...the churches of Christ salute you! Rom 16:16

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by Wayne Jackson

(We printed this about nine years ago but a question recently raised about gambling by a young sister suggests it timely to reprint the material.)

Gambling Defined

The common definition for gambling, according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, is: "to play games of chance for money or some other stake; to take a risk in order to gain some advantage; to bet, wager; an act or undertaking involving risk of a loss." The gambling we are opposing involves the concept of "getting something for nothing" without rendering service or exchange of goods. In truth, it is stealing by permission! Thomas Eaves has written: "A simple definition of gambling would be, desiring the possession or possessions of another (prize), the gambler creates a risk (that of losing his own possession) in an attempt through chance to gain the possession or possessions of another with nothing given in exchange.

"Gambling takes many forms: card games, dice, numbers, betting on elections, buying sweepstakes tickets, betting on horse races, slot machines, betting on sporting events, various types of sports pools, punch boards, bingo (for money or prizes), buying tickets in raffles, cake walks, betting on recreational activities, matching for cokes, and even pitching pennies." Add to this the common state lottery.

Moreover, it must be emphasized that gambling is a matter of kind, not degree. Whether one is wagering fifty cents or fifty dollars, he is still violating the same divine principles. In a booklet entitled Gamblers Anonymous (and published for members of that group) the author states: "Any betting or wagering, whether for money or not, no matter how slight or insignificant, (emp. added) where the outcome is uncertain or depends upon chance or ‘skill,’ constitutes gambling." David L. McKenna characterizes gambling as "the willingness to take a risk" motivated by the twisted "desire to get something for nothing...It is parasitic, producing no personal growth, achieving no social good. Even the strongest advocates of gambling agree that gambling is a non-productive human activity."

Gambling is Sinful

Occasionally, someone who is inclined to be defensive of gambling will naively ask, "Where does the Bible say, ‘Thou shalt not gamble’?" Such a disposition ignores the Scriptural approach to human problems. While the Bible does issue commands, both positive and negative, it is also a volume of principles by which our moral and religious lives are to be directed. The Bible would have to be inconceivably massive to catalog every sin and evil invention (Eccl. 7:29) that the perverted minds of men have contrived. Accordingly, gambling is a gross violation of the following fundamental spiritual truths.

First, gambling violates the New Testament obligation of faithful stewardship. As recipients of the manifold grace of God, Christians must function as "good stewards" (1 Pet. 4:10). We must be careful to be "faithful and wise" stewards (Lk. 12:42) for the Lord requires in stewards "that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2). Indeed, as the man in the parable of the unrighteous steward, we will some day be called upon to "render the account of thy stewardship" (Lk. 16:2).

The most common term for steward in the New Testament is oikonomos, derived from oikos, a house, and nemo, to arrange. It literally denotes one who manages the property of another. The Biblical concept is simply this: God is the owner of the entire universe;

everything is His. Man and all his possessions exist for but one purpose—to glorify the Almighty God (Isa. 43:7; Eccl. 12:13). Anything that is not used, either directly or indirectly, for Jehovah’s service is misused! Mac Layton has well characterized the ideal of stewardship:

The Communist view of property is that a man is merely an instrument of the state with no rights to title or true possessions. Almost half the world is in the grip of this idea. The Capitalist view is that man can own what he can rightly purchase, and control instruments of production. The Christian view is that God owns all; though a man may be blessed with, and have control of, abundance, it is only by means of a gracious Providence. Even then it is not his own to use entirely as he pleases, but must be employed for the service of man and the glory of God.

Since the Bible makes it wonderfully clear that all people belong to Jehovah (either by generation, Ezek. 18:4, or by regeneration, Tit. 3 5; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20) all things also are the Lord’s (Job 41:11; Psa. 50:10-12; Hag. 2:8), it is equally evident that no person has the right to abuse the benevolence of God and foolishly involve himself in risking or gambling away that which belongs to his Maker.

