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Is Gambling a Sin?

Several weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to strike down a federal ban on sports betting. The vote did not automatically legalize sports gambling across the country, but it does open the door for states to make an autonomous decision for themselves if they want sports betting legalized or not. Experts have predicted that over the next two years, 14 states could have legalized sports gambling.

What is gambling? Webster defines it as “to play a game for money or property; to bet on the uncertain outcome.”

There are three basic elements in gambling:

* The uncertain event that is arbitrarily determined

* The stake is deliberately chanced

* There’s a winner and a loser

Gambling participants say they do it for the thrill of the competition or it’s part of their entertainment budget. However, greed and covetousness are the true catalysts. The Bible warns against the desire to be rich (I Tim. 6:9-10); greed is a monster that is never satisfied. How serious is covetousness? Congregations are instructed to withdraw from any brother or sister who is covetous (I Cor. 5:11).

Therefore, due to the popularity of gambling and the increased ease to participate, we need to know what the Bible has to say about this topic. The word “gamble” doesn’t appear in the Bible, but what we do find are violations of Biblical principles.

Gambling violates the principle of earning money. There’s a right way to gain money — work, trade, gift or inheritance — and there’s a wrong way to gain money. Gambling also violates the principle of being a good steward (I Pet. 4:10). The resources that God has blessed us with must be managed well on behalf of the Lord. In fact, during His ministry, Jesus talked a lot about money, and He likely would do the same if He were here now. God has a right to be concerned with how we use our money. Also, gambling violates the principle of love. In I Cor. 13:5, we’re told “love does not seek its own.” Gambling is a system whereby that is exactly what we do — we seek our own. We are not loving anyone but ourselves.

But not only does gambling violate Biblical principles, the fruits of gambling are sinful: “Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:20). Gambling is addictive; it’s got a grip on people like drugs, alcohol and pornography. It destroys lives: “Pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Tim. 6:10b). There’s debt, divorce, suicide, depression, substance abuse — and that’s just the beginning when it comes to the destructiveness of gambling. And it destroys influence. We know how important our influence is (Matt. 5:13-16). If I choose to gamble, how is that letting my light shine?

We must flee sins like greed and covetousness. Because no matter how society views gambling, God has not changed His mind — gambling is a sin that will cost you your soul.

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