Stop into any gas station or drive by some highway billboards and you will notice that one of the first things to catch your eye is an invitation to gamble.
Gambling has been a source of entertainment for humans since before recorded history (the earliest dice were created around 3000 BC) and gambling has become so mainstream that approximately 85% of adults in the US have gambled once in their life, 60% within the last year!
If gambling has been around for so long and so many people have done it, why do some people feel that gambling goes against what the Bible teaches? Is it a sin to gamble? Will you go to hell if you enjoy rolling dice, playing cards, or scratching lotto tickets?
Let’s take a look at how God views gambling and discover if we should avoid this leisure time activity.
What is gambling?
The dictionary defines gambling as the practice or activity of betting: the practice of risking money or other stakes in a game or bet. Simply put: anytime you are risking something on the outcome of another thing—you are gambling!
Today gambling takes a variety of forms: dice, slot machines, cards, the lottery, and sports betting, to name a few. One form of gambling, that is on the rise is gambling online, which makes betting as easy as accessing your phone or computer to gamble.
No matter the form of gambling, this activity always contains two elements: conscious risk and a hope to gain something in return for the risk.
Is gambling a sin?
Many Christians find themselves asking this question at some point and looking to the Bible for clarity on God’s stance on gambling. To start, there is no specific mention in the Bible of places like casinos or activities like cards and dice as being sinful. However, God does warn against the sin of temptation. Any time our hearts and minds are captivated by a temptation that distracts us from our time/relationship with God, that is a sin.
The Bible reinforces a Christ-follower’s need to guard against temptation in multiple places in Scripture. Here are just a few examples:
- 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
- But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
- Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.
The practice of “casting lots” is referenced in the Bible multiple times. This practice was to render an impartial, unbiased decision on important matters. Once the lot was cast, no one could argue that the decision was the result of human intervention like nepotism, politics, favoritism, and so on. Modern-day examples of this decision-making tool would be “drawing straws” or “flipping a coin.”
Casting lots was not considered sinful in biblical history nor would it be considered sinful today as long as it is not being used as a temptation for the desired outcome that would distract a Christian from a relationship with God!
Is the lottery gambling?
The lottery fits the contemporary definition of gambling therefore it can be viewed as such. Much like other forms of gambling, a deciding factor on if playing the lottery is sin would be to ask yourself, “Is this activity distracting me from a growing focus and priority on Jesus?”
The following actions might act as red flags that playing the lottery (or any form of gambling) may be a problem for you:
- Being preoccupied with gambling, such as constantly planning how to get more gambling money
- Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to get the same thrill
- Trying to control, cut back, or stop gambling without success
- Feeling restless or irritable when you try to cut down on gambling
- Gambling to escape problems or relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression
- Trying to get back lost money by gambling more (chasing losses)
- Lying to family members or others to hide the extent of your gambling
- Jeopardizing or losing important relationships, a job, or school or work opportunities because of gambling
The good news about choosing to follow Jesus Christ is that you can gain strength to combat the temptation of gambling, especially if it is negatively affecting you in the ways mentioned above.
We hope you connect with us at 2|42 Community Church or find a community of believers in your local area. You’ll discover how God can use His word, His people, and His church to help you lead a life that’s free from gambling addiction.
Check out our website for more information. We always welcome new friends to worship with us. Find a location that’s close to you! You can learn more about our beliefs and visit our video library to explore more topics like this one. You can also check out our events page to find out what fun new things we’re doing this season.