What is wrong with Gambling?

Copyright © 2008, by David A. Duncan


The dictionary defines gambling as "to play a game of chance for money or other stakes, to wager money or other stakes on uncertain outcome, to expose something of value to risk or hazard in the advantage of gain." A simple definition of gambling would be: desiring the possession (prize) of another, the gambler creates a risk (that of losing his own possession) in an attempt through chance to gain the possession of another with nothing given in exchange. It is a greedy desire to have what belongs to another (i.e. covetousness).


What About 3-Coin, etc.

Gambling takes many forms: card games, dice, numbers, betting on elections or sporting events, buying sweepstakes tickets, lotteries, playing slot machines, punch boards, bingo (for money or prizes), raffle tickets, matching for cokes, or even pitching for pennies. Also, whether you are gambling or not does not depend upon the amount you are risking. It may be $5,000 or $5, it may be 50 cents or 1 cent, the principle is the same - only the amount differs.


Biblical Principles

Jesus said a tree is known by its fruits (Matthew 7:15). What are the fruits of gambling? Its fruits are corrupt (selfishness, covetousness, greed, etc.). Gambling conflicts with Bible Principles in these areas:

1)      Covetousness – the basic principle of gambling is to gain the posession of another through chance – and hence those who gamble necessarily covet (covet = excessively and culpably desirous of the possessions of another[1] - note: when desire goes so far as to attempt to gain the possessions of another without recompense he is culpable; culpable = deserving condemnation or blame as wrong or harmful.[2]).      
Regardless of what the expressed motive is (e.g. I’m just doing it for the thrill of it, I’m just doing it for entertainment,etc.), the intent is unchanged. If there is no reward, no one would be involved in the game of chance.           

It defiles a man

Mark 7:22-23 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: {23} All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

It distorts a man’s perspective

Luke 12:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

It violates the principle of love toward our neighbor

Romans 13:9-10 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. {10} Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

2)      Greed - An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth[3]. Getting something for nothing is “more than one deserves”.  When is a desire “excessive”? – when one is consumed with thoughts of how to obtain or acts on the desire and actually seeks to obtain another’s possessions through chance it is excessive.  Greed and Covetousness are often linked and both are forms of “wickedness”:

Romans 1:29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.

3)      Earning a living through righteous means (a result of legitimate labor),

Eph 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.

2 Thess 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

4)      Loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39; 7:12), The essence of gambling is to obtain what belongs to another without recompense through chance.  At the core is being concerned with self over others and without concern for others.

Matt 22:37-39  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.{38} This is the first and great commandment. {39} And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

5)      Showing a Christ-like example (Romans 12:17),

Ro 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

6)      Shunning evil (Romans 12:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:22),

The attitude we should have toward evil is not to see how close we can get to it, but to “abhor” it (To regard with horror or loathing; detest)         

Ro 12:9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.           

1Th 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Some Social Ills that typically accompany gambling:

Be careful here.  These things are not what make it sin.  For example, if we call it sin because the family needs are neglected, then the wealthy can successfully argue that as long as their habit does no harm to the family – it is not wrong.  The following are typical results (i.e. the fruit of the sin):

1)      Family needs are neglected. Funds that could benefit the family are diverted. Rather than selfish pleasure (gambling), parents should be caring for family

Eph 5:28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

Gambling diverts revenue from the home.  Note that even "entertainment", if it becomes a detriment to the home is wrong. 1Ti 5:8 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.

2)      Addiction: leading to Stealing, drugs, prostitution (to fund gambling habit)

Statistics show that at least two-thirds of compulsive gamblers engage in criminal activity to finance their addiction, including check forgery, tax evasion, embezzlement, bookmaking, prostitution, selling drugs, and fencing stolen goods.[4]

Compulsive gamblers commit as much as 40 percent of all white-collar crime, according to estimates by the American Insurance Institute.[5]


But what if I do it for the thrill of it, and it does not affect my family?

Principles of covetousness, loving your neighbor, shunning evil, being Christ-Like, etc. still apply.  Covetousness, greed, etc. is always wrong, whether it affects the family or not. Recognize the dangers of addiction and avoid these (shun evil), cleave to that which is good (Romans 12:9)


No One is harmed – each player does so voluntarily

Some will argue that no harm is done since each player involves himself voluntarily.  When you seek another’s possessions without just recompense, it is still covetousness – whether the other party volunteers to be a part of it or not.  As an example, consider taking a man’s garment as a pledge of payment (under the Old Covenant).  This was considered a form of oppression (even though it was obtained with the other’s consent):

Ex 22:26-27 If thou at all take thy neighbour's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down: {27} For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.

To make loans with interest rates which were considered oppressive was still wrong – even if they were obtained with the borrower’s permission:

Ex 22:25 If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.

Gambling losses weigh the most on the poor – and these are the very ones who are most involved.  This is a form of oppression (oppress: v. 1. To keep down by severe and unjust use of force or authority  2. To weigh heavily on[6])

Some Godly Principles from the Old Testament:

Oppression was condemned

Le 25:17 Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I [am] the LORD your God.

Oppression: Taking what is not rightfully yours either by work or compensation

Job 20:19 Because he hath oppressed [and] hath forsaken the poor; [because] he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not; {oppressed: Heb. crushed}

He who oppresses, reproaches God

Pr 14:31 ¶ He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

Desire long life – avoid covetousness and oppression

Pr 28:16 ¶ The prince that wanteth understanding [is] also a great oppressor: [but] he that hateth covetousness shall prolong [his] days.


Gambling is wrong from an application of Christian principles. The fruit of Gambling produces many forms of evil.  Christians should avoid it.

[1] American Heritage Dictionary

[2] Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Law

[3] American Heritage Dictionary

[4] Theft by Consent:  The Social and Economic Impact of An Alabama Education Lottery, by John R. Hill, PhD, published by Alabama Family Alliance 01/01/1998

[5] Ibid

[6] American Heritage Dictionary