Millions of men and women spend untold hours in the glitzy halls of casinos, while many others gather around octagon tables to play “friendly” games of “nickel” poker. Still others indulge in office sports pools, all the while hoping to cash in on the losers’ money.
What about those who set back a small amount of money for the occasional trip to the casino “just for entertainment?” What principles does God’s word contain concerning gambling? Is gambling a sin?
By 1994, every American state except for Utah and Hawaii had allowed some form of legal commercial gambling. But where did gambling in the United States come from? The original thirteen colonies were established based on two opposing views. One, the English view, openly supported gambling in various forms. The second, the Puritan view, staunchly opposed gambling.
In considering these two opposing views of gambling, we should consider as well the only view that truly matters. Let’s examine a few biblical scriptures that shed light on whether this ancient activity is, indeed, a sin. Jesus Christ stated, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). What is God's righteousness? How do we seek it?
King David of Israel plainly stated, “My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:172). What commandment most aptly applies, then, to this subject of gambling? “You shall not covet…” (Exodus 20:17) comes readily to mind. What does it mean to covet? Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines covetousness as “… inordinate desire for what one has not, which has its basis in discontentment with what one has … eager[ness] to obtain money....” This attitude strikes at the root of gambling. For further information, request our booklet The Ten Commandments.
Church leader Herbert W. Armstrong once stated that there were only two honest ways that a person could gain anything: through hard, honest labor, or through a gift given by another. A person who is truly seeking to keep the law of God, to seek after righteousness, will not be trying to get something for nothing. He or she won’t be trying to “get rich quick” at all. It’s just that simple.
Those who set back a certain amount of money to spend at the casino for occasional entertainment should consider whether this kind of activity demonstrates seeking the kingdom of God. Are the places that offer gambling really places Christians should be supporting with their inevitable financial losses? Is this what Christ showed as the example in His life? Is that how He spent His time? Or, rather, did He seek to serve others with His whole being?
There are two basic paths of life. This was symbolized in the Garden of Eden when God instructed Adam and Eve regarding two trees. One, called the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” a tree offering confusion, was forbidden. All others were acceptable, including the “tree of life.” With so many differing views regarding gambling, it’s clear that to indulge in gambling is to partake of the “forbidden fruit” of the tree of confusion. “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there” (James 3:16).
Those who indulge in gambling, regardless of the degree, may simply be taste-testing the fruit of this world. The Apostle Paul exhorted Christians in his day, saying that they “should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17). This warning also applies to those seeking righteousness today, and exhorts us to avoid playing dangerous, covetous games of chance.
Why take chances when it comes to seeking the righteousness of God in your activities? Why waste the financial means He makes available to you? For more information, read our booklet What is a True Christian? and don’t forget to watch “Is It Worth the Gamble?”