Should Christians Gamble?
SHOULD a Christian gamble to try to get something for nothing? No, for God’s Word encourages him to work to provide for himself and his family: “‘If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.’ . . . By working with quietness they should eat food they themselves earn.”—2 Thessalonians 3:10, 12.
A sociologist called the lottery ‘a means by which many poor people make a few people rich,’ and this is true of gambling in general. Would a Christian want to enrich himself at the expense of those who can ill afford it? Christians should ‘love their neighbors as themselves.’ (Mark 12:31) But gambling inspires selfishness rather than love, indifference rather than compassion.
Gambling is often motivated by covetousness—greed—a spirit alien to Christianity. At Romans 7:7, Paul said: “You must not covet.” The word “covet” means “to long for, lust after.” Doesn’t that describe the gambler’s inordinate desire to win his neighbors’ money? Such a desire is incompatible with the Christian ideal of sharing and giving.
The Bible says: “The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have . . . stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:10) This describes the plight of the compulsive gambler, enslaved by a habit that stabs him painfully, time and again.
Jesus said that people can be recognized by “their fruits.” (Matthew 7:20) Apart from the misery suffered by compulsive gamblers and their families, gambling has long been associated with dishonesty and crime. The New Encyclopædia Britannica observes: “Much of the stigma attached to gambling has resulted from the dishonesty of its promoters.” Organized crime has been linked with both legal and illegal gambling activities. Would a Christian want to support this industry, even indirectly?
As explained in the second article of this series, gambling often involves a superstitious quest for lucky numbers, lucky days, or lucky streaks. Lady Luck has been courted for centuries by gamblers eager to curry her favor. She was called Fortuna by the Romans, and the city of Rome eventually had 26 temples erected in her honor.
The prophet Isaiah referred to a similar deity, called gadh, worshiped by apostate Israelites. He wrote: “You men are those leaving Jehovah, . . . those setting in order a table for the god of Good Luck [Hebrew, gadh].” (Isaiah 65:11) On the last day of the year, it was the custom to prepare for the god of Good Luck a table covered with various kinds of food. In this way the ancients hoped to ensure good luck during the coming year.
God did not approve of those who naively trusted in gadh, or Lady Luck, to solve their problems. Relying on luck was equated with leaving the true God, Jehovah. Rather than kowtowing to the fickle fancy of Fortune, Christians should trust in the true God, Jehovah, the One who promises us riches of far greater worth, the One who will never fail us.