I have heard ministers say that gambling is not of God, but I have searched the Bible and have not found any scriptures backing up that statement. Are there any verses in the Bible prohibiting gambling? If so, where are they?
Gambling is never directly prohibited in the Bible, but there are biblical principles which tell us that gambling is a sin.
Some have said that the Roman soldiers who cast lots for Jesus’ outer garment were gambling. But if we look closer at the words in the gospel of John, we discover that the soldiers used lots to determine who received the garment.
“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did. (NASB) John 19:24
Lots were often used to make a decision. It was the equivalent of picking the largest straw from a group of straws to determine who would have the robe. No money was involved. There was nothing at risk. The lots merely decided who received the robe. A person gambles when he or she puts at high risk something he or she already owns – money, possessions, or property – to gain more. None of these soldiers owned the garment. The lot was used only to make a decision. Lots were also used in the Old Testament to discern God’s will. This was done by the Israelites (Joshua 18:6) as well as by those who did not believe in God (Jonah 1:7).
God Owns Everything
Before discussing gambling, it is important to realize that God owns everything in this world. He owns everything you and I consider to be our own. That is the message of Psalm 50,
For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains. (NASB) Ps. 50:10-12
What we have is a gift from God, since everything is ultimately His. He cares for the animals and plants in the wild according to His purpose and plan.
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? (NASB) Matt. 6:26
Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin . . . (NASB) Matt. 6:28
. . . God so clothes the grass of the field . . . (NASB) Matt. 6:30
And He expects us to do the same with what He has given us because ultimately what we have is really His. We are not owners. We are only stewards of what He has given us.
Stewardship is a trust. God expects us to be faithful with what He has given us. He expects us to use it to feed our families and enjoy life. If we choose to invest some of it, God expects us to invest wisely. In Luke 16:1-9 Jesus presents a parable which includes bad stewardship.
Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.'” (NASB) Luke 16:1-2
The word translated as manager is the same word translated as stewardship in 1 Cor. 9:17. That is, one who is a steward is also a manager. In Luke 16:1 Jesus indicates that one who squanders his possessions is a bad manager or bad steward. The rich man had trusted the manager with his wealth. God gives us money too! God trusts us with what belongs to Him. Should we waste it?
Proverbs 31 provides us with a description of a godly and industrious woman. At the end of the chapter, she is honored. She is a good steward or manager as we will see in the following verse.
She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard. (NASB) Prov. 31:16
The verse tells us that the wife purchased a field. She made an investment and as a result earned some money. She was a good steward, and her management efforts resulted in profit. God has nothing negative to say about her, only praise. It is important to realize that God has nothing against a person profiting from an investment. These passages establish a principle that God owns everything we have. He is our ultimate employer. He is a lender. We are not owners. We are only good stewards or bad stewards.
The Proverbs woman clearly took a risk in her investment. But everything that we do involves risk. In your question, you place great emphasis on the issue of risk and gambling. You are correct that every investment involves some risk. You dwell on the issue of risk. In reality, everything we do involves risk to some degree. Picking up a glass of water involves risk. The glass might break when I grasp it and cut my hand or fall on my foot. The water in the glass could contain poison. Driving on the streets, highways, or freeways involves the risk of an accident. Some person I meet on a street or in a store might pull a gun and shoot me. The roof of my home might collapse on me while I am sleeping due to a builder’s negligence or some unique event. Someone might shoot a gun some distance away and the bullet might pierce my wall and kill me. Risk is a part of life. Risk is unavoidable. But gambling is more than risk. Here are two definitions of risk from two well known dictionaries.
1. chance of possibility of danger, loss, injury, etc. 2. in insurance, (a) the chance of loss; (b) the degree of probability of loss. (Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged. Collins World. 1977)
1. chance or probability of danger, loss, injury, etc. (Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus)
Gambling is more than risk. Here are two more definitions.
1. to lose by betting; to waste; to squander; 2. to bet; to wager. (Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged. Collins World. 1977)
1. play games of chance for money, esp. for high stakes, 2. bet (sum of money). 3. take great risks in the hope of substantial gain.” (Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus)
In the English language, there is a word for risk and another one for gamble for a reason. As used in our culture, gambling involves more than just risk. It is defined as “waste” and “squander.” The last word is the very word used in Luke 16:1 for the bad manager. Playing slot machines at casinos is not a normal level of risk, nor is playing blackjack, the roulette wheel, craps, or poker. Betting at the dog races or horse races is gambling unless you own the famous horse called Seabiscuit and the other horses are old.
Investment and Gambling
Is financial investment gambling? This is an important question. Some believe that investment is gambling. The answer can be found in a parable that Jesus gave about three servants who were given money by their master to invest. When the master returned from his long trip, he asked each servant how much they had earned from his investment.
And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, “Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave . . . The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, “Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave . . . And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.” (NASB) Matt. 25:20-25
Two of three slaves invested wisely. One did not. Two of the slaves took some risk. One did not. The third slave’s answer reveals what we already know. No investment is ever certain. When a farmer plants a crop, he is taking a gamble or a risk. When the slaves invested their money, they were taking a gamble or a risk. When fisherman go fishing, they are not sure what will happen. In each of these situations, an investment has been made with a reasonable certainty that the effort will pay-off. The master in the parable honored the two slaves who had invested wisely. They did not gamble.
Investing in the stock market can be considered gambling if the person is a novice or is irresponsible in his/her research. If the person is a novice, he is naive and has entered into a high level of risk – gambling. Any good book on investment will tell you that investing is high risk if you are a novice. One could say they are gambling. They are not playing at the casino, but they are being careless stewards of God’s money. They should have let a professional who has been trained guide them. Habitual or compulsive gambling is a sin. Squandering of God’s resources is a sin.
When we talk about gambling, we usually refer to an ongoing pattern of gambling. Some people gamble for fun. Since God expects us to be good stewards of what He has given us, is it okay to lose $100,000, $10,000, $5,000, $1,000, $500, $100, $50, or $10? How much can a good steward lose and still be a good steward? Would God be pleased that we gamble His money away rather than investing in the ministry of a church, feeding some of the poor, supporting a missionary, buying clothes or food for our own family, or giving it to the Gideons to purchase some Bibles? The Gideons can print Bibles for cents on the dollar. God is our ultimate employer. He has given us everything that we have. He expects us to be good stewards and not squander His money. Gambling is a sin.
Here are some guidelines about determining right from wrong when the Bible does not address an issue directly:
1. Is it helpful, either spiritually, physically, or mentally?
Not everything is beneficial. (NIV) I Corinthians 6:l2
2. Does it bring me under its power?
I will not be mastered by anything. (NIV) I Corinthians 6:l2
3. Does it hurt others?
We are not to indulge in activity which we know might cause others to stumble. (paraphrase) I Corinthians 8:13
4. Does it glorify God?
Do . . . all to the glory of God. (NIV) I Corinthians 10:31
5. Does it violate any command or principle of the Word of God?
If you love me, keep my commandments. (NIV)John l0:27; l4:l5, 2l
– Warren Currie
Reference Links:Tithing or Giving?
Can we make decisions by casting lots today?