THE SIN OF GAMBLING
- Self–evident truths:
- Gambling is gain at someone else's loss.
- The loser is an unwilling giver.
- It involves an unnecessary risk.
- Nothing is given for value received.
- Unchristian spirit permeates each of these principles:
- It involves selfishness on the part of the one who wins and takes what is not rightfully his.
- My contribution to his loss may involve hardships for innocent people.
- A Christian cannot manipulate others in games of chance and subsidize that manner of living.
- The purpose is to propel the other person into loss:
- It is taking what does not rightfully belong to one.
- It may be legal; it is not mostly right.
- The New Testament principle is that the Christian must look to the good and advantage of the other person. “Just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (I Corinthians 10:33).
- To deliberately cause innocent people to suffer by depriving them of their necessary income and squeezing them into financial straits is to sin against those people as well as God.
- The unwilling giver:
- The loser is an unwilling giver.
- Even if the amount is small.
- Particularly if he continues to lose.
- Few, if any, are inclined to hand over hard–earned money, especially if it entails hardships and spells unpaid debts.
- Losses lead to pressure and stresses which trap one in sin and often lead to serious crime.
- The unnecessary risk:
- Welfare of family, endangered marriage, shadow upon reputation, imperiled future by engaging in games of chance.
- Deceived by the magical promise of quick riches. The hope is to become rich and independent now.
- The thrills and excitement of uncertainty—the daring involved in taking chances, and the challenge of testing one's skill or luck.
- Nothing given for value received.
- What is the relation between the contribution made and the money received?
- How do you justify spending two or ten dollars and receiving fifty million in return? For this to be done many people lose.
- When the outcome is settled the winner collects the loser's stakes.
- What makes gambling wrong from the beginning is greed. Selfishly wanting things for one's self, with the best effort. And it is with total disregard for the other person or his welfare.
- Why people gamble:
- They believe it is an easy way to make money without the exertion and trouble in working.
- Most work requires struggle, toil, industry, consistency, and constancy. This day after day strain makes gambling more attractive.
- One has a goal in life and often does not wish to pay the price of waiting and years of toil which are required to bring it to fruition.
- One magical moment of good luck, he believes, can bring him prosperity and comfort which he could never have otherwise. Sudden good fortune is better than years of struggle which may end in disappointment and despair.
- Gambling—legal and illegal:
- One of the oldest sins in history.
- By law, gambling is sanctioned in some states and societies.
- Much of the gambling in the world is overseen and supervised by organized crime.
- Associated with gambling are all the sins of murder, prostitution, drunkenness, drugs, etc.
- Some gambling governments seek to make respectable and dignify with legitimate business and cultured society.
- Billions of dollars are spent in illegal gambling under the guise of acceptable and justifiable organized business.
- Gambling may become an addiction:
- Many things in life to which people become addicted—alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sex.
- Gambling is no exception—time, money, effort, study, trouble, and energy are all given in pursuit of the habit.
- What about little sins
- If the risks are not great and the losses pose little or no inconvenience, would gambling be permissible?
- The practice of evil, however slight it may appear to be, is wrong. The principle is the same as if the risk were significant—the winning or losses considerable.
- Lying if lying and adultery is adultery, even though the circumstances or consequences may seem trivial and immaterial.
- Prototypes for the young:
- We cannot be too careful about examples we set.
- To deprive a fellow man of his possessions and expose him to complete disaster and financial ruin is the wrong kind of example to set before others whose lives we influence.
- To determine right and wrong, the question should be asked: “Is this an investment for productive purposes and is it above question or reproach?”
- What about prizes for unusual accomplishment?
- If reward is given for achievements, would this constitute gambling?
- If prizes of considerable value were given for advertising, would this be counted in the category of gambling?
- What of such games as Bingo being played by religious people and promoted by churches?
- What is our purpose in the Christian life?
- Upon what does our focus center as Christians.
- Jesus taught that our “eye should be single.” Can it be if we are engaged in what is evil on the one hand and something that is good on the other?
- “He is a double–minded man [a man with two souls] unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).
- Gambling is a dissipation rather than an expedient.
- Where is the work ethic we should be teaching our children?
- Do the material goals take precedence over the spiritual and moral?
