"Gambling” usually consists in the betting or staking of something of value on the outcome of a game or contest. It normally involves three things:- a consciousness of risk, a hope of gain, and a likelihood of loss!
Gambling is far from being a new activity. Archaeologists have found articles used in games of chance in Egypt about 5,500 years ago. Today gambling represents a large scale industry. It was estimated that in 1961, in the U.S.A. alone, the total value of betting exceeded 500,000,000,000 dollars. Yes, I mean five hundred thousand million!
The Christian’s attitude to gambling can be determined by several simple biblical considerations.
Leaving aside the element of excitement, gambling is prompted by the desire to obtain something without any great effort. The emphasis of Scripture, however, is that if you want something you should work for it and obtain it by honest labour. See the repeated references to the enjoyment of the benefit of one’s own labour, Eccles. 2. 24; 3. 13; 5. 18, 19. Paul commanded those who were not working to “work, and eat their own bread”, 2 Thess. 3. 11-12.
At the root of most gambling lies the wish “to get rich quick”. The Bible speaks out plainly against all greed and covetousness. “Beware”, the Lord said, “of covetousness”, Luke 12. 15. It is a form of idolatry, Col. 3.5. “Let your way of life be without the love of money (and) be satisfied with the things you have”, Heb. 13. 5 lit. See also 1 Tim. 6. 9-11.
Great numbers of people have found gambling to be habit forming. Many have become enslaved to it with disastrous consequences for themselves and their families. The proper Christian attitude is that, though “all things are lawful for me”, yeL “I will not be brought under the power of any’, 1 Cor. 6. 12.
Generally speaking gambling involves the outlay of some stake or other. The Christian should remember that he is only a “steward” of his possessions. While, in one sense, our own is our own, Acts 5. 4, in another sense, it is the Lord’s. When making a vast offering to the Lord’s work, David acknowledged, “all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thec”, 1 Chron. 29. 14. The Lord Jesus has made it clear that one factor in determining our heavenly reward will be the use which we have made of our money, Luke 16. 11, 12.
The Christian is advised to exercise great care over the milder forms of gambling – such as fruit machines, other arcade games and even the “free” bingo-type games run by many large stores, supermarkets and petrol stations. By all means make a contribution to worthwhile charities, but it would be wise to decline the raffle ticket which often accompanies the appeal! Our prayer should be, “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness”, Psa. 119. 36.
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