IS GAMBLING A SIN,
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT GAMBLING.
Surprisingly, the Bible contains no specific command to avoid gambling. However, the Bible does contain timeless principles for living a life pleasing to God and is filled with wisdom to deal with every situation, including gambling.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we read about people casting lots when a decision had to be made. In most instances, this was simply a way of determining something impartially:
Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the LORD, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions. (Joshua 18:10, NIV)
Casting lots was common among many ancient cultures. Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments at his crucifixion:
“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did. (John 19:24, NIV)
Does the Bible Mention Gambling?
Although the words “gambling” and “gamble” do not appear in the Bible, we cannot assume that an activity is not a sin simply because it is not mentioned. Looking at pornography on the Internet and using illegal drugs are not mentioned either, but both violate God’s laws.
While casinos and lotteries promise thrills and excitement, obviously people gamble to try to win money. Scripture gives very specific instructions about what our attitude should be toward money:
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 5:10, NIV)
“No servant can serve two masters. [Jesus said.] 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 both God and money.” (Luke 16:13, NIV)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10, NIV)
Gambling is a way to bypass work, but the Bible counsels us to persevere and work hard:
Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:4, NIV)
One of the key principles in the Bible is that people should be wise stewards of everything God gives them, including their time, talent and treasure. Gamblers may believe they earn their money with their own labor and may spend it as they please, yet God gives people the talent and health to carry out their jobs, and their very life is a gift from him as well. Wise stewardship of extra money calls believers to invest it in the Lord’s work or to save it for an emergency, rather than lose it in games in which the odds are stacked against the player.
Gamblers covet more money, but they may also covet the things money can buy, such as cars, boats, houses, expensive jewelry and clothing. The Bible forbids a covetous attitude in the Tenth Commandment:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17, NIV)
Gambling also has the potential to turn into an addiction, like drugs or alcohol. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 2 million U.S. adults are pathological gamblers and another 4 to 6 million are problem gamblers. This addiction can destroy the stability of the family, lead to job loss, and cause a person to lose control of their life:
…for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. (2 Peter 2:19)
Some argue that gambling is nothing more than entertainment, no more immoral than going to a movie or concert. People who attend movies or concerts expect only entertainment in return, however, not money. They are not tempted to keep spending until they “break even.”
Finally, gambling provides a sense of false hope. Participants place their hope in winning, often against astronomical odds, instead of placing their hope in God. Throughout the Bible, we are constantly reminded that our hope is in God alone, not money, power, or position:
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5, NIV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17, NIV)
Some Christians believe that church raffles, bingos and the like to raise funds for Christian education and ministries are harmless fun, a form of donation involving a game. Their logic is that, as with alcohol, an adult should act responsibly. In those circumstances, it seems unlikely someone would lose a large amount of money.
God’s Word is No Gamble
Every leisure activity is not a sin, but all sin is not clearly listed in the Bible. Added to that, God doesn’t just want us not to sin, but he gives us an even higher goal. The Bible encourages us to consider our activities in this way:
“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12, NIV)
This verse appears again in 1 Corinthians 10:23, with the addition of this idea: “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.” When an activity is not distinctly described as sin in the Bible, we can ask ourselves these questions: “Is this activity beneficial for me or will it become my master? Will participation in this activity be constructive or destructive to my Christian life and witness?”
The Bible does not explicitly say, “Thou shalt not play blackjack.” Yet by gaining a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures we have a trustworthy guide for determining what pleases and displeases God.
So I do not see anything wrong in betting weather you call it pool or online or offline betting as well as baba ijebu or lottery they are not sin.i say this because neither you nor the bookies knew about the outcome of the events you have placed bets on.it will be a sin when the outcome have been known and when bets are place one party is trying to cheat or defraud the other.
Valentine c. uwakwe
Question: “Is gambling a sin? What does the Bible say about gambling?”
