For those of us who enjoy watching sport on TV, we are all too familiar with the endless advertisements promoting gambling. Many end with the catchphrase ‘remember to gamble responsibly.’ It raises numerous questions.
1. Firstly, is it ok for Christians to gamble? The Bible doesn’t explicitly forbid gambling and I know of one pastor who says that it is fine to do so. He even uses the example of drawing lots in scripture to show God’s approval. The Bible doesn’t explicitly forbid chain smoking or getting your face tattooed, but probably most Christians deduce from scripture that such practices do not honour God. Gambling is generally fueled by sinful desires – covetousness, selfishness, laziness, the thrill of risk. The way we are to gain money according to the will of God is by working for it. Furthermore, gambling is highly addictive – hence the lame warning to gamble responsibly. The apostle Paul warns us about the danger of bondage (1 Cor 6:12). Such is the compulsion to gamble, people lie, steal, accrue debt, destroy marriages, etc. In 2018-19 it is estimated that Australians lost $25 billion on legal forms of gambling. The cost to society is astronomical.
2. Secondly, what actually constitutes gambling? Is it gambling to buy a $5.00 lottery ticket in order to raise money for a particular cause? While it may not be seen in the same light as playing cross lotto or going to the casino, some Christians feel it is still a form of gambling. Others argue that it is just a way of donating money from which you may gain a meat hamper or something similar. Is there a danger that the lottery run by the local sports club could give people a taste for something bigger? You can let me know what you think.
3. Thirdly, what exactly does it mean to gamble responsibly, and is this sage advice? I liken it to promoting responsible recreational drug use – hopefully it won’t have a detrimental effect on you. Hardly the kind of wisdom found in the book of Proverbs. Gambling itself is a gamble – it may get the better of you or it may not. Why take the risk. There are differing opinions among Christians when it comes to gambling, but it is hard to see it as a practice which honours God. In my opinion, a responsible approach to gambling is to stay well away from it. Work hard and trust God to provide for all your needs – and a great deal more besides.
In thinking about gambling, it is a reminder that committing one’s eternal destiny into the hands of the true and living God is not a risky bet. Christ rose from the dead and revealed Himself to hundreds of witnesses, providing full and final evidence of who He claimed to be. The blessed end of those who trust in Him is guaranteed. As we continually meditate upon scripture so assurance grows; we become more confident in the things we believe. Christian hope is not the hope of someone camped in front of the TV waiting to see which team wins or which lotto numbers are called out. It is certain hope. It is grounded in the God of the universe who does not lie; the God who has revealed Himself through incarnation; the Christ who died and conquered death on our behalf.
To believe in Christ and to live for Him is not a gamble with an unknown outcome.