship that attended humanity’s quest for survival in a fallen world. Work is honorable; sin is dishonorable. Work, not gambling, provides the means of sustaining one’s life and supporting one’s dependents. It is through the medium of work that humans express their essential being. God is a worker, and we human beings are to work. In John 5:17 Jesus said, “My Father works and I work.” Therefore, we are to work as we follow the example of the God who created us and the Savior who redeemed us.
The biblical view of work affords no room for the practice of gambling.
The divine command rings clear that one should labor and do one’s work (see Exodus 20:9; Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Work has a functional value as well as an ethical one. It is rooted in creation and in necessity. Each person is obligated under God to work. This work must be in keeping with God’s intention and divine design for human life.
Work is related to the use of the earth’s resources. The able person who refuses to work has no right to eat. No one is to freeload off someone else. Idleness, the Bible says, is a form of impurity because it repudiates work, which is the divinely appointed way of caring and providing for one’s household (see 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12; 2 Timothy 5:8).
Work is related to creativity. It is sharing in God’s activity in the world. Therefore, the type of employment whereby a living is gained must agree with the purpose of God and must form a part of the world’s needed work. There are some forms of work that are socially and morally degrading, and therefore, inconsistent with divine intention and human good. The Bible says in Proverbs 13:16, “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gather by labor shall increase.”

The second ethic on which man is to build life is worship (Genesis 2:2-3).

The key word is “sanctified” (vs.3). In the Old Testament the same Hebrew word (qodesh) is translated consecrate (set apart), dedicate and holy. It means to set apart for the service of God. Worship is in its essence.
As in work, so in rest and worship we are to follow the example of God. The Sabbath (Sunday) is to be a day of worship of God and a day of rest from labor. On these two ethics God has ordained that we build and maintain life and gambling is not included.
Approximately 50 million Americans gamble.
That adds up to about one out of four. They wager an estimated 50 to 60 billion dollars annually – more than is spent on education, religion, or medical care. The annual profit of professional gamblers is estimated to be greater than the combined profit of the one hundred largest corporations in America. Is there any doubt as to who profits from gambling?
Behind the bright lights of the nation’s gambling center, hidden carefully away from the public gaze, is the crime and corruption which gambling brings to individuals and to society. And the only ones who profit from gambling are those who control, and sooner or later that winds up in the hands of racketeers. And these people eventually own and control the politicians and the state. That’s a proven fact.
Milton R. Wessel, a lawyer who headed a special government study on organized crime, declared, “Fully half of the syndicates’ income from gambling is earmarked for protection money paid to police and politicians.” Approximately 4.5 billion dollars annually goes from gamblers to public officials as bribes. All careful studies on gambling point out frequent incidents of political corruption. The Senate Crimes Investigation Committee commented: “In states where gambling is illegal, this alliance of gamblers, gangsters, and government will yield to the spotlight of publicity and the presence of public opinion, but where gambling receives a cloak of respectability through legalization, there is no weapon which can be used to keep the gamblers and their money out of politics.”
Do you really think those who promote gambling are interested in educating our children, the improvement of the economic climate of our state, the moral and ethical condition of our people? No one can be that naïve! They are interested only in making big bucks for themselves, and they do not care how much it costs, or how many are hurt. Former Nevada Deputy Attorney General Chuck Gardner said it well: “No one in the history of mankind has ever developed or operated a casino out of burning desire to improve the lot of humanity.” The central moral thrust of the Bible is love for God and neighbor (Matthew 22: 37-40). Gambling seeks personal gain and pleasure at another man’s loss and pain. Former Lt. Governor Windom has said: “We need to be teaching our children that you get ahead in this world by the sweat of your brow and the skills of your mind, not by sitting on your behind holding a lottery ticket in your hand, waiting on a payday that will never come.”
Gambling is not a sport.
It is not entertainment. It is not recreation. It can become, and often does, a deadly malady; a sickness claiming addicts, as does alcohol, cocaine and other demonic drugs. Legitimate sport has its place in our society. There are times when all of us need good entertainment. Recreation is a boon to be enjoyed, but gambling is a curse that breeds vice and crime.
Nowhere are the sins of the flesh more in evidence than where gambling holds sway. There one finds immorality, greed, licentiousness, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, and the list goes on. Listen again to what Jesus says in Matthew 6:24, 33:
“No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
“But seek first the kingdom of God; and his righteousness; and all these other things shall be added unto you.”
Ask, “What would Jesus do?” The One who went about doing good; who said, “Love your neighbor” (not exploit him). The One who said, “Beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses – but in knowing and doing the will of God.”
The essence of life, and the soul of wisdom, is to ask; “What would Jesus have me do?” – and do it, not just with gambling but with all of life. The Lord gives us the answer, hear it carefully.
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every one according to his works.” Matthew 16: 26-27.

Fred Lackey

Associate Pastor at Clements Church, Athens, AL
Fred Lackey is the associate pastor of Clements Church, Athens. Lackey most recently served as pastor of Westside Church, Jasper, from 1998 to 2013. He and his wife, Sue, have three children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Fred Lackey

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