Before attempting to answer the basic question posed by this article, it is important for us to make clear what we mean by the term gamble. According to Webster’s Dictionary, to gamble means “to play games of chance for money or some other stake.” However, Webster also indicates that to gamble can mean “to take a risk in order to gain some advantage.” This article will address only situations that pertain to the first of these two definitions.
The forms that gambling can take vary considerably. Among the most common types of gambling are playing card games, such as blackjack and poker, that involve betting money; wagering on sporting events; and purchasing lottery tickets, which many people may not regard as gambling, but is nevertheless.
We regard the Bible as the ultimate authority about whether or not gambling is wrong, because we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, as indicated by 2 Timothy 3:16, which declares, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. . . .” [For an in-depth discussion of the reasons to have confidence that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, click on “Is the Bible Reliable?”]
Since the Bible does not specifically mention the words bet, gamble, wager, or any tense of these words, it is necessary to determine if the Bible otherwise provides any reasons not to gamble.
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]
The Bible does indicate that there are circumstances which imply that it is generally better not to gamble rather than to gamble. These circumstances include the following:
- Gambling money that is needed to provide for the basic needs of a person’s family. First Timothy 5:8 says, “[I]f anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Thus, if a person gambles and suffers significant losses, the result may be that that person will not be able to provide the necessities for his (or her) family.
- Gambling money that can be – or, perhaps, should be – used to help other people who have basic needs. First John 3:17 declares, “[W]hoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” This scripture implies that people who have prospered in terms of material things should share their money and/or other material things with people who have basic needs. However, if those who have previously prospered lose a significant amount of their money and/or other material things as a result of their gambling, they may lose some, or even all, of their ability to help people who are needy. [For a more in-depth discussion of what the Bible says about helping people who have needs, click on “What Is the Responsibility of Christians to Minister to People with Needs?”]
- Gambling money that is needed for basic Christian ministry. In our article entitled “Why Tithe?” (which can be accessed by clicking on its title), we state,
As Christians, we should welcome opportunities to contribute financially to Christian ministries. Our financial contributions to minister to others in the name of Jesus Christ provide us with not only a means of expressing our thankfulness to God for all that He has done for us, but also the satisfaction of knowing that we are being obedient to biblical teachings. . . . And, giving at least a tithe indicates to some degree the extent of our thankfulness and obedience.
Be that as it may, if a person loses a significant amount of money as a result of their gambling, he (or she) has less ability to financially support Christian ministries.
- Even if none of the first three situations results for someone who gambles, that person may influence someone else to gamble excessively. Romans 14:21 says, “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” So, if a person who has been influenced to gamble experiences significant gambling losses, those losses may result in one or more of the three circumstances that we previously discussed: lessen that person’s ability to provide for the needs of their family, lessen their ability to help other people who are needy, and/or lessen their ability to support Christian ministry.
Although gambling is not necessarily wrong, especially if it involves betting only relatively insignificant amounts, it is important for a person – especially, a Christian who wants to be a good example for others – to give serious thought to the possible negative consequences if he (or she) does gamble.