Answer: The Bible does not specifically condemn gambling, betting, or the lottery. The Bible does warn us, however, to stay away from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5). Scripture also encourages us to stay away from attempts to “get rich quick” (Proverbs 13:11; 23:5; Ecclesiastes 5:10). Gambling most definitely is focused on the love of money and undeniably tempts people with the promise of quick and easy riches.
What is wrong with gambling? Gambling is a difficult issue because if it is done in moderation and only on occasion, it is a waste of money, but it is not necessarily evil. People waste money on all sorts of activities. Gambling is no more or less of a waste of money than seeing a movie (in many cases), eating an unnecessarily expensive meal, or purchasing a worthless item. At the same time, the fact that money is wasted on other things does not justify gambling. Money should not be wasted. Excess money should be saved for future needs or given to the Lord’s work, not gambled away.
While the Bible does not explicitly mention gambling, it does mention events of “luck” or “chance.” As an example, casting lots is used in Leviticus to choose between the sacrificial goat and the scapegoat. Joshua cast lots to determine the allotment of land to the various tribes. Nehemiah cast lots to determine who would live inside the walls of Jerusalem. The apostles cast lots to determine the replacement for Judas. Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast in the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
What would the Bible say about casinos and lotteries? Casinos use all sorts of marketing schemes to entice gamblers to risk as much money as possible. They often offer inexpensive or even free alcohol, which encourages drunkenness, and thereby a decreased ability to make wise decisions. Everything in a casino is perfectly rigged for taking money in large sums and giving nothing in return, except for fleeting and empty pleasures. Lotteries attempt to portray themselves as a way to fund education and/or social programs. However, studies show that lottery participants are usually those who can least afford to be spending money on lottery tickets. The allure of “getting rich quick” is too great a temptation to resist for those who are desperate. The chances of winning are infinitesimal, which results in many peoples’ lives being ruined.
Can lotto/lottery proceeds please God? Many people claim to be playing the lottery or gambling so that they can give the money to the church or to some other good cause. While this may be a good motive, reality is that few use gambling winnings for godly purposes. Studies show that the vast majority of lottery winners are in an even worse financial situation a few years after winning a jackpot than they were before. Few, if any, truly give the money to a good cause. Further, God does not need our money to fund His mission in the world. Proverbs 13:11 says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” God is sovereign and will provide for the needs of the church through honest means. Would God be honored by receiving donated drug money or money stolen in a bank robbery? Of course not. Neither does God need or want money that was “stolen” from the poor in the temptation for riches.
First Timothy 6:10 tells us, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Hebrews 13:5 declares, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Matthew 6:24 proclaims, “No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money.”
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Gambling, or gaming, is the staking of money or other thing of value on the issue of a game of chance. It thus belongs to the class of aleatory contracts which the gain or loss of the parties depends on an uncertain event. It is not gambling, in the strict sense, if a bet is laid on the issue of a game of skill like billiards or football. The issue must depend on chance, as in dice, or partly on chance, partly on skill, as in whist. Moreover, in ordinary parlance, a person who plays for small stakes to give zest to the game is not said to gamble; gambling connotes playing for high stakes.
In its moral aspect, although gambling usually has a bad meaning, yet we may apply to it what was said about betting. On certain conditions, and apart from excess or scandal, it is not sinful to stake money on the issue of a game of chance any more than it is sinful to insure one’s property against risk, or deal in futures on the produce market. As I may make a free gift of my own property to another if I choose, so I may agree with another to hand over to him a sum of money if the issue of a game of cards is other than I expect, while he agrees to do the same in my favour in the contrary event.
Theologians commonly require four conditions so that gaming may not be illicit.
• What is staked must belong to the gambler and must be at his free disposal. It is wrong, therefore, for the lawyer to stake the money of his client, or for anyone to gamble with what is necessary for the maintenance of his wife and children.
• The gambler must act freely, without unjust compulsion.
