Continuing the discussion of disputed topics, I will address gambling today. Before you read this, make sure to check out my post on disputed matters and alcohol, because it gives a framework for how to deal with this issue as well.
Understanding the principles of both having freedom in certain areas and being aware of the implications on ourselves and others, let's answer the questions: What does the Bible say about gambling? Can a Christian gamble?
The Bible does not specifically mention gambling. It does, however, have a lot to say about how we are to handle money. Let's look at some biblical principles about how to handle money, shedding some light on the gambling question.
Love of money is very destructive. The Apostle Paul tells Timothy, "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) Money, in and of itself, is not bad, but the misuse of money is the problem. The love of money is what gets us into trouble. Sometimes we overlook this principle and charge ahead reaching for as much money as we can possibly acquire so that we can accommodate a more comfortable lifestyle.
People sometimes gamble as the result of a love of money. This is especially true in compulsive gambling. The thought, "I can win my way back! I can overcome my losses if I just play a little longer." This can easily lead someone to "pierce themselves with many griefs." A person can end up in a lot of trouble if the love of money motivates them to gamble for more.
All money is God's money; Christians are stewards. Everything we have is God's. Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” If you are a follower of Christ your money is not your own. You have been given your money by God to manage for God's Kingdom.
The Bible has a lot to say about what is expected of us who manage God's money. A few of these expectations are to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8), to support our local church (2 Corinthians 9:7), to give to the needy (James 2:15-16), to save for our future (Proverbs 21:20), and to enjoy the blessings of money understanding that it is God who provides (1 Timothy 6:17).
Have you managed God's money well? Do you have a budget so that you can plan how to best steward the money God has entrusted you with? If you are not providing for your family, giving to your church, helping the needy, saving for your future and trusting in God for your money then it is NOT a good idea to gamble. Even if you consider it "entertainment" and it is a small percentage of your overall income you need to make sure you have a handle on your money as a whole before you throw any of it away. In other words, if you can't pay your bills, you should not even think about gambling. For more information on how to handle personal finances in a godly way check out www.daveramsey.com.
Can a Christian Gamble?
With the biblical understanding that the love of money is destructive and Christians are stewards of God's money and are commanded to manage it well, the question still remains.
The principles we’ve learned from Romans 14 which are discussed in the first post in this series can be applied to this question. If it does not violate your conscience to gamble, then it would not be a sin. But it is essential to keep in mind an important principle:
You may not be able to handle gambling; it may master you. There is a difference between occasionally playing poker with friends and spending $500 a month supporting a gambling habit. One could be considered harmless entertainment, and the other could eventually destroy all your relationships and put you in the poor house. You need to be very careful how you use your freedoms. Don’t let your freedoms own you. Paul says, “Everything is lawful for me, but not everything is profitable. Everything is lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)
You may not be able to handle ANY gambling because it triggers you to want to gamble more and more and becomes a problem. Some helpful questions to ask are, “Is this mastering me?” “Is this becoming habitual?” “Am I managing my money well?” “Do I need to seek help to stop?”
With this question, like all other disputed cultural issues, wisdom has to be applied. For some the answer is, “NEVER!” For others the answer is “Occasionally.” For everyone, the answer should always be to to seek the Word of God for truth, the Holy Spirit for guidance and listen to your God-given conscience.