Before attempting to answer the basic question posed by this article, it is necessary to make clear what we mean by the term gamble. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the term gamble means “to play games of chance for money or some other stake.” However, Webster also indicates that 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, nevertheless, it is.
Although there are secular laws regarding whether or not gambling is legal under various circumstances, 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. [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 most versions of the Bible do not specifically mention the words bet, gamble, wager, or any other form of these words, we will consider several biblically-related reasons to believe that it is generally better not to gamble rather than to gamble. [Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]
The following are several circumstances which suggest that gambling can have negative effects:
- Gambling money that is needed to provide for the basic needs of a person and his (or her) 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.” So, if a person suffers significant losses from gambling, the result may be the inability of that person to pay for basic necessities for his (or her) family.
- Gambling money that could be – or, perhaps, should be – used to personally help other people who cannot afford basic necessities. 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 possessions should share them with people who do not have sufficient financial resources to pay for their basic needs. But, anyone who loses a significant amount of their material possessions as a result of their gambling has less 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 to support charitable ministries, particularly ministries that are based upon Christian principles. 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.
However, if a person loses a significant amount of money as a result of his (or her) gambling, that person will not be able to provide as much financial support for charitable ministries.
- A person’s gambling may influence someone else to gamble. 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.” Thus, if someone influences another person to gamble and that person suffers significant gambling losses, those losses may result in one or more of the three circumstances that we previously mentioned [i.e., (a) lessen that person’s ability to provide for the basic needs of their family, (b) lessen that person’s ability to personally help people who are unable to pay for their basic financial needs, and/or (c) lessen that person’s ability to financially support charitable ministries].
Although gambling of financial resources may not be wrong under all circumstances, especially if it involves betting only relatively insignificant amounts, serious consideration should be given to the possible negative consequences of such losses, particularly over a period of years