Questions From Readers
Is it wrong to bet if only small amounts of money are involved?
God’s Word does not discuss gambling in detail, but it does say enough to show that all gambling is incompatible with Bible principles.* For instance, it is widely acknowledged that gambling incites greed. That fact alone is an important consideration for Christians, since the Bible states that “greedy persons” will not inherit God’s Kingdom and classes covetousness with idolatry.—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Colossians 3:5.
Gambling also incites egotism and an unhealthy competitive spirit, a strong desire to win. The apostle Paul warned against such things when he wrote: “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:26) Further, gambling encourages in some a superstitious reliance on good luck. Gamblers develop all kinds of superstitions, hoping to influence luck in their favor. They remind us of the unfaithful Israelites who were “setting in order a table for the god of Good Luck and those filling up mixed wine for the god of Destiny.”—Isaiah 65:11.
Some might reason that betting small amounts of money while playing a friendly card or board game with relatives or close friends is no more than innocent entertainment. True, someone who bets a small amount of money may not view himself as greedy, egotistical, competitive, or superstitious. Still, what effect could his gambling have on the ones he is gambling with? Many compulsive gamblers began by making petty bets ‘just for fun.’ (Luke 16:10) A seemingly innocent diversion turned out to be something far more sinister in their case.
That is especially true where children are concerned. Many children have felt the excitement of winning a small bet and have been tempted to go for larger sums. (1 Timothy 6:10) A long-term study published in the United States by the Arizona Council on Compulsive Gambling confirms that many gambling addicts began at an early age “by placing small bets on sporting events or playing cards with friends or relatives.” Another report says that “children start gambling at home, usually at card games with family and friends.” The report adds that “thirty percent of children who gambled started doing so before their eleventh birthday.” Many teenage gamblers finance their addiction with crime or immorality, according to the study Why Do People Gamble Too Much—Pathological and Problem Gambling. What a tragic consequence of something that may have seemed at first to be harmless!
Since we are living in a world that already has too many snares and temptations, why unnecessarily expose ourselves to yet another? (Proverbs 27:12) Gambling—with or without children present, for small or for large sums—endangers spirituality and should be avoided. Christians who enjoy board or card games as recreation would be better advised to keep a penciled score or to play the game simply for fun without keeping score. Wise Christians who care about their own spirituality as well as that of their friends and family avoid the practice of gambling—even for small sums of money.
The World Book Encyclopedia defines gambling as “betting on the outcome of a game, event, or chance happening.” It further states that “gamblers or players usually bet money on . . . such games of chance as lotteries, card games, and dice.”