Thou Shall Not Gamble
by Elder Timothy Binion
Acts 19:23-28: And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; 25 Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. 26 Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: 27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. 28 And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
After reading this passage, it is easy to see how truth may cause a social uproar. Never should the Church of Jesus Christ cause trouble; but, if we contend for the truth, we should expect it. The simple preaching of truth exposes errors and wrongs done in society. Notice how the gospel caused an economical uproar in Asia, threatening the wealth of evil men. Money and not the “principle of the thing” generated verbal propaganda in opposition to the truth. It has been said that the most vital nerve in the body runs from the heart to the pocketbook. So Demetrius used loaded words to stir up the people, thru appealing to their religious freedom, their patriotism, and their pocketbooks. The same mob-like philosophy occurs when one contests gambling. It’s time Christians stand against this morality by majority, and let the chips fall where they may.
First, we must understand that gambling is not the same as taking a risk. The Bible does not condemn taking a risk. According to the Bible, taking a risk must be done in order to survive. Every farmer must take a risk or else he would never harvest the fruits of his toil. In Ecclesiastes 11:4 we read “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” The farmer must risk the cost of his seeds in spite of the unpredictability of the weather. Therefore, the Bible is not against taking a risk. Actually, the Bible encourages us to take some risks. The man with a talent refused to take a risk and we read of his fate in Matthew 25:24.
It’s also easy to conclude that the stock market is not gambling. There is nothing wrong in being adventurous in business, bonds, or stocks. There is a big difference in betting on a horse race and investing in stocks. In gambling, for every winner there must be losers. If you win in a game of chance, others must lose. Gambling is predicated on one person getting what belongs to another, creating a win/lose situation. In stocks, one invests in business, labor, and economic growth. If the company wins, you win; or if the company loses, you lose. However, both parties unite for the good of the other, and not the hurt of the other. Stocks are established on a win-win philosophy, a shared incentive, and a shared outcome. In other words, you help meet another person’s need so your needs will be met. Gambling on the other hand must produce losers for anyone to win.
There are Bible passages that show it is wrong to gamble. In Proverbs 28:20-22 we read: “A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.” Gambling also transgresses the spirit of God’s commandments found in Exodus 20:15-17: “Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
Gambling is a form of robbery by mutual consent. Gambling transfers wealth not earned and receives wealth without giving anything in exchange. Gambling is the spirit of thievery and covetousness. The Bible charges us to stop stealing and get our money by working for it: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28 ). Christians are instructed to avoid this riotous living and earn a honest living.
1 Thessalonians 4:11 says “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you”. Christians are warned of the dangers associated with wanting the big win and the sorrows it can cause:“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10 ).
Let’s say two men agree to a dual and choose to “shoot it out”. Both men agree that one must die. Is killing then acceptable? No, murder by mutual consent is still murder. Agreeing does not make it morally right. Agreeing to take what belongs to someone else without giving anything for it is stealing by mutual consent.
Thievery by mutual consent is still stealing. As one person put it, “he who gambles and loses is a fool, and he who gambles and wins is a thief”.
Suppose two men meet in a dark alley. One man has a gun and comes out with what belongs to the other man. You would call that man a thief. What if two men meet in an back alley with dice. One man comes out with what belongs to the other man. What would you call him? You would call him a gambler. What is the major difference? In the first scenario, one had the spirit of thievery and in the second, both men had the spirit of thievery.
Furthermore, gambling violates the principle of love illustrated in Matthew 22:37-40: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Observe the spirit of a gambler. His spirit is love of self at the expense of his neighbor. He delights in pleasure and profit at the expense of someone else’s pain and loss. You cannot win without someone losing or being hurt. The gambler must victimize his neighbor in order to have fun and win. There are 10 million compulsive gamblers in America who share the same addiction symptoms as alcoholics and drug addicts. The family of a compulsive gambler suffers pain and financial disgrace. A gambler loves self and destroys his neighbor.
Another evil of this subject is how it abuses the poor. The poor are the most tempted to gamble. Their only hope is to turn their dimes into millions by chance. In New Jersey, 1/3 of families making less than $10,000 a year, spent 1/5 of their 1999 income on the lottery. The tables in Las Vegas usually do their best business when welfare checks are received. Can’t we see that gambling is regressive taxation? Christ said “love people” and if we love them, we will not victimize them. Christians should never be involved in building an economy on something that wrecks and ruins the lives of other people. In Nevada, crime rates are double the national average and the suicide rate triples the national average. Don’t tell me you’re not hurting any body by gambling; the evidence speaks for itself.
We hear people say, “some may get hurt, but I still believe it will help our economy.” These people are in favor of taxing men’s weaknesses, or could we call it profiteering in human misery. The cost of human misery always outweighs the gain it produces.
Another clear teaching in scripture is that gambling violates the principle of work. The Bible teaches the gaining of wealth by working: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Ephesians 4:28 says “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” The lottery is an economic fraud. People trying to make money on the suffering of society clearly demonstrates our Godless convictions and lack of morals. Gambling does not make people wealthy, it simply redistributes wealth from the many to the few.
For a Christian to gamble, he must live by luck rather than providence. A Christian’s attitude should be: “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: 9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Proverbs 30:8-9). We should never serve the “god of chance” or his goddess, “Lady Luck”. The word “luck” is derived from mythology and is very pagan.
I’ve heard people say “It’s just recreation for me. If I want to spend it on ice cream or taking a chance, it’s mine to spend.” NO, IT IS NOT YOURS. “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fulness there of” (Psalm 24:1). I have heard people say, “Oh, but Preacher, I like to see the dogs and horses run.” Well, I like dogs and horses, too, but I don’t equate that with gambling. That’s like equating the mountains with Busch Beer. True recreation will relax and soothe, but where there is something rotten you’ll find a bunch of buzzards.
The evils of gambling are clear. Gambling contributes nothing good to society, finances crime, robs people, and violates the principles of God’s Word. Christians should not gamble because the scriptures clearly illustrate the lesson “thou shall not gamble”.