- If Christ is to dwell in us, we should keep His habitation clean and attractive.
- You do not see this kind of conduct in the lives of the apostles who left examples for us to imitate. Look to men like Paul for the daily conduct of your life.
THE SIN OF GAMBLING
There are four axioms relative to gambling that need to be mentioned at the outset of this lesson. They are statements that I believe are universally accepted as true. They are principles that need no proof and to which all of us acquiesce because the truths that they assert are obvious. They are self–evident propositions.
1. Gambling is gain at someone else's loss.
2. The loser is an unwilling giver.
3. It is an unnecessary risk.
4. Nothing is given for value received.
Gambling—Gain at Someone's Loss
It is not difficult to detect the unchristian spirit that permeates each of these principles. Take the first one, for example. In this act I am responsible for someone's loss and, selfishly, I take what is not rightfully mine, for which I have not worked, and use it for my own purposes. This, in no way, comports with the Christian standard. His loss, to which I have contributed, may provide the occasion of his children going hungry or without clothing. It may mean they are deprived of a place to live or the opportunity to go to school. A Christian simply, cannot subsidize that manner of living!
The Unwilling Giver
The loser is an unwilling giver. This is almost always true, even if the amount he loses is small. And particularly if he continues to lose over and over. He is disinclined to hand over his hard earned money when it spells hardships and deprivations for the family and the inability to meet his obligations or pay his debts. While he may release it voluntarily, it is with reluctance you can be sure, for what man does not loath to relinquish his income to another when absolutely nothing of value has been received in return and when the welfare of his family has been jeopardized.
There are so many principles and passages of scripture that are violated by gambling. In writing to the Philippian Christians, Paul warned them, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
A similar statement he made to the Corinthian church: “Just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (I Corinthians 10:33). He was saying, “Don't seek your own advantage, but the advantage of others that they may be saved.” The underlying spirit of gambling is doing what is best for me and not what is best for the other person.
The Unnecessary Risk
There, there is that unnecessary risk. Why should I imperil the welfare of my family, gamble with my marriage, put in jeopardy my reputation, and incur the danger of destroying any future possibility of sound success by engaging in a game of chance? Is it because I believe it is a quick way to make lots of money without the effort and discipline required in working?
You can be sure that in most gambling games the chances of winning are small and most gamblers lose money. How can a father take bread out of the mouth of his children, expose his wife to the pressures of debt wherein his life is threatened, and force his family into a bread line, all to satisfy his attraction to gambling in the hope that he will make a killing and become rich overnight? Indeed, it is an unnecessary risk!
Nothing Given for Value Received
What contribution has one made in money, in talent, or in service for the money he wins—in case he does win? Passing through one of our western states where gambling is legal, I stopped on the street at the curb and watched people gambling as I sat in my car. Suddenly, my view became focused on a chore woman, so she appeared to be. She was past middle age and poorly clad. She was playing the slot machines, called one–armed bandits. Into one machine after another, she was feeding silver dollars. I sat and watched her for a considerable time, but never saw her win any money.
Several thoughts flashed through my mind. I wondered with what toil, backache, and sweat she had earned those dollars. Later, I asked the question, “What if she had won ten thousand dollars? How would the fifteen or twenty dollars she dropped into the slot relate in value to that large amount?” How can
you justify giving a dollar and receiving a thousand in exchange? Someone has got to lose and it has to be a severe, drastic, exorbitant loss! And only selfishness and greed could leave a conscience indifferent in that predicament!
A Closer Look at the Sin
Gambling is betting on the outcome of a future event. One who gambles usually bets money or something else of value as a stale on the outcome he predicts. When the outcome is settled, the winner collects the loser's stakes. Most often people gamble on games of chance; those games played with cards or dice. However, gambling is very widespread on games of skill—as horse racing and almost every professional sport. Along the streets of cities and towns in a poor country like Jamaica, one could buy tickets or chances on horse racing or national lotteries. Even political elections, or any event with an unpredictable outcome furnish opportunities for betting.
