The Christian and Gambling

A very beautiful motto is inscribed on all the pennies circulated in the U.S., “In God we trust.” But nowadays very few people believe those words. The events in today’s world show the very opposite of trust in God. One example of this is the increase of gambling and the legalization of it in many states. State governments legalize gambling so that it can be taxed and thus increase their revenue. In this article I hope to show the sin and godless­ness of gambling — that it relies on “luck” and “chance” and thus makes a mockery of God and trusting in Him.

The definition of gambling is “to risk money, or anything of value on the out­come of something involving chance.” Chance is “. . . the absence of any known reason why any event should turn out one way or another.” Luck is defined as “the seemingly chance happening of events which affect one.”

These very definitions by themselves would be enough to condemn any gambling. Can there be such a thing as “chance” or “luck”? How can there be an “absence of any known reason,” or “a seemingly chance happening of events”? Isn’t God the reason for what happens to us? Don’t we confess that all is under His control? It is true that we don’t always know why an event turns out the way it does, but we believe that “all things work together for good to them that love God . . .” (Rom. 8:28). To take part in any type of gambling which relies on “chance” is sinful.

But there is more that can be said. I am not going to discuss the more obvious gambling of the wicked world, such as, the stock market, the gambling casino (where poker, dice, roulette, etc. are played), and gambling at sporting events. However, there are some forms of gambling which are becoming so common that we some­times will participate in these events without thinking twice about it. Who hasn’t been tempted by the numerous sweepstakes offered by cereal ompanies or national magazines? Or what store at one time or another doesn’t offer some kind of lottery or door prize to promote business? And how easily we can get involved in gamb­ling in our own homes when we speak of betting with each other on this or that, or even playing games with small amounts of money.

All these activities are not the innocent pastimes we may think they are. How easy it is for us to ignore sin. We must care­fully guard our steps lest we become so used to these kinds of activities that they no longer appear to be sinful.

Many businessmen will frequently use raffles or lotteries to attempt to promote business. The sponsor of such an event will offer a prize to the holder of a certain number. A person can usually obtain a number by making a small purchase. This type of lottery is very appealing and attrac­tive to man. But we as Christians must avoid it. It is obvious that the sponsor of such a lottery profits very greatly. The customers’ purchases easily offset the cost of the prize. This type of business tactic is wrong. Consider the words of Paul in Romans 12:8, “. . . he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity . . . .” The sponsor is not giving with simplicity, he is giving in order that he may receive more in return. So often the phrase “something for noth­ing” is used as an argument against gamb­ling. The fact that someone gives some­thing for nothing is not wrong. We are told in Acts 20:35. “It is more blessed to give than receive.” All that we have is a free gift from God. But to give a little in order to get more in return is what is wrong.

We have a calling as children of God “to live according to the will of God in all good works” (Heidelberg Catechism — Lord’s Day 33). The catechism defines good works as “those that proceed from a true faith, are performed according to the law of God, and to His glory; and not such as are founded on our imaginations, or the institutions of men.”

The lotteries and raffles can by no stretch of the imagination be classified as good works. The lotteries refer to “luck” and “Fate.” Man trusts in “luck” to ob­tain possessions. But we as children of God must seek our needs through faith and prayer, “give us this day our daily bread.” In Romans 14:23 we read, “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

A great temptation in this world is to seek after material goods. It seems that everywhere we turn we are pressured to ob­tain more possessions. There is the constant struggle to keep up with the Joneses. This is one reason why these lotteries and sweep­stakes have been so popular. They promise a “get rich quick” opportunity. The success of these various events depends on the greed, selfishness, and covetousness of man. He covets the goods of his neighbor, there­by breaking the tenth commandment, and attempts to obtain more for himself through the lottery.

But as pilgrims and strangers on this earth, we must not set our hearts on the things of this world which pass away, but rather “to lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.” Our goal is not to seek material goods and riches. Why seek to be like those who are rich in this world, when we will be so rich in the world to come? “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to those that love Him?” (James 2:5)

There are some raffles and sweepstakes for which one does not have to make a purchase. In certain raffles all one has to do is write his name and address on a card and deposit it in a box, hoping that his card will be chosen and he’ll win a prize. What about the sweepstakes sponsored by various magazines and mail order houses? Usually you can enter the contest without making a purchase, but by simply returning certain numbered coupons or something similar to that. He who participates in raffles or sweepstakes of this sort says that he didn’t gamble because he didn’t spend any money. What about these? Can these be called gambling? I would answer, “Yes!” Even though no money or anything of value is involved, the element of “chance” is still present. Whoever deposits a ticket in the box or sends in that coupon does so with the idea that he has a “chance” to win. In the Heidelberg Catechism — Lord’s Day 10 we read, “. . . and all things come, not by chance, but by His Fatherly hand.” How can one who denies that anything comes by chance, take part in these raffles? How can one deposit that ticket and still pray to God, “give us this day our daily bread.” When we pray this we ask God “to provide us with all things necessary for the body, that we may thereby acknowledge thee to be the only fountain of all good, and that neither our care nor industry, nor even the gifts, can profit us without thy blessing: and therefore that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures, and place it alone in thee” (Lord’s Day 50).

Gambling of any kind, whether it be in the casinos, the grocery store, or through the mail, is sinful. It does not recognize God, give thanks to Him, or glorify His Name.

We must pray to God that He will give us abundant grace to keep ourselves un­spotted from this sin and to seek Him alone as the “only fountain of all good.”