The Truth About: Gambling

The Truth About: Gambling


This is a production of World Video
Bible School. To God be the glory! Let’s talk about gambling. Is it an innocent pastime? Is it a way to fund education or
something that helps our community? Something that you can do just for extra
income? Or is it something with far reaching
consequences? Is it merely a recreational activity, or is it a serious moral problem? A man approached me one day and he said, “I have a friend who likes to play the
lottery.” And he said, “I was telling him that
that’s wrong. My friend asked me why.” And he said, “I got to thinking, and I
couldn’t come up with a single verse in the Bible that addresses it.” And, he said, “I started searching, and,” he said, “quite frankly, there’s not
one.” He said, “I’ve always been told that
gambling is wrong, but I can’t come up with a single verse in the Bible that
addresses this topic.” Well, you know, it’s true. There’s no verse in
the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not play blackjack.” But it’s not the case that the Bible
doesn’t address gambling. There are a number of Biblical
principles that come into play to answer this question, and that do, indeed, teach that gambling
is wrong. I want to go over some of these
principles that I think clearly deal with this
issue. Because I’ve heard arguments at times
that I thought were very weak. And, I’ve heard people argue, “Well, gambling is wrong because the Bible
teaches that we’re to work for our money.” Well, that’s true. We are to work for our
money, to make a living. But you know if that argument is taken at face value, it would also condemn someone giving you
a gift. But that’s not right. We help poor people, we help people in
need. But, are they wrong because they accept
money from a friend or from a church and they didn’t work for it? Of course they’re
not wrong for that. Or someone might say, “Well, gambling is wrong because of the risk
factor.” Well, gambling is not wrong because of
the risk factor. Risk, in and of itself, is not wrong. You know, life itself is a risk. When you get in your car and go to work
in the morning, you’re taking a risk. Being a Christian is a risk, especially
in the first century being a Christian was a risk. In the Bible in Matthew, chapter 25,
the one talent man was condemned because he wouldn’t take a risk. When a farmer plants crops, he’s taking a risk. That doesn’t mean that he has sinned. When a man buys stock in the stock market,
that man takes a risk, but that doesn’t mean that he’s sinned. Risk is not what makes something sinful.
And so, we’ve got to be very careful
about the arguments that we make. And I think, oftentimes in Christianity, I believe the truth suffers because we
make weak arguments. Alright. Let’s begin by giving the definition
of gambling. What are we talking about exactly. There
are three basic elements of gambling. Number one: there’s an uncertain, arbitrary event. Number two: there’s the wager, something
of value, like money, that’s deliberately chanced on a particular
outcome. And number three: there’s a winner and there’s a loser. And the winner wins at the direct
loss of the other gambler or gamblers.
When you have all three of these things present, then you have gambling. Okay. Let’s talk about some of the reasons why gambling is
wrong, some of the Biblical reasons why gambling is wrong. Number one: covetousness. First, just ask yourself what is it that
motivates men to gamble? Just think about that for a minute. When I think about the question, “What
motivates men to gamble” two things immediately come to my mind: greed and covetousness. You know, in the
Old Testament, under the Law of Moses, one of the Ten Commandments was “Thou
shalt not covet.” And that means I don’t lust after, don’t long for, don’t desire something
that belongs to somebody else. Exodus 20 and verse 17 says: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house;
you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant,
nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” But, what about his money that’s on the
table? How are you going to sit around the table and
gamble over a poker game, and not violate this passage? In Luke 12:15, Jesus said: “Take heed and beware of covetousenss,
for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Now, why is gambling wrong? Because of what it motivates men to do. Now, here’s a second reason. Reason
number two: Gambling preys on the weaknesses of
others. You know, Christian principles are just
the opposite of this. Christian principles teach, “… As we have
opportunity, let us do good unto all men…” that’s Galatians 6:10. Now, that would involve helping those in
need, not taking their money. Christian principles teach us to help
the poor and to feed the hungry. But gambling does the opposite. It steals
from the poor and robs the hungry. In fact, I have read that the busiest day in
the Atlantic City casinos, is the day after welfare checks are sent
out. Now, that means that people who can’t
afford it are in the casinos hoping to strike it
big. And a gambler may win at the loss of
one who can least afford it. It preys on the weaknesses of others. A disproportionate number of the people
who play the lottery are very poor, and they take food out of their
children’s mouths hoping to win the lottery. In fact, one study found that the poor bet approximately three times the amount
wagered by persons in the middle and upper income areas. Another study concluded that, “The lotteries in
Connecticut and Massachusetts were equivalent,” now listen to this, they
“were equivalent to a state sales tax of over 60% on lower-income
groups.” Gambling preys on the weaknesses of
people. It profits from the pain of others. It’s
exactly opposite of what Christianity teaches. Reason number three, here’s a third
reason. Gambling is wrong because of what I’m calling the “fruit test.” In Matthew 7, 15 through 20, Jesus laid down a principle, a test, by
which every activity, every philosophy could be measured. He said, “… Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A
good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” Now, I know this is written discussing
false teachers, but certainly there’s a principle here that’s
true with regard to other activities of life. Now, let’s ask this
question, “What kind of ‘fruit’ does gambling produce?” When legalized gambling arrives in a
new community, does it raise the moral standards of
that community? Does it help to lessen the hardships of
families in that community or is it just the opposite? I want to tell you, it’s just the opposite. I know that many times, if you drive into a
state that has legalized gambling, whether it be the lottery or a casino field strip, or whatever. Many
times you will see the faces of $10,000,000 winners
smiling brightly on a roadside billboards. And you might be tempted to think, “This
is a good thing.” It’s not a good thing. Gambling doesn’t pass the “fruit test.” Eight months after casinos opened in
Gulfport, Mississippi, the Gulfport police department noted the
following. Now, listen to this. Murder increased by 75%. Rape increased by 200%. Robbery increased by 311%. Assaults increased 64%. Burglary increased by 100%.