• There must be no fraud in the transaction, although the usual ruses of the game may be allowed. It is unlawful, accordingly, to mark the cards, but it is permissible to conceal carefully from an opponent the number of trump cards one holds.
• Finally, there must be some sort of equality between the parties to make the contract equitable; it would be unfair for a combination of two expert whist players to take the money of a couple of mere novices at the game.
If any of these conditions be wanting, gambling becomes more or less wrong; and, besides, there is generally an element of danger in it which is quite sufficient to account for the bad name which it has. In most people gambling arouses keen excitement, and quickly develops into a passion which is difficult to control. If indulged in to excess it leads to loss of time, and usually of money; to an idle and useless life spent in the midst of bad company and unwholesome surroundings; and to scandal which is a source of sin and ruin to others. It panders to the craving for excitement and in many countries it has become so prevalent that it rivals drunkenness in its destructive effects on the lives of the people. It is obvious that the moral aspect of the question is not essentially different if for a game of chance is substituted a horse-race, a football or cricket match, or the price of stock or produce at some future date. Although the issue in these cases seldom depends upon chance, still the moral aspect of betting upon it is the same in so far as the issue is unknown or uncertain to the parties who make the contract. Time bargains, difference transactions, options, and other speculative dealings on the exchanges, which are so common nowadays, add to the malice of gambling special evils of their own. They lead to the disturbance of the natural prices of commodities and securities, do grave injury to producers and consumers of those commodities, and are frequently attended by such unlawful methods of influencing prices as the dissemination of false reports, cornering, and the fierce contests of “bulls” and “bears”, i.e. of the dealers who wish respectively to raise or lower prices.
Hitherto we have prescinded from positive law in our treatment of the question of gambling. It is, however, a matter on which both the civil and the canon law have much to say. In the United States the subject lies outside the province of the Federal Government, but many of the States make gambling a penal offence when the bet is upon an election, a horse-race, or a game of chance. Betting contracts and securities given upon a bet are often made void. In England the Gaming Act, 1845, voids contracts made by way of gaming and wagering; and the Gaming Act, 1892, renders null and void any promise, express or implied, to pay any person any sum of money under, or in respect of, any contract or agreement rendered null and void by the Gaming Act, 1845, or to pay any sum of money by way of commission, fee, reward, or otherwise, in respect of any such contract or agreement, or of any services in relation thereto or in connection therewith.
From very early times gambling was forbidden by canon law. Two of the oldest (41, 42) among the so-called canons of the Apostles forbade games of chance under pain of excommunication to clergy and laity alike. The 79th canon of the Council of Elvira (306) decreed that one of the faithful who had been guilty of gambling might be, on amendment, restored to communion after the lapse of a year. A homily (the famous “De Aleatoribus”) long ascribed by St. Cyprian, but by modern scholars variously attributed to Popes Victor I, Callistus I, and Melchiades, and which undoubtedly is a very early and interesting monument of Christian antiquity, is a vigorous denunciation of gambling. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215), by a decree subsequently inserted in the “Corpus Juris”, forbade clerics to play or to be present at games of chance. Some authorities, such as Aubespine, have attempted to explain the severity of the ancient canons against gambling by supposing that idolatry was often connected with it in practice. The pieces that were played with were small-sized idols, or images of the gods, which were invoked by the players for good luck. However, as Benedict XIV remarks, this can hardly be true, as in that case the penalties would have been still more severe.
Profane writers of antiquity are almost as severe in their condemnation of gambling as are the councils of the Christian Church. Tacitus and Ammianus Marcellinus tell us that by gambling men are led into fraud, cheating, lying, perjury, theft, and other enormities; while Peter of Blois says that dice is the mother of perjury, theft, and sacrilege. The old canonists and theologians remark that although the canons generally mention only dice by name, yet under this appellation must be understood all games of chance; and even those that require skill, if they are played for money.