Why People Gamble
Many people believe that gambling is a swift and easy way to make money without the exertion and the trouble involved in working. To work regularly on a job involves discipline and constant endeavor. Most employment requires industry, even struggle and toil, to be successful. Characteristics of it are determination, resolution, and constancy. Even if it is not manual labor, it is often arduous with strain and stress—truly a long pull! And so, with impulsiveness, one wants to hasten this business of success and race to the point of financial security and plenty.
It is a mad scramble to accomplish the goal one has set for himself in life. Hurried in his intentions to accomplish his objective and reach his destination, he plunges in, believing this is his lucky or magical moment which will spell prosperity and comfort for him for his entire future. He conjures up a life of wealth and affluence on “Easy Street” where, thriving in his good fortune, he will not have to work again as he has in the past to keep body and soul together. Yet, down deep, he knows his chances of winning are small. The picture of prosperity in his mind largely obliterates this unpleasant thought. Psychologists who have studied people who gamble are
convinced that the real attraction of gambling lies in the thrills and tensions of uncertainty, the daring involved in taking chances, the challenge of testing one's skill or luck, the satisfaction of beating an opponent, and the dreams of sudden good fortune. The latter is certainly true in poor countries where I have lived and where people put the last penny they possess into these games of chance.
Gambling—Legal and Illegal
Gambling has been prominent and fashionable from ancient times despite the fact that most societies disapproved of it and have made laws to forbid or restrict it. It is my understanding that in the United States, it is more circumscribed than in most other countries.
However, in recent years, it is less confined than previously. At the present time there are twenty–nine states which collect taxes on parimutuel betting—a system of betting on horse races in which those backing the winners divide, in proportion to their wagers, the total amount bet after a percentage has been taken by the agency conducting the betting.
There are presently twenty–one states which conduct lotteries. Likely you know that a lottery is a game of chance, sponsored in these instances by the state for the purpose of raising funds. Subscribers buy numbered chances, tickets, on the prizes offered. The winning numbers are chosen by lot. Nevada is the only state in the United States that permits all forms of gambling. Race track betting, as the above figures indicate, is legal in a little over half of the states.
Shall We Do Evil That Good May Come?
There are some states that allow bingo for charitable purposes and their are churches that are involved in this kind of gambling—the Roman Catholic Church leading this group, no doubt.
On may ask, “If a person should gamble for benevolent purposes and were generous with his winnings by contributing half to humanitarian institutions—children's hospitals, homes for the aged, feeding the hungry—would he not thereby be justified in
what he was doing? Would it not be a magnanimous spirit to give half of one's earnings to such philanthropic causes? Such noble and lofty resolution for worthy and needy uses surely could not be condemned as evil. Would one not be vindicated and released from any wrongdoing for such unselfish consideration?” Paul answers these questions with one brief statement: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1)?
Some in that day had slanderously reported that Paul had said, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8). Such reasoning would throw open the flood gate of corruption. One could justify drunkenness, adultery, or even murder if the proceeds from trafficking in these sins were spent for benevolence and welfare projects! God has never permitted men to do evil that good may be derived.
There are several states that operate state lotteries for cash prizes. The take has been very considerable in the last few years, reaching thirty or forty million dollars at a time. Some states operate these lotteries to raise money for education.
From the resources which are available to me and which I have examined, most Americans gamble occasionally, even though they have been unwilling to legalize more extensive gambling in their state or community.
When legal facilities are not available, I am told, many people gamble illegally. One of the commonest ways in which they do this is by placing bets on various sporting events through bookmakers who are reputed to work for organized crime. They may gamble in other ways with friends or neighbors that are not controlled by organized crime.
Those avenues of betting which create the most cash are certainly planned, overseen, and completely controlled by the crime machines in this country. You do not have to be told that murder and every other kind of immorality in the catalogue of crime is perpetrated out of consideration of this lucrative profession.
There is no way that a Christian can be involved in such a despicable and damnable business. Reliable sources assert than Americans spend billions of dollars each year on illegal bets of all kinds. You may ask why laws against gambling are not more scrupulously and exactingly enforced—why are not our law enforcement bodies more meticulous in carrying out the vote and wishes of the people.
