Is Gambling Wrong?

The Kansas City Star on February 4, 2000, did a story on the desire to win “the big one” in local gambling establishments.  The article, “Jackpot Quest Takes Its Toll: Elusive payoff leaves players empty-handed,” reported that one individual lost $98,000 playing slot machines over a three week period.  This person, while looking on the bright side of things said, “The best day I only lost $2000.”

Is gambling wrong?  Something certainly seems wrong with it from this example!  Sadly, Christians are debating this question as though the practice of gambling could be right.  Statements like, “if I can afford it,” or “if the proceeds go to charity” somehow make gambling all right.  Would Christ find these reasons just?

Christians are getting involved in new and innovative ways to squander their financial resources.  State sponsored lottery tickets have replaced school raffles.  “Day trading” on the Internet has replaced investing in the Stock Market.  When was the last time you heard about a member of the church “taking advantage” of one of those opportunities advertised in the media to become “independently wealthy” in a short period of time?  Are these forms of gambling?

The answers to these questions depend on our definition of the term gambling.  Some people use the strict definition that only includes the gaming aspect of gambling.  Others state that gambling is merely risk taking.  I prefer to define gambling by using Proverbs 28:20 which says, “…But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.” 

The effort (the hastening) to get rich quick is one reason why gambling is wrong.  This certainly describes gambling in its most strict definition.  It also describes the more subtle forms of gambling if our desire is to turn a quick profit.  What gambler doesn’t desire to become wealthy in a moment?

There are consequences for the person who wants to get rich quick.  Notice Solomon warns of a punishment.  In essence he says that the person who hastens to be rich will lose.  In Proverbs 28:22, he adds that this effort to get rich quickly will result in poverty.  Poverty is the exact opposite of what the gambler desires.  The gambler dreams of instant wealth and in turn gets instant debts.

The gambler, even when he wins, is never satisfied.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “he who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance with increase.”  In the same newspaper article mentioned earlier, a lady and her boy friend on their way to losing $20,000 in a seven day period said she won several jackpots including six over $1000.  But they put them all back into the game.  How could they afford to lose that amount of money?  The boyfriend cashed in his retirement account.  He is now broke, depressed and suicidal.

A person who is involved in getting rich quick doesn’t understand the foolishness of his own actions.  Proverbs 12:11 says, “…But he who follows frivolity [self-indulgent, irresponsibility] is devoid of understanding.”  In the end, the gambler will lose his life.  “So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners” (Prov. 1:19).

Sadly, there are those in the faith that have no problems with trying to get rich quick.  “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10).  As this verse suggests, such individuals will only bring sorrows upon themselves.  I have heard of one such brother in Christ who won $5000 gaming and left the Church as a result.  For $5000 he has won the sorrow of eternal damnation.

If a person truly wants to get ahead in life, there is but one way.  “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and he adds no sorrow with it” (Prov. 10:22).  Seek God’s blessing and you will truly become rich.

By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net