The Council of Trent contented itself with ordering all the ancient canons on the subject to be observed, and in general prescribed that the clergy were to abstain from unlawful games. As Benedict XIV remarks, it was left to the judgment of the bishops to decide what games should be held to be unlawful according to the different circumstances of person, place, and time. St. Charles Borromeo, in the first Synod of Milan, put the Tridentine decree into execution, and drew up a list of games which were forbidden to the clergy, and another list of those that were allowed. Among those which he forbade were not only dicing in various forms, but also games something like our croquet and football. Other particular councils declared that playing at dice and cards was unbecoming and forbidden to clerics, and in general they forbade all games which were unbecoming to the clerical state. Thus, a council held at Bordeaux in 1583 decreed that the clergy were to abstain altogether from playing in public or in private at dice, cards, or any other forbidden and unbecoming game. The council held at Aix in 1585 forbade them to play at cards, dice or any other game of the like kind, and even to look on at the playing of such games. Another, held at Narbonne in 1609, decreed that clerics were not to play at dice, cards, or other unlawful and unbecoming games, especially in public.
There was some doubt as to whether chess was to be considered an unbecoming, and therefore, an unlawful, game for clerics. In the opinion of St. Peter Damian it was certainly unlawful. On one occasion he caught the Bishop of Florence playing chess, to while away the time when on a journey. The bishop tried to defend himself by saying that chess was not dice. The saint, however, refused to admit the distinction, especially as the bishop was playing in public. Scripture, he said, does not make express mention of chess, but it is comprised under the term dice. And Baronius defends the saint’s doctrine. Some sciolist, he remarks, may say that St. Peter Damian was under a delusion in classing chess under dice, since chess is not a game of chance but calls for the exercise of much skill and talent. Let that be as it may, he proceeds, priests must at any rate be guided in their conduct by the words of St. Paul, who declared that what is not expedient, what is not edifying, is not allowed.
Modern ecclesiastical law is less exacting in this matter. The provincial Councils of Westminster are content with prescribing that clerics must abstain from unlawful games. The Plenary School of Maynooth, held in 1900, says that since not a little time is occasionally lost, and idleness is fostered by playing cards, the priest should be on his guard against such games, especially where money is staked, lest he incur the reproach of being a gambler. He is also exhorted to deter the laity by word and example from betting at horse-races, especially when the stakes are high. The Second Plenary Council of Baltimore made a distinction between games which may not suitably be indulged in by a cleric, even when played in private, and games like cards which may be played for the sake of innocent recreation. It repeated the prohibition of the First Plenary Council of Baltimore that clerics are not to indulge in unlawful games, and only in moderation are to use those that are lawful, so as not to cause scandal. Nowadays, it is commonly held that positive ecclesiastical law only forbids games of chance, even to the clergy, when in themselves or for some extrinsic reason, such as loss of time or scandal, they are forbidden by the natural law.
Isn’t gambling a sin? How then can you Catholics justify playing bingo?–and in church yet!
First of all, the stereotype of bingo-playing Catholics is really overblown. The vast majority of parishes don’t even have a bingo night. Second, gambling is not in and of itself wrong. Read your Bible and you will not find gambling condemned anywhere in it.
The average gambler loses money, but the process is entertaining, so what gambling amounts to is paying money to be entertained, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Gambling becomes sinful only when one pays too much money for the entertainment. A person in a casino spending thousands of dollars that his family needs is committing a sin, and the Church is very firm about this (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2413). It would likewise be sinful for a person to spend thousands of dollars his family needed on other forms of entertainment, too, like limited edition books, movies, collector’s items, or whatever.
However, if you can afford it, there is nothing wrong with spending a few dollars for an evening of entertainment, whether it is bingo, the movies, or something else. In fact, spending a few dollars on an evening playing bingo in a church basement with a bunch of fellow Christians is probably a more wholesome activity than spending the same amount of money going to see a typical movie–or for that matter staying home and watching TV for free.