Are God’s Interests Served by Gambling?
A CROWD of three hundred and five women sat silently at long rows of tables, concentrating on cards lying before them that were covered with numbers. They listened intently as a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church called off the numbers of table tennis balls as they popped out of a cage. Although this was the first licensed bingo game in New York city, it was not the first bingo game to be held there. They had been conducted by many New York churches for years, notwithstanding the fact that they violated antigambling laws.
Can it be said that gambling is the way Christ intended his followers to serve God’s interests? How can something that is generally recognized as a vice and a breeder of crime be rightly used by persons who are supposed to represent God, build up morals and teach people to respect laws?
The religious leaders who operate gambling games see nothing wrong in it as long as the games are for a charitable purpose. The official organ of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston stated: “In the matter of gambling, from the Catholic view, we look much less at the game than at the one involved in it. The element of chance is not the moral hazard but the ability of the person concerned to squander money on such a recreation. If the monies involved are not monies which should properly be spent elsewhere gambling as a sport is just about as morally indifferent as the next game.”
The magazine goes on to observe: “The by-products of illegal gambling are deadly poisons which drip into the stream of community life and affect in some manner every member of society.” Does the legality or illegality of gambling make the effects any different? Are not bingo games that are held by churches in places where antigambling laws make no exception for them illegal and a willful defiance of the law?
Although gambling may be done for what is considered to be a worthy cause, its degrading effects do not change. David Allen, in his book The Nature of Gambling, said: “Gambling is a harmful activity. . . . It leads to massive embezzlement, cheating, killing and disruption of many kinds. . . . In all of the attempts to analyze gambling from every viewpoint, there is not one shred of evidence to favor it.” These bad fruits of gambling stamp it as a vice that should be avoided by Christians, especially those who are overseers.
Church gambling may appear to be innocent on the surface, but it can be the start of the gambling fever that grips confirmed gamblers and leads to their undoing. It can get a grip on a person that is almost as difficult to break as drug addiction. Regarding confirmed gamblers, one who reformed said: “They are as dangerous to themselves, their families and their communities as the worst of narcotic addicts. . . . I have known women to lose their husbands’ pay checks week after week in bingo games, and then go to any extreme—literally—to make enough money to conceal their losses from their husbands.” Many normally honest people have embezzled money to cover gambling losses.
Is a church instilling respect for Christian morals when it employs a morally degrading device for raising money? Is it teaching love for truth and honesty when it sponsors something that causes wives to be deceitful to their husbands?
The three hundred and five women at the bingo game in New York were very indignant when a city inspector endeavored to stop the game for a legal reason. Reporting on it, the New York Times said: “A chorus of boos and catcalls and stamping feet greeted the intruders. . . . Inspector Meyer tried to serve a summons on the dean. But the priest ignored the inspector and continued to call the numbers. . . . The women at yesterday’s game did not want to be identified because they felt that their husbands objected to afternoon bingo. . . . ‘There will always be a bingo,’ one woman said solemnly, ‘and we will always know where to find a game.’” Would a woman with such love for gambling hesitate to engage in what is considered to be illegal gambling? Instead of helping her to build up resistance to the dangerous gambling fever, the church is tearing it down.
A Brooklyn rackets grand jury declared: “Gambling has become the foundation of organized crime, both locally and nationally.” The jury deplored the indifference shown by the general public toward this social evil. Does not church-sponsored gambling contribute to this indifference? The efforts of law-enforcing agencies to stamp out this social evil are weakened by churches that insist upon sponsoring gambling.
Such churches cannot divorce themselves from responsibility for the general increase in lawlessness and say that it is due to lack of religious training. They contribute to it by persisting in using a means for raising money that can lead to personal, social, political and economic disintegration.
God cannot be served by practices that deteriorate morals, that produce bad fruit and that enslave people to desires and pleasures. Persons who truly serve God’s interests continually strive to build up respect for Scriptural principles and to help others break away from the damaging desires and practices of this corrupt world. “For even we were once senseless, disobedient, being misled, being slaves to various desires and pleasures, carrying on in maliciousness and envy, hateful, hating one another.” “Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you. But these people will render an account to the one ready to judge those living and those dead.”—Titus 3:3; 1 Pet. 4:4, 5.
The end, getting money for a church, does not justify the means. A tool used by the underworld has no place among those who profess to serve God. Gambling cannot serve God’s interests, and no amount of twisted reasoning can justify its use. It is a social evil that true Christians leave behind when they separate from the senseless and hurtful desires of this corrupt world.