The following Bible Study is by Dr. Robert J. Hitchens, President, Maryland Baptist Bible College, and is reprinted from the Maranatha Baptist Watchman, August 1996; used by permission (Maranatha Baptist Church, 3141 Old Elk Neck Rd., Elkton, Maryland 21921)
The United States of America has entered into a love affair with gambling. Twenty seven states have casinos and several others are on the verge of legalization along with the lotteries, bingo games, card rooms and para-mutual betting already in existence. In 1994 U.S. citizens wagered $482 billion dollars on all forms of gambling. Many cash-strapped states see it as a way to increase revenue without raising taxes. Local economies also welcome the gaming industry because of the jobs that are provided. According to a poll conducted in 1994, 89% of the respondents said they approved of casino gambling. But what are the effects on families, on individuals, and on society itself? The effects, I believe, are deep and far-reaching.
First of all, gambling promotes covetousness. It tempts people with the possibility of easy riches. 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some have coveted after, they have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Thus it becomes a violation of the 10th commandment, “Thou shalt not covet.”
Second, gambling wastes money. Some may have an abundance and not miss the losses. However, multitudes do not have it to spare. Studies show that people with incomes under $10,000 a year spend a larger percentage of their money on lotteries than those with higher incomes. According to a recent article in U.S. News and World Report, welfare recipients in Minnesota are withdrawing more than $400,000 dollars a year from ATMs at state run casinos. It could be argued that the money would be spent foolishly some other way were it not for the casinos, but we do not know that. Undoubtedly, there are families going without the necessities of life because mom or dad have been deluded into thinking they are going to strike it rich. Luke 16:2, “And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.”
Third, gambling is addictive. In the same U.S. News and World Report article referred to earlier, Sociologist Rachel Volberg found that four years after the state of Iowa legalized riverboat gambling, the number of problem gamblers had tripled. And stories of ruined credit, bankruptcies, theft and even suicide are numerous. One compulsive gambler from Illinois said, “Casinos are the crack cocaine of gambling.” I Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
Fourth, gambling attracts the criminal element. The U.S. News and World Report article says that towns with casinos have experienced an upsurge of crime at the same time that crime as a whole was dropping in the rest of the nation. A 1994 survey revealed that crime rose 5.8% in those towns, while crime as a whole dropped 2% nationally. The 31 towns that got new casinos just the year before saw their crime rate rise 7.7%.
Fifth, gambling is a form of stealing. Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, the great 19th-century preacher wrote, “...the whole habit of gambling is of the essence of theft, and this for the reason that it is a means of coming into possession of property for which one has done no honest work. Whether their practices are gilded by the glory of a court, or tarnished by the vulgarity of a slum, the gambler is a thief in the sight of God, and ought therefore to be so in the sight of all honest men.” Ephesians 4:28, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”
Sixth, gambling costs society more than the revenues it produces. When the members of Gamblers Anonymous of Illinois were surveyed in 1994, 26% said they had divorced or separated because of gambling, 34% had lost or quit a job, 44% had stolen things from work, 21% had filed for bankruptcy, 18% had gambling related arrests, 66% had contemplated suicide, and 16% had attempted suicide. The costs for services for compulsive gamblers, including treatment and court expenses, has been estimated at between $13,000 and $35,000 per person. Estimates of the number of compulsive gamblers in America are between 6 and 10 million! You do the math! Job 4:8, “Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.”
Seventh, the gaming industry does not make or create anything. Such an industry is a parasite. It exists only because of the productivity of others. Money is shifted around without any tangible goods being produced, and most of it ends up in the pockets of the casino owners.
Eighth, legalized gambling makes the government a promoter of a “get something for nothing” attitude. Our nation has enough problems without government adding its endorsement to this evil. In reality, government should set the example of morality and righteousness in a nation. Romans 13:4 says that the ruler is “the minister of God to thee for good.” But there is nothing “good” about encouraging people to lose their hard-earned money at the casino or the race track, or in the lottery. A nation that encourages such conduct is gambling with its own future. II Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
Ninth, legalized gambling destroys morals, character, and leads to a more decadent society. Just because something has been legalized by passing a law, does not make it right, and the evidence is abundant that society suffers when gambling reigns. America has ills which many think can be cured by revenues from games of chance. But the spiritual effects will plunge this nation further down into the pit of degradation. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” Galatians 6:7.
As a continuation of the message by Dr. Hitchens, Let us add:
Tenth, gambling violates the Biblical work ethic. God expects us to work for our money. “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase,” Proverbs 13:11. “A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent,” Proverbs 28 20. “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth,” Ephesians 4:28. We are not to increase our income by gambling. God’s plan is for us to work for our income. As stated before, II Thessalonians 3:10 says, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
Eleventh, gambling eliminates God as our Provider. Gambling robs God of the opportunity to provide for us. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:19. You say, “Maybe I’ll win enough to buy some of the extra things I need.” “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” Matthew 6:33. God wants us to look to Him for our provision, not to gambling. “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,” Matthew 6:24. Gambling substitutes our God for another.
Twelfth, gambling attacks the concept of stewardship. All that we have belongs to God. The 10 percent tithe that we give to the Lord definitely belongs to Him, but the 90 percent we keep also belongs to God. God is absolutely against His steward spending any money on gambling, even a one-dollar bet or the cost of a stamp for an entry form.
You say, “But God gave me some extra money. I don’t need this money to live on It’s not a big deal.” “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away,” James 4:13-14. The big deal is that the extra money God provided may be for something down the road that you don’t know about yet. God is against gambling, and His Word gives these twelve proofs that gambling is wrong. Can you picture Jesus gambling on the Dallas Cowboys? You say, “That’s ridiculous!” Then it should also be ridiculous in the life of a Christian. If we choose to obey God’s Word, it will sharpen our discernment. If we disobey God’s Word on gambling, it will dull our senses to the truth needed in the next step God has for us.
In the strictest sense, gambling is a sin as much as false weights and measures (Proverbs 16;1, 20:10,23). Enticing someone to gain money at the certain loss of another violates virtually every principle Christ taught. It not only breeds selfishness, greed and covetousness, but, in fact, promotes them. Philippians 3:18-19 says, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”
Regardless of how socially acceptable gambling has become, it is still preying on the weaknesses of others. It does not help in spreading the gospel and therefore is a sin to a follower of Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:10 says, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;”
Many believers are guilty of supporting lotteries, bingo and racing, believing gambling doesn’t hurt anyone. How about the missionaries around the world who need support, church buildings, literature, Bibles, etc.? What about the souls they could reach?
Our value system is passed on to others—our families, friends and neighbors. If the value system of believers is no better than that of the world, we have truly conformed to its image.
In closing, what about the lot? Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.” The lot was not a form of gambling but of solving a difference. For instance, who gets the ball first in a football game? Let’s have a coin flip. That’s fair, but it is not gambling. It solves a difference. The lot was used similarly.