Vehicle theft 160%. Three years after the casinos arrived, Atlantic City went from 50th to 1st in per capita crime. Well, what about the great state of
Nevada, the home of Las Vegas, probably the gambling capital of the United States. I read that Nevada ranks first in
suicide; first in divorce; first in high school dropouts; first in homicide against women; near the
top of the list for gambling addictions; third in bankruptcies; third in abortion; fourth in rape; fourth in out-of-wedlock births; fourth in alcohol related deaths; fifth in
crime; sixth in the number of prisoners locked up; last in voter participation. Now, somebody might say, “Well you know, all
of that’s not due to gambling. They have prostitution and drinking and other
things that might be contributing. And I don’t doubt that for a second. But, isn’t it interesting how these
things go together? You know, these statistics show a completely
different billboard from the one that we mentioned just a few minutes ago. You know, you can see very clearly
gambling miserably fails the “fruit test.” Alright, number four. A fourth reason I would suggest that gambling is wrong, comes from the Bible in Proverbs 13
and verse 11. One thing that sometimes people say is there aren’t any verses in the Bible
dealing with gambling. But, you know, there’s a very interesting
verse in Proverbs 13 and verse 11. Now, the King James says it this way: “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be
diminished: but he that gathereth by labor shalt increase.” Now the word vanity here caught my
attention, because that word means “emptiness.” It means
“nothingness.” And I thought, “Wealth gotten by emptiness, that sounds like gambling.” And so, I did some searching. And I looked in some other translations. The English Standard version says, “Wealth
gained hastily will dwindle…” But, it has a footnote that says, “Wealth
gained by fraud.” And I thought again, that sounds like
gambling. Another translation says, “Wealth from
get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows…” Another translation says, “Wealth from gambling quickly disappears, wealth from hard work
grows.” I think there’s a principle in this
particular verse which directly reflects on gambling in a negative way. Now, here’s another reason, reason
number five. Another argument against gambling is that it’s addictive. You know what happens to people when
they win at gambling? Of course you do. They want to win again.
They want more and their greed and their covetouseness gets out of control
until it just takes control of their lives. Now, do you know what happens when people
lose at gambling? Well, they gamble more because they
want to win back what they’ve lost. It’s addictive. That’s
the point. The Nevada Observer references one very
interesting piece of information from The Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities. It refers to gambling, listen to this, as
being “recession-proof.” Now, what would that indicate? It would indicate that people gamble
even when times are hard, even when they can’t afford to do it. Why? Because gambling’s addictive. You know, so many people fall prey to this addiction that we have
organizations in this country, such as Gamblers Anonymous. I read that one preacher in Texas said
that in that state, in Texas at least
at this point in time, on the back of lottery tickets there was a phone number for the
gamblers helpline. That’s very interesting to me. He said he called the number, and he asked them to send him some
information about gambling problems. And very interestingly, according to this
information he received, do you know what the biggest gambling
problem was in Texas? It was the lottery. It led with 73%. In a Christian Currier, Wayne Jackson
cites one study revealing that “43% of those who gamble have a
tendency toward ‘compulsion’ that results in them spending more
money than they can afford to spend.” One
article that I was reading online, referenced The Dallas Times Herald,
from a number of years ago, and it discussed a pawn shop owner who had people who would come in
and sell their artificial limbs, and in one case a glass eye, and in one case a man pulled out a gold tooth, more than one case
where they pulled out gold teeth with pliers, to hock them for gambling money. Now
friends, that’s addiction. 1 Corinthians 6 and verse 12, the Apostle Paul wrote: “… I will not be brought under the power of any.” Well Paul, what do you mean by that?
