Gambling has been around for thousands of years, and many religions have at least tolerated it in moderation. Still, many churches offer religious objections to gambling.A recent letter to the editor in the Jamaica Gleaner lays out a Christian pro-gambling argument:
CHRISTIAN GREETINGS. It is with great trepidation that I write this letter, asking the question ‘What principle of the Bible shows it wrong to gamble?’ I have seen many letters by Christian commentators saying that the practice of gambling is to be shunned. In fact, I understand that leaders of the religious community have pressured the Government in the past against casino gambling and lotteries, in particular. Which Bible verse was quoted to justify this?
A brief analysis shows the following:
1. God is not against the taking of risk.
a) Men and women took great risk, sometimes to death’s door, in their lives, e.g. Esther, the three Hebrew boys etc.
b) When God created this world he ran the risk of man sinning and hence for the Son of God to come and die for men’s sins.
c) The Son of God in coming down to earth risking his life for fallen mankind took one of the greatest gambles (If he had sinned, he would have lost his life the Father is no respecter of persons.)
2. God is not against the casting of lots i.e. raffling. (See Acts 1:26).
3. God won one of the most famous bets of all time when he bet Satan that Job would remain faithful to him. (Read the book of Job)!
A word of warning and advice: Sinners would be wise to repent and avoid the risk of God’s wrath!
My questions are: Is it evil or covetous to expect high returns from high-risk investments? Isn’t it evil and covetous for Christians to charge their fellow Christians interest on loans? (see Lev 25:35-37). Isn’t it evil and covetous to underpay your helpers, gardeners, practical nurses, pump attendants, etc.? (see James 5:1-4)
A prudent banker would teach us that we should act in a way to minimise our risk so that one would obviously tend to invest the least funds in the portfolio of highest risk. Thus one would first seek to invest in education to gain employment, after which surplus funds can be invested in a bank account, then insurance, then stock exchange, then finally in, say, a lottery ticket.
The writer, Keith Coombs of Kingston, Jamaica, offers some good points. I would be interested in hearing the theological case against gambling as well. Does Max Weber’s interpretation of the “Protestant work ethic” mean that Protestantism is inherently anti-risk, and therefore anti-gambling? What do other religions say?
Here is a rebuttal letter, also from the Jamaica Gleaner, written by Diane Berlin of Pennsylvania:
Gambling is NOT entertainment, as touted by the pushers. It is a predatory activity. When one gambles, he or she wants to take what belongs to others without earning it or it being given freely as a gift would be. Under any other circumstances, that is robbery or theft.
In fact, gambling has been called theft by consent or robbery with permission. The 10Commandments address both coveting and stealing. Gambling undermines, and even destroys, the work ethic. Labour is advocated in the Bible. Ordinary activities all have an element of risk-taking in them… even crossing the street does. This is very different from gambling.
Gambling’s negatives include addiction, bankruptcies, crime, corruption, divorce, violence, child abuse, homelessness, etc. Gambling recycles wealth, usually from many losers to the pockets of the gambling kingpins. It does not create new wealth.
The recent legalisation of gambling has desensitised people to its harmful effects and the reasons it was an illegal activity in most countries. Wise people learn from the mistakes of others. There are many people and countries which have made the mistake of embracing gambling to their detriment. The Bible advocates wisdom whether Jewish or Christian that is not bad advice for any person or government.
While certainly impassioned, this letter just says that gambling is bad–it doesn’t cite anyplace where the Bible specifically attacks gambling.
Look for this debate to continue.