What the Bible Says About Gambling
The article is not to condemn anyone for gambling in any form. Neither does it condone gambling as a lifestyle. Therefore, there are no links to places to gamble. There are also no tips about how to participate in the activity.
As a Bible teacher, I write many articles about what the Bible says about topics that are interesting enough for people to read. Hopefully, this is one of them.
Gambling is defined as the act of wagering money or something of value on an event or activity with the ultimate goal of winning something that is worth more than the money risked on the activity.
It is safe to say that gambling involves money and a risk of losing it just as it involves the risk of winning more money than was placed on the activity or event.
Gambling By Another Name
Gambling laws are regulated by each state. Some states do not call the activity gambling. That's why they can provide gambling activities by calling it something else. Casinos are illegal in the state of Virginia where this writer lives. It is called "gaming" even though the activity is the same.
William Shakespeare said, "A rose by any other name is still a rose." Based on that quotation, "Gambling by any other name is still gambling."
Casting Lots and Drawing Straws
The Bible does not mention gambling directly. It does mention things like luck, chance, and casting lots. Casting lots were used in the Bible to make choices much like drawing straws.
The reason for casting lots in the Bible was to receive an impartial, unbiased decision on important matters. After the lot was cast, no one could disagree with the decision because the decision was not by a human. Instead, the result was random.
- Casting lots was a method to choose between the sacrificial goat and the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:10).
- Joshua cast lots to determine the allotment of land that should go to the various tribes (Joshua 18:10).
- Lots were cast between King Saul and his son Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:42).
- Lots were cast to determine who would live inside the walls of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 11:1).
- Lots were cast for the division of Jesus' clothes when He was crucified on the cross, according to Matthew 27:45.
- The apostles cast lots to determine who would be the replacement for Judas (Acts 1:26). That was the last time casting lots was used for the method of choice in the Bible.
So, should people continue to cast lots? The Bible says nothing else about casting lots. People still draw straws to make certain decisions.
Church Raffles and Fundraising
Some churches use many worldly activities to raise money to carry on their ministry even though the Bible requires more spiritual methods. That is why conservative Christians frown upon gambling in the form of lotteries, slot machines, horse racing, dog racing, sweepstakes, raffle tickets, roulette wheels, poker, bridge, bingo, or flipping a coin. They believe these are not the way to carry on the ministry of the church. They also believe God is not involved in these activities and He has nothing to do with the outcome.
One church is known to change the name of gambling for the church to "ministry enhancement" to get church members not to think of it as gambling but as a more biblical way to raise funds for the religious organization. The church feels the same way about selling raffle tickets. The winner gets a prize and the church gets the money.
Do Proceeds from Gambling Please God?
Many people claim they gamble so that they can give their winnings to the church or to some charity. That sounds good but God is not impressed when someone makes that claim because that's not the way God requires His work to continue. Besides, few people do as they promised and do not give a significant amount of their winnings to the church. Therefore, the person has lied and has not kept a vow made to God. In Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and Sapphira lost their lives for promising God money and withholding part of it.
God is not impressed with someone claiming to give their winnings to the church because God does not need anyone's money to fund His mission in the world. God is able to provide for the needs of the church through other means that do not include winnings from someone's gambling habit just as God doesn't want money received from robbing a bank, selling drugs, or prostitution.
A preacher once argued that money donated to the church by any means is acceptable as long as the deacons and trustees pray over it after it is placed in the offering basket. The church accepts gambling money, but does God accept it?
Is Gambling a Sin?
The Bible doesn't mention casinos, betting, lotteries, and other forms of gambling, but it warns about sins that are offshoots of gambling, such as temptation, stealing to get money to gamble and being in a bad mood when one doesn't win.
While the Bible does not specifically condemn gambling, the Word of God does warn disciples of Christ to stay away from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5) and from "get rich quick schemes" (Proverbs 13:11; 23:5; Ecclesiastes 5:10). The Bible also warns against making something an idol. When people can't resist gambling on a regular basis, it becomes an idol no matter how much people rationale that it is not. Whenever gambling replaces God, it is an idol even if people refuse to admit it.
To emphasize further, gambling is NOT a sin in itself. However, things might result from gambling that go against God's will.
Does Gambling Waste Time and Money?
A person's time and money belong to God, and the Bible says a person should be a good steward of both. When a person gambles, he is using God's time and God's money to do so. If a person's lifestyle is to gamble with God's money and waste God's time, then that person is stealing from God and not being a good steward over what belongs to God.
Some people who gamble argue that gambling is no more a waste of time and money than some other activities. For instance, people go on exotic vacations, eat at expensive restaurants, and spend an excessive amount of money on clothes.
Those who put gambling in the same category as other expenditures should know that doesn't make it right to say wasting money on anything is appropriate because money should not be wasted on anything.
Money is best used when it pays for the safety, protection, and provisions for one's family and to finance the Lord's work instead of gambling it away. Anyway, research shows that many winners end up in financial ruins just a few years after winning a big jackpot.
Scriptures Pertaining to Money
While there are no scriptures in the Bible forbidding gambling, there are plenty of them about money. Here are just of few.
First Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
Hebrews 13:5 declares, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”
Matthew 6:24 proclaims, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income."