What did Paul have in mind when he said that? Listen to another version. Paul says, “I will not engage in any
things which,” now listen, “… might get such a grip on me that I can’t easily stop when I want
to.” But you know, that’s the nature of
gambling. Now, here’s a sixth reason. Reason
number six: Perhaps one of the the most obvious
problems with gambling is poor stewardship. You know, in Matthew 25, the Bible talks about the parable
of the talents. And oftentimes when that parable is taught, it’s used to teach
that we should use our talents in the service to God. And certainly, I don’t think that’s a
misuse. We should use our talents in the service of God. But you know, in that parable a talent refers to a unit of money, just like we
might use the term “dollar.” And some people think that this is,
specifically, a parable dealing with stewardship of our money. Now, whether that’s the specific point or
not, it certainly has an application. Now, the point of the parable is that
God expects us to be good stewards of our money or our blessings or
whatever it is that we possess. Now, the one talent man was not a good steward. Now, how does gambling relate to stewardship? Let’s talk about some statistics for a
minute. The odds of winning the lottery, of course it depends on where you play
and a number of different factors. But, I read that the odds vary from 18,000,000 to 1, all the way to 120,000,000 to 1. Neither one is good, it’s not good either
way. But, would you consider this with me? And I’m going to use the big number
here:120,000,000 to 1. The odds of being struck by lightning are 2,650,000 to 1. That means you’re 45 times more likely to
die from a lightning strike than to win the lottery. You are a 120 times more
likely to die from flesh-eating bacteria than to win the lottery. The chances of playing golf with three
of your friends and two of you getting a hole in one in
the same hole, are higher than winning the lottery. You’re 1,200 times more likely to die from snake bite or bee sting than to win the lottery. If you drive ten miles to purchase a lottery ticket, then you are 20 times more likely to
be killed in a car accident along the way than to win the jackpot. I read that two of the biggest lottery
programs are Powerball and Megamillions. Now, for Powerball the odds of winning
the jackpot with any given ticket are 1 in 146,107,962. Now, for Megamillions, the odds are 1 to 175,711,536. These are higher odds than what we were just
talking about. The odds of winning either one of these
is essentially zero. Now, what if your financial manager,
your guy at Edward Jones or Charles Schwab Investments,
or whoever your broker is, what if he was sinking a certain
portion of your retirement funds into a fund that had essentially zero
chance or a 1 in 175,000,000 chance of being successful. Would you consider him to be a good
steward, a good manger of your money? How long would it take you to fire him? You know, the lottery is sinful because the Lord
is going to hold us accountable for our stewardship, for our management. I heard one man described the lottery as,
“a tax on people who don’t know how to do math.” Now, what did he mean by that? What he meant is that only people who
can’t understand the odds, play the lottery. Reason number seven. Gambling is wrong because of the “influence principle.” Now, Christians especially need to get a grip
on this one. Because this is something that even people
in the world view as a vice. They treat gambling as a vice. It’s an adult
activity. In my home state of South Carolina, the law states that you have to be
eighteen years old to purchase lottery tickets. And you’ve seen the commercials, “What
goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” and they show gambling, and alcohol, and other
activities. You know, there’s a reason that Vegas is
called “Sin City,” and gambling is a big part of it. And if you have a person who’s a
Christian, and he goes out and he plays the lottery, he is devastating his influence. You know, in 1 Corinthians, chapter
8, Paul wrote: “… If food makes my brother stumble, I will
never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:13. Paul was so concerned about his influence, that he would never again do something,
even something lawful he was talking about. He would not even do something
lawful if it caused a problem, much less something that violates
Christian principles, like gambling. In James 1:27, the Bible says
that “Pure and undefiled religion…” involves in part, keeping yourself,
“unspotted from the world.” You know, there’s an old proverb that
states: “In a bet, there is a fool and a thief.” And I would mention this.