Second, the gambler operates according to the Iron Rule which suggests that "might makes right" (cf. Hab. 1:11); if one is thus able to secure his neighbor’s possessions by means of skill or chance, that is just the loser’s tough luck! Such a disposition makes havoc of the injunction: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. 22:39). "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor" (Rom. 13:10), even though that neighbor, through weakness, might consent. Biblical morality requires that a man seek not his own, but rather his neighbor’s welfare (1 Cor. 10:24), which is in perfect harmony with the Golden Rule: "All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matt. 7:12). How long, pray tell, could a gambler survive if guided by such ethics?

Third, gambling promotes laziness and quenches the desire for honest work. From the very morning of time, Jehovah intended that man work. Even in Eden Adam was to dress and to keep the garden (Gen. 2:15) and later, of course, the Edenic curse decreed that "in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" (Gen. 3:19). Someone has well said that the Bible promises no loaves to the loafers! God’s warning to the ablebodied is: "If any will not work, neither let him eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). The gambler, however, seeks to obtain that which another has worked for, and at no cost to himself. He rationalizes his indolence by fancying that he is a victim of "hard luck" and hence, "fortune" owes him something. He is wilfully oblivious of the old maxim that hard work is the eraser of hard luck.

Fourth, gambling, like other vices, soon becomes addictive and makes a slave of the participant. Christ plainly taught that all who commit sin (see the present tense form of the verb implying habitual conduct in John 8:34) become slaves thereto. The United States Department of Public Health estimates that there are some 6 million "compulsive gamblers" in the country; that statistic rivals the figure for alcoholism. The Christian must say with Paul, "I will not be brought under the power of any" (1 Cor. 6:12). If this principle is true with reference to legitimate things (as the previous context indicates), how much more would it be true regarding sinful matters. So strongly does Gamblers Anonymous recognize the addictiveness of gambling that they state: "Our GA experience seems to point to these alternatives: To gamble, risking progressive deterioration, or not to gamble, and develop a better way of life." Does this mean that one "can’t even participate in a little penny ante game or a World Series pool? It means exactly that. A stand has to be made somewhere, and GA members have found the first bet is the one to avoid even though it may be as little as matching for a cup of coffee." The Christian will practice self-control (Gal. 5:23), which involves total abstinence from that which is wrong and moderation in that which is right.

Fifth, gambling is sinful because of the evil example it sets. Virtually no one is without influence, and it will be either for righteousness or wickedness. One who desires to please the Lord and serve his fellows will "take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men" (Rom. 12:17) and "give no occasion to the adversary for reviling" (1 Tim. 5:14). We cannot afford for the "way of truth" to be spoken of in an evil manner (2 Pet. 2:2). Since Jesus is our example (1 Cor. 11:1), could one actually imagine, even in the wildest moment, the Lord kneeling in the dust to "shoot craps"? God forbid. However, it certainly would not be difficult to imagine the courageous Son of God overturning dice tables!

Sixth, gambling breeds dishonesty and deceit. Gamblers, like drunkards and dope addicts, frequently resort to stealing and other illicit ways of acquiring money to cover their gambling losses. In a national magazine one woman told of stealing some $30,000 from her husband over a period of ten years to finance her gambling. Well-to-do socialites have offered sexual favors to acquaintances to prevent their husbands from discovering their gambling losses. A detective with the Reno, Nevada, police department contends that 75 percent of their embezzlement cases are gambling related. A corrupt tree can bring forth nothing but corrupt fruit (Matt. 7:17, 18).

Seventh, gambling is a destroyer of the home. It frequently robs children of food and clothing thus making the gambler worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8). In Reno there is an organization called Gam Anon, wherein families of gamblers can attempt to cope with their common problems. Many of the wives complain bitterly that no matter how bad a credit rating their husbands have, the casinos will always extend practically limitless credit. The gambling dives feel no compassion what-ever. A vice-president at Harrah’s casino stated: "If he (the gambler) gets into trouble with his vices, then it’s his problem." It goes without saying that this horrible sin precipitates numerous divorces.

Eighth, gambling is the enemy of mental serenity. It brings about fear, frustration, anxiety. Law officers in Nevada tell of seeing despairing gamblers beating their heads against telephone poles and ripping their clothes to approximate the appearance of being robbery victims. And compulsive gamblers have a high suicide rate.

—by Permission



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