Why should a Christadelphian avoid gambling?
First, its motive is a bad frame of mind: greed, or
covetousness. And there are lots of passages about that.
Second, gambling exemplifies a bad principle, that is, that
wealth should be dependent on "chance" and not on services rendered (the sweat
of the brow, figuratively). Does God bless the throw of the dice, or the spin of
the wheel? Or the speed of one horse versus another (Psa 147:10)?
The third charge against gambling concerns its bad social
effects. The gambler's loss often leads to suffering for his wife (or -- perhaps
-- her husband) and children; debt sometimes follows, and then theft or other
illegal activities in an attempt to recoup the losses.
I suppose all of the above can be a 'tough sell', since the
word itself does not occur in the Bible.
But the Bible does refer, unfavorably, to the gods "Fortune"
and "Destiny". Kind of like "Lady Luck"!:
"But as for you who forsake the LORD and forget my holy mountain, who spread a
table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny" (Isa 65:11,
The NIV capitalizes both of these. They are proper
Apparently, both "Fortune" and "Destiny" were pagan gods. Some
commentators will point out that "Fortune" (Heb "Gad") was a Syrian deity of
good fortune, and that "Destiny" (Heb "Meniy") was another deity of
Lady Luck actually IS the Roman goddess Fortuna. Fortuna was
the patroness of gamblers, and so a favorite of soldiers. She survived into the
middle ages as "Dame Fortune'', who dished out good and bad luck at random,
using a device rather like a roulette wheel or "wheel of fortune'' to pick
recipients or victims.
Is gambling forbidden in scripture? While we may understand
that it is wrong to play the lottery or to gamble, is there any scriptural proof
that these practices are forbidden?
This issue is not one that is easy to resolve with a "thus
saith the Lord". There are scriptural approaches and we will do our best to
provide you with some direction on the subject. I will relate my comments only
to minor activities such as lotteries and raffles. I am confident that no
reasonable brother would attempt to justify an addiction to the evils associated
with high stakes gambling.
One of the factors involved in this discussion is motivation.
Why do we gamble? What is our real objective? It may be that the desire to be a
winner in "Powerball" is rooted in covetousness. The master has seen fit to
address this common weakness of the flesh in these words: "Take heed, and beware
of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things
which he possesseth" (Luk 12:15).
This instruction was not unique. It was included in the ten
commandments: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet
thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor
his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's" (Exo 20:17).
We are also instructed by the Apostle Paul: "Know ye not that
the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither
fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of
themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers,
nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1Co 6:9,10).
Covetous is a word that means: "desiring more, eager for
gain". It is a word that can easily be applied to gambling, which incidentally
means to "risk loss in order to gain an advantage".
The same message is presented again in Col 3:2,5: "Set your
affection on things above, not on things on the earth... Mortify therefore your
members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate
affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
The word "covetousness" in this verse relates to avarice and
greediness. "Concupiscence" means to desire, to long for or lust after. These
are both characteristics which we are told to mortify -- to destroy in our
flesh. If our gambling is motivated by covetousness, or evil concupiscence, then
it is clearly forbidden. The answer for each of us is in a honest self
examination of our own heart.
On the other hand, it can be argued that the purchase of
lottery tickets and or certain forms of gambling are harmless. Some are
convinced that these matters should be treated as one of those Rom 14 issues. We
are told in that chapter to "let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind"
(Rom 14:5). "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he
alloweth" (v 22).
For those who choose gambling as one of their own forms of
liberty, the Apostle Paul has this recommendation: "All things are lawful unto
me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will
not be brought under the power of any" (1Co 6:12).
In 1Co 10 he repeats this advice with an addition: "Everything
is permissible -– but not everything is beneficial. Everything is
permissible– but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his
own good, but the good of others" (1Co 10:23, NIV).
We do have certain freedoms in Christ. All of these liberties
must be exercised with caution. Our personal freedom may adversely affect our
brother, concerning which we read: "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to
drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is
made weak" (Rom 14:21). "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours
become a stumblingblock to them that are weak" (1Co 8:9).
In another example, Peter tells us concerning our freedoms
that we should have our "conversation honest among the Gentile... As free, and
not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God"
(I Peter 2:12,16).
Who do we Trust?
There are some other factors that should be considered in this
discussion. When we gamble, (with a portion of the blessing that God has given
to us), we may be placing our trust in the wrong place. Are we hoping for great
gain from the devices of the princes of this land? We are told: "Put not your
trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath
goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish"
We know where we ought to place our trust: "Trust in the LORD
with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding" (Pro 3:5). If
we desire to increase our goods, then we should "Honour the LORD with thy
substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be
filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine" (Pro
The master adds this instruction: "Therefore take no thought,
saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be
clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek): for your heavenly
Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the
kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto
you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought
for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Mat
Not my Will?
Our attitude ought to be consistent with that of our master,
who in his greatest need could say, "nevertheless not my will, but thine, be
done" (Luke 22:42). We would be stretching the point, if we were to attempt to
apply his example to our greed. Should we say to the Lord, "Please let me win
the lottery, nevertheless, thy will be done"? James reminds us that "Ye ask, and
receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (Jam
We may not have considered that the will of the Lord is a key
factor in this discussion. In the casting of lots, (which does have a scriptural
basis), we are told that the successor to Judas was chosen in this manner: "And
they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show
whether of these two thou hast chosen... And they gave forth their lots; and the
lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles" (Acts
For further evidence of this principle, we read in Pro 16:33:
"The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD"
("every decision is from the LORD", NIV).
It seems incredible indeed, that we can almost convince
ourselves that God will bend His will, to be consistent with ours, when we have
placed our hopes for the fulfillment of our dreams on the mammon of
It is difficult for us to make the positive conclusion that
forms of gambling such as the lottery are forbidden. Each of us must look into
our own hearts to determine what our own motivation and practice will be. At the
same time we are to be careful not to judge the heart of another man's servant
–- "to his own master he standeth or falleth" (Rom 14:4).
We conclude with this suggestion: "Let us therefore follow
after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify
another" (Rom 14:19).
Also, see Lesson, Addiction.