Many years ago, when the issue of legalizing casino gambling was tormenting the administration of Detroit’s capable and honest mayor, Dennis Archer, an anti-gambling group posted a huge billboard on I-75 depicting Jesus on the cross with his head slumped down, and at the foot of the cross Roman soldiers were casting lots for Jesus’ robe. The caption read: “Some very important people have looked down on gambling.” Casino gambling, of course, was approved. The arguments in its favor were that it would provide desperately needed employment, tax revenue, and tourism that would result in an economic revival of the troubled city. Detroit’s recent bankruptcy reveals the folly of that view! And let’s not imagine that one recent criminal mayor brought down the city single-handedly.
What troubles me is not that the non-Christian world loves gambling, but that some who claim to be Christians excuse it as a harmless form of entertainment. Since I live in an area surrounded by casinos, an area that depends on gambling resorts for much of its economic security, taking a stand against gambling will not make me popular. But I’m bound by God’s Word and I have a duty as Christ’s minister to reprove, correct, and instruct God’s flock in the ways of righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 5:2-3).
The first principle against gambling should be enough to convince any true Christian to shun the practice. Digest this principle and you need not read further: All that the Christian does must glorify God!
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1Cor. 10:31)
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
Can anyone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus Christ seriously say, as they stand at a slot machine or sit at a black jack table in the midst of intoxicating drinks and godless entertainment, “I am doing this in the name of the Lord Jesus and to the glory of God”? Colossians 3:17 says we should be able to give thanks for whatever we do. Picture a Christian praying this: “Lord, I thank you for this slot machine, and I now play this money that you have so graciously given me in the name of Jesus Christ.” When we remind ourselves that we belong to God and our purpose in life is to bring honor and glory to Him, all worldly folly evaporates.
The second principle is the Christian’s recognition that all he has belongs to God, that he is a steward of the wealth and possessions entrusted to him. After King David had received voluntary offerings for the building of the temple in Jerusalem, he offered this prayer:
Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: "Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. (1Chronicles 29:10-16, Emphasis added!)
Shall the Christian say, “It’s my money! I’ll do with it as I please!”?
The third principle is the danger of seeking riches. Let’s face it: winning a golf game (a demonstration of skill and practice) is not the same as “winning” at the roulette wheel or the slot machine. Without the enticement of winning money by “chance” or “luck,” there is no attraction to gambling. (I’ll deal with the illusion of “chance” or “luck” shortly.) There’s also the allure of “quick” riches – winning the lottery. Here are some Scriptures to ponder:
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (1Timothy 6:9-11 Emphasis added.)
But godliness with contentment is great gain . . . (1Timothy 6:6)
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. (Proverbs 11:4)
Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. (Proverbs 11:28)
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (Mark 4:18-19 Emphasis added.)
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:23)
Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors. (Proverbs 1:19)
The fourth and final principle is the presumption of luck or chance. If gamblers considered the actual laws of probability, gambling would likely lose its appeal. It’s like the e-Trade™ baby’s comment to the man scratching a lottery ticket: “Uh, Frank . . . You do know that your chances of winning are the same as being mauled by a polar bear and a regular bear in the same day?” But gamblers think they can hit a lucky streak! The Christian must also consider the fact that even the law of probability is God’s law, and He can and does control it or suspend it as He pleases. God addresses this in His Word:
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33)
God is sovereign over His creation. The above verse tells us that even when we try to decide between two choices by flipping a coin, so to speak, or to choose a person by drawing straws, God is in control of the results. There is, therefore, no such thing as luck or chance. And in light of the first three principles, let’s not dishonor God by praying that He will see to it we win!
One last point I need to address: I occasionally hear people compare the stock market to gambling. The fundamental difference is that when you buy shares of a company, you both have the same goal: to succeed. Stock holders are part owners of the company, so the management and the stockholders have a common interest. Obviously that is not the relationship between the gambler and the house! Yet some people do gamble on the stock market. They “play the market,” rather than invest in companies. These are the folks who are in and out of the market based on their guesses as to whether it will rise or fall. I address this in my blog article Wall Street and the Word of God: Is It Wrong to Invest in the Stock Market?
Gambling has destroyed countless lives, encouraged crime and corruption, and blighted city neighborhoods. Christians have the responsibility to honor and glorify God in all we do, and gambling mocks that lofty goal.