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Is gambling a sin?

Gambling is the act of playing games of chance for money, sometimes to "get rich quick" with little hard work, time, or energy. Whether it be poker with friends, lottery tickets, or slot machines in a Las Vegas casino, gambling plays into our deep-seated desires to WIN, to come out on top, to be rewarded for our perceived luck or cleverness.

While the Bible does not strictly speak of "gambling," it does warn against the love of money. 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs." A strong desire for money will eventually cause great pain and sorrow.

Gambling promotes a fascination and obsession with money, which the Bible tells us will lead to trouble. The promise of winning a load of money with a single act can lead to the belief that all our problems could be solved if only we had more money. Sadly, this is just not based on reality. Studies have shown that lottery winners are often in a worse financial position than they were in before winning the extra money.

God provides for our needs, and we should make good use of the money we're entrusted with (Philippians 4:19; Matthew 6:31-32). Hebrews 13:5 teaches to "keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for [the Lord] has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"

Games of Chance in the Bible

The Bible may not use the word "gambling," but it does mention an activity called "casting lots" which was used to seek different kinds of answers. Mentions of casting lots can be found 70 times in the Old Testament and seven times in the New Testament. In Acts 1:12-16, the remaining apostles cast lots to determine who would replace Judas. We don't know a whole lot about exactly what these lots were or how the casting was done. Perhaps it was a lot like our modern-day version of "luck of the draw" type activities—like choosing from sticks of various lengths, flipping flat stones like coins, or the use of some kind of dice.

God often allowed the Israelites to cast lots so He could reveal His will to them (Joshua 18:6-10). Certain temple offices and functions were also determined by lot (1 Chronicles 24:5, 31; 25:8-9; 26:13-14). Lot casting was seen as a way to determine God’s will for a certain circumstance, but ultimately, God is sovereign and has the final say on anything that happens (Proverbs 16:33; Psalm 115:3; Romans 8:28).

Using Money Wisely

Gambling is, at best, simply a waste of money. Of course, we waste money on a lot of things—silly apps for our phones, unnecessary possessions, overpriced food, and more. By themselves, those expenses may seem innocent enough, and perhaps, done in moderation, there's little harm done. But when multiplied and added up, those wasted funds transform into a much greater loss than we realize.

Obviously, casinos, lotteries, and gambling halls did not exist during the times the Bible was written. But we can still find plenty of advice that would apply to these practices as the Bible has quite a bit of advice when it comes to money. We ought to be good stewards of our money by caring for our families (1 Timothy 5:8), saving for emergencies and the future (Proverbs 6:6-8), giving generously to those in need (Luke 6:38; Psalm 37:21), and using our funds for God's work (Proverbs 3:9-10). To squander the income God has entrusted to us on a game of chance, especially for the small possibility that it might win us more money, is an unwise use of His gift.

When it Comes to Gambling, the House Always Wins

Casinos and lotteries do not exist for humanitarian purposes. They are not out to help anyone but to make a profit for themselves. Casinos often offer "free" alcohol or greatly discounted food in order to lure in clientele and dull their senses. The buildings are literally designed to make people lose track of time and feel compelled to try "just once more" for the elusive win.

Lotteries are statistically unwise uses of money. How many $5 lottery tickets does a person need to buy to win $20? (Probably more than four.) For every $1,000,000 winner, there had to be at least $1,000,000 worth of losing lottery tickets. Lotteries are also marketed to lower income populations—those who definitely should not be throwing money away when funds are scarce.

Casinos and lotteries take advantage of hopeful, even well-meaning individuals by luring them in with empty promises that are, unfortunately, unlikely to ever pay out. The unspoken promises of gambling are monetary loss, sorrow, dissatisfaction, and addiction.

But what if I use the money for good purposes?

Proverbs 13:11 tells us, "Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it." This is a warning that to "get rich quick" is unwise and won't have a long-lasting benefit. If a follower of Christ wants to help the church financially, then they should give from the money God has provided to them in the amount they are convicted to give. Trying to justify gambling activities by claiming “it is for the Lord” is dishonest, for this is not a biblical method of attaining money.

"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." —Matthew 6:24

We have to decide. Are we going to serve God or serve money? God will never abandon us; money comes and goes (Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:17-19). God loves us unconditionally; money has no emotion (Romans 8:38-39; Ecclesiastes 5:10). We are important enough to God that He will provide all we need at the appointed times; money makes no promise of this (Luke 12:24; Matthew 7:11).

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TL;DR

Gambling is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, though the Bible does warn against the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10). We ought to be content with what we have and be good, wise stewards of the money God has entrusted to us (Hebrews 13:5). Casinos and lotteries take advantage of hopeful, even well-meaning individuals by luring them in with empty promises that are, unfortunately, unlikely to ever pay out. We cannot serve both God and money as we can only be fully devoted to one (Matthew 6:24). We don't need to gamble on a lucky win because God will provide all we need at the appointed times (Luke 12:24; Matthew 7:11).

By: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

Writer/Editor: Catiana N.K.

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two teenage kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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