Have You Ever Wondered—
Is It Wrong to Gamble?
LOTTERIES, betting on horses and other forms of racing, games of skill and of chance—all affect the lives of countless millions of persons every day. Of course, gambling has always been present in human society. But today it plays a bigger role in life than it did years ago.
WHY IS GAMBLING SO POPULAR TODAY?
There are several basic reasons. In the 20th century increased emphasis has been put on material possessions, and modern technology has made them available in varieties and quantities never possible before. Air flight has also made travel to distant places easier. But these things all require money. Gambling holds out the lure of “easy money,” lots of it.
The promise of large prizes has a powerful influence. The biggest lottery in the world, Spain’s El Gordo, “The Fat One,” annually pays out about £200 million ($460 million, U.S.) at Christmastime. Last year, members of a Roman Catholic Church in Granollers netted £40 million ($92 million, U.S.) as a result of the sale of some of these lottery tickets by their priest. In Britain, a record sum of just under £1,000,000 ($2.3 million, U.S.) was paid to a man in February 1980 as a football-pool dividend. As prizes get bigger the inducement becomes stronger.
Then there is the excitement related to gambling. In a world where problems weigh heavily, some find that flights of fancy into a world of wealth add spice to living. After all, somebody has to win. “It could well be me!” each gambler feels.
WHO REALLY WINS AT GAMBLING?
Prizes can be large or small, but it is obvious that the gambling promoter is always on the winning side, otherwise he would be unable to operate. The case of a man in England illustrates this. After he got thousands of pounds in a winning streak at horse-race betting, he was banned for life from his local betting shop. Why? As the manager said: “His business had become uneconomical for us.”
“What about the years I was losing?” lamented the customer. “They welcomed my money then with open arms.” Ah, but that was a different story!
Even a big win does not necessarily bring happiness to the one who gets it. Once the news leaks out, begging letters and “friends” often descend. When a married couple won the biggest-ever prize on the French National Lottery, they decided to share their “luck” with their family. To each family member they gave a sizable sum of money. But disputes over the way the money had been divided soon led to fights and the eventual breakup of the family. Later, in an effort to protect his property, the husband took to sleeping with a revolver under his pillow. Waking up one night, he saw a figure outlined by the window. Mistaking his wife for a burglar, he shot and killed her.
“I will never buy another lottery ticket,” vowed the widower. Money cannot buy contentment and family unity.
Of course, not everybody becomes a compulsive gambler, but the danger is real. As “Gamblers Anonymous” points out: “Once a man is in the grip of this addiction [gambling], he has lost all control, all sense of moral values.” In every respect, such a person is the loser. When so much is at stake, how much wiser not to get involved in the first place!
WHY DOES GAMBLING STILL CARRY A STIGMA?
Although many people may envy one who wins at gambling, they are more inclined to respect and trust a man who is a hard worker. Their viewpoint is often a result of experience. The Bible also recommends honest work instead of relying on chance. “Do you know a hard-working man? He shall be successful and stand before kings!” So said wise King Solomon in summing up the matter.—Prov. 22:29, The Living Bible.
Similarly, the apostle Paul, in writing to Christians at Ephesus, advised that a man should do “with his hands what is good work.” In that way, Paul adds, he may also “have something to distribute to someone in need.” How much finer to be giving under those circumstances than from money won by chance!—Eph. 4:28.
In many countries gambling has attracted criminal elements and, as a result, much corruption. Even where this is not so, the temptation to be dishonest usually presents itself somewhere along the line. As one scientist put it: ‘Defrauding a lottery is easy with a little scientific knowledge.’ It is a fact that wherever luck and chance are involved, the likelihood of somebody’s tampering with the results cannot be ruled out.
The stigma of gambling is clearly reflected in the Jewish Mishnah. Among those disqualified from being either witnesses or judges was “a dice-player.” Why this prohibition? Simply because such men were considered to be morally unreliable and, possibly, to have their judgment impaired. In most branches of society, involvement in gambling still carries with it a stigma.
IS GAMBLING A RESPONSIBLE USE OF OUR ASSETS?
“Getting rich quick” can warp an individual’s thinking. Even though there is more money, family ties often suffer.
Money is an asset, just like time, health and ability. Even if we are not motivated by greed and feel that no economic hardship will come to us or to our families from our gambling, we do have a further moral responsibility to consider. The Bible urges us to “work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share.” Only in this way, it reminds us, can we ever get a “firm hold on the real life.” (1 Tim. 6:17-19) A Christian seeks to accomplish as much good as he can with the wise use of his time and whatever money he has. For him, this is reason enough to shun gambling, whatever its form, however large or small the stakes involved.