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Contemporary Issues
"Should the Christian Gamble?"

by Rev Jack Sin 
(Pastor, Maranatha B-P Church)
 
Introduction

Recently in the front page of STREATS (one of Singapore’s tabloids) dated 1 August 2001,it was reported that a dishwasher lady gambled away $92,000 of the family money from the sale of a flat by playing the jackpot and have resorted to begging from strangers to feed herself. According to an inland revenue source, Jackpot machines here is said to gobble up to more than 600 million in the last financial year (this amount excludes other forms of gambling). This obsessive and addictive game has adversely affected many families and Christians are not exempted. This is a great cause for concern which we will address today.

Gambling has been a vice in human civilisation since time immemorial. The Chinese culture has records of gambling games dated from 2,300 BC. The six-sided marking of the dice has been conjectured to come from Arabia. During the patristic era, church fathers like Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian condemned gambling in their writings. During the Middle Ages, it has been recorded that Pope Leo X was addicted to the card playing in the 15th century. John Calvin the 16th century reformer preached against gambling, prostitution and drunkenness in Geneva and sought to eradicate these vices from the city. The New England Puritans who came from England in the early 17th century because of the religious persecution censored gambling which quickly infected the colonies. By the 19th century, gambling was widespread in both hemispheres of the globe and legalised by some governments as well. The gambling population increased after the 2nd world war to epidemic heights.

It is said that in the US gambling goes up to the tune of more than 30 billion a year. It has been noted in a recent survey that at least 88 million Americans participate in some form of gambling and out of that, 15.5 million gamble illegally. Singaporeans are not far behind in this social ill. Gambling admits of all persons from housewives, professionals, retirees and teenagers who try their "luck" at lotteries, horse-betting, petty social games like pools, betting, poker, mah-jong, jackpot and big time casino style gambling on cruise liners and in Genting Highlands (Malaysia), Macao, Las Vegas and elsewhere. Money changes hands by the millions every day in these gambling dens. Some more sophisticated gamblers try out their luck at the stock and money markets by speculating in stocks and share option not for a long-term investment but for a quick profit taking advantage of the fluctuations in the marketplace. Gambling involves the transfer of money from one person to another (or organisation); the service of chance with a desire to multiply that amount without productive effort on the part of the possessors. This is undesirable and unacceptable to say the least and Christians should have nothing to do with it.

In gambling, the willingness to take risk is twisted by the desire to get something for nothing. Gambling is then a sin of perverted, irresponsible stewardship of our resources. It is almost parasitic, producing no personal growth and achieving no additional economic or social benefit to others or us as well.

What is Wrong with Gambling?

To begin with, gambling is contrary to the moral law of God in the Decalogue.Covetousness is strictly forbidden as given in the 10th commandment. True Biblical religion emphasis on fidelity towards God and a contentment with godliness is great gain (1 Tim 6:6,10). The Christian life is a life of faith, trust, hard work, not cultic worship of luck and wealth and the deification of chance which is idolatry. The faith of a believer magnifies the sovereign and providential care of God. The cult of luck and chance (in gambling) minimises that and challenge the wisdom of God in not giving us more wealth and possessions.

While the bible may not state any specific prohibition against modern ways of gambling, it does provide clear insights and principles which indicate unquestionably that gambling is wrong.

Paul encourages industry and honest hard work rather than those who tried to get gain without labour. He says in 2 Thess 3:10-12, "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread."

In another passage, he urges the man as head of the home, to work to provide for his family and not by gambling. 1 Tim 5:8 says "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."

The most directly relevant passage is the teaching of contentment which is the opposite of an avaricious gambler. The love of money which is the description of a gambler is truly the root of all evil. Be thankful for what you have and what we do not have as well. But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1Tim 6:7-10 says, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

Jesus makes it very clear that you cannot serve money, which is the god of the gambler and Christ at the same time. They are mutually incompatible. Matt 6:24 says, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." The apostle charges that every Christian will be judged on faithfulness and gamblers are poor stewards when they lose away all their money and God-given resources. 1 Cor 4:2 says, "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. Gambling can hardly be described as faithfulness".

The bible calls for responsible stewardship, not reckless covetousness and worldly materialism from chance which is a form of idolatrous worship (Col 3:5).

Gambling almost invariably regresses into a form of "glorified stealing". The reason why in winning by gambling, one receives deceitfully the wages of another who earned it without giving any service or goods in exchange. It is almost daylight robbery. To risk money haphazardly in gambling is to completely disregard the biblical teaching that our possessions are a trust from God for which we are accountable to Him one day at the Judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10).

Gambling has compounded family problems and disharmony. I have personally known of family relationship that are strained, by the ravages of a gambling binge and destroyed many lives. Serious compulsive gambling has been identified as a possible form of psychological addiction or disorder. There is such at the compulsive gambler who due to his weakness to gambling have been enslaved by it as a habit and cannot but gamble? It is a behavioural disorder and has ensnared many.

Conclusion

The biblical injunction is for the believer to be industrious with his hand productively and enjoy the fruits of labour (Gal 6:7-9). Wealth heartily gathered by gambling will vanish quickly as well but he that labour, little by little will have a good reward one day. The Christian rejects the idea of gambling in any form/amount even during Chinese New Year or buying "Toto" because it is against the clear teaching of scripture and the biblical work ethnic. Gambling creates no new economic wealth but merely redistribute it unlike honest hard work. It deprives legitimate business and enriches a few and impoverishes many. In fact, gambling has been known to encourage crime, vice, violence, drugs, assaults and murder. The underworld thrives on gambling for their vice activities. Sadly, gambling is a sophisticated form of theft that is accepted by society, when one received gain of another without working for it. Gambling has led to embellishment, bribes, extortion, treason, suicide and corruption among many other social and moral evils and has destroyed many families and relationships.

A gambler is hardly a good testimony and witness for the Lord. The obedient and spirit-filled believer should have nothing to do with this sinister activity that is contrary to godliness, contentment, stewardship and sanctification that we are called to. Let us be warned and fight against temptation and not fall into the snare of the evil one. Amen. 


 
 
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