Neither one does very well for my reputation. Now, let’s look at some of the objections
that are made in defense of gambling. Now you know, just like I do, that despite
all of these problems we pointed out with gambling there are still some people who try to
make arguments to defend it. Now, one of the arguments sometimes people
will make is, they’ll say, “There’s not a verse in the
Bible that says not to.” Well, we’ve already talked about that. There’s not a verse in the Bible that
says, “Thou shalt not play blackjack.” But, there are many verses that condemn
it in principle and Proverbs 13:11 I believe does mention it. Now, another argument that’s made
sometimes is, “Well, all of life is a risk.” And so they say gambling is a risk. All of
life is a risk. But again, gambling is not wrong because of the risk. You know, you might be a involved in
a bet that’s a sure-fire thing and there’s very little risk, but it’s still sinful. The risk is not what makes it sinful. Well, thirdly someone might say, “Well,
gambling is really no different from investing in the stock market.” But, you know, that’s not true. The stock
market is not an artificial risk. You profit or you lose based on
economic performance of a company. In the stock market, you don’t seek to
gain at the direct loss of others. In economic gain, all profit is by the
exchange of goods and services. And in the stock market,
there’s a legitimate exchange taking place. Your money goes to work for you. And you’re profiting from letting someone
else use your money and that’s not a sin. That’s an honest, economic principle. You can look
at Matthew 25:14 through 30 to see the Bible sets forth that
principle. And, number four. Sometimes people will
argue, “Well, good comes from it.” I want to tell you, this is a lie that
so many states have been telling. Politicians put forth this argument when
they’re trying to legalize gambling, and you know how the lie goes. They say, “Well, we’re going to use it for
education. It’s good for the economy.” I would first point out this is a favorite
argument of the devil. He uses this in so many areas of life. You know, he’ll say, “Abortion, we can use it for stem cell
research to save lives.” “Alcohol,” he’ll say, “It’s got health benefits. It’s good for
your heart.” “Gambling,” he’ll say, “it’s good for the economy and it
helps with education.” A man named Michael Fitzgerald who’s a
columnist for The Stockton California Record, he deals with this economic
argument for gambling, and specifically he’s talking about casinos. He says, “Not so.” He cites a 1994 study
out of the University of Illinois that indicated that, “The social problems
created by gambling (e.g., gambling addiction, domestic abuse,
suicide, crime, indebtedness, etc.) outweigh by far any benefits to the
community. In fact, the gambling enterprise costs
taxpayers $3 for every $1 of state revenue
collected.” Additionally, a Creighton University study found
that, “Counties with casinos have soon doubled the bankruptcy rate of counties
without casinos.” And so, don’t buy this “benefit” argument. According to information on the Nevada
Resort Association website from January, 2009, “Over a third of all funding for Nevada’s
public schools came from the gaming industry.” Gambling. But, it’s very interesting because when
you can consult the Nevada Department of Education, you find a different story. Their QuickFACTS guide says that only,
“15% of the educational funding comes from gambling.” You see, the
“benefit” argument is just another carefully crafted lie
of the devil. And you know, besides all this, the Bible teaches that it’s never right to do wrong. And when Christians start to reason that way, “We’ll do
wrong so that good may come,” we really get ourselves into big trouble. Now, a fifth attempt to defend gambling
says, “Well, I only spend a dollar a week. I only buy one lottery ticket a week. I’m
not wasting that much money. It’s a cheap way to have some fun. It
gives me something to hope for.” You know, if you want something to hope
for then, “… lay up for yourself treasures in
heaven…” Matthew 6:20. And you know, regardless of what you
might say, you are wasting money. One dollar a week,
that’s $52 a year, and for a missionary in Africa, $52
a year could make a lot of difference. And certainly it’s the case that you’re hurting your influence. You
know, it would be hard to turn around when you’re standing in
line to buy a lottery ticket, it would be hard to turn
around and try to talk to the person behind you in line about the Gospel. And, I would say this. If you think about this “I’m only
doing a little bit” argument, what if we applied that to other areas. What if I said, “Well, I only look at a little pornography.” Or, “I only use the Lord’s name in vain
a little bit.” Or, “I only cheat on my taxes a little bit.” We wouldn’t accept that argument. Now, let’s answer some questions. First, what about the sweepstakes, or door
prizes, or a company that’s, say, giving away something in a drawing. Would it be wrong for me to enter my
name in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes?” No, I don’t believe that it would be. First, it doesn’t fit the definition of
gambling. Remember the three basic elements of gambling that we talked
about in the beginning of of this material? In the sweepstakes, there’s no wager. It doesn’t cost you anything and so it
doesn’t meet the definition of gambling. And, the winner doesn’t win at the direct
loss of the others, What it amounts to is, it’s a prize, it’s a gift. Now, if someone says, “Well, what about a a cake raffle where they sell tickets at a
school and the winner, you buy the tickets and the winner gets a cake?” Well, that would be gambling because it
does meet the definition of gambling. It’s something that a Christian should not
participate in. You know, the devil will tell us a lot of
lies. He will tell us that it helps schools, it’s good for education, and
boosts the economy. But anything that takes from the poor, wreaks havoc on communities, promotes covetousenss and addiction, and
hurts my reputation as a Christian, that’s something that I want no part of. Gambling is a sin anyway you roll the
dice.

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