One hesitates to charge our officials with ill–repute and illicit dealings, but (1) much illegal gambling is a well organized business and gambling organizations have large sums of money available to bribe police and public officials. (2) Many Americans do not really want laws against gambling strictly enforced, even though they are unwilling to legalize gambling. They may like to gamble occasionally themselves. Or, they may believe that all gambling should be legal.
Some people who favor legalized gambling argue that people will always gamble because gambling laws are not fully enforced and probably cannot be. They claim that legalization would end organized crime's control of gambling. Also, they tell us that legal gambling could be taxed and the profits would help pay for useful public projects.
Those who promote legalized gambling fail to tell you in what desperate straits it leaves so many families whose heads are tempted to become enveloped in it. They also forget to tell you about the cost of crime associated with gambling in those states and communities where it is permitted by law. The moral aspects of gambling mean nothing to them. They disregard that consideration without the slightest twinge of conscience.
The vilest crimes committed as a result of its legalization are passed over without notice if it enhances the interest and fills the coffers of big business. Financial ruin to gamblers and their families is not a consideration. The fact that gamblers win primarily by chance makes absolutely no difference to them.
Our society's belief that money should come as result of honest, hard work and from reason and thrift doesn't make an iota of difference to those who have their hearts set on making money. They are not one whit concerned about the subject of morality! Their's is an old philosophy: “Get money if thou canst by fair means; but if thou canst not, get it by hook and by crook.” How can we permit distribution of rewards by chance without regard for individual worth?
What About Small Sins?
What about games for insignificant amounts of money, or games which do not create hazardous risks? Can Christians engage in such
games as matching money, pitching money to a crack or line to see who can come closest, or matching for soft drinks, a meal, or for some other reason?
These are identical in character with those gambling actions which do create hazardous risks and where significant amounts of money are involved. Christians should carefully avoid gambling in small things because:
1. The practice of evil, however slight, is still evil. There is no such thing in Bible language as dwarfed lying. You would never say, “The lie he told was scant.” Or, “He slightly lied.” When Abraham said, concerning Sarah, “She is my sister,” he told a half truth, but it was a whole lie! The wooden dummy or puppet, Charlie McCarthy, of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, said, “I never tell any white lies; all of mine are in Technicolor!"”
Big or little, white or colored, lying is not insignificant or inconsequential. There is no such thing as a meager lie. One does not commit just a little adultery or fornication. Sin is sin; evil is evil. Gambling is gambling and a Christian should have no part of it.
2. Such represents a dangerous example for the young and have been the pitfalls for the old. Repeatedly we are instructed to “be an example.” One translation has it: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (I Timothy 4:16). “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all” (Galatians 6:10).
A Christian is not setting an example of this principle when he, in a game of chance, deprives his fellow man of his money and causes what may be complete disaster and financial ruin for him. The world may not look upon such action the same as it looks on murder or adultery, but it is, nevertheless, wickedness that will rob one of a crown of life. Paul gave this instruction to the Christians in Thessalonica: “Abstain from every form [appearance] of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22).
The acid test in determining the right or wrong of this issue is: “Is this an investment fro productive purposes, or an unnecessary risk for either frivolous or outright vicious purposes?” Small gambling grows into large and reckless gambling. Always a good question for a Christian to ask about his activities, especially those that are questionable, is: “What will this lead to?”
What About Prizes for Unusual
If prizes were given for accomplishment or purely as a means of advertising, would this constitute gambling?
If reward is given for achievement, no risk is created and no risk is taken. It would not be gambling. A firm or company that gives away goods for advertising receives a just return in advertising value. In such cases, this does not constitute gambling.
This differs from a bingo game where one pays so much to play in the hope of winning a great deal more. Further than that, a bingo game produces nothing in goods or service and a risk that did not exist has been created. It should not be difficult for a Christian who exercises his knowledge of the word of God and who uses the wisdom God has given him to distinguish between the right and the wrong in these areas of conduct.
Gambling May Become an Addiction
An addiction is “giving oneself up habitually to something.” It is a devotion to a practice or habit, especially a bad habit. It is the condition of being addicted to a habit; habitual inclination.
One of the most common addictions of people all over the world is that of alcohol. Men have learned to produce alcohol out of agricultural products and plants by nature. Almost every kind of fruit is a source of strong drink. Almost all the grains that are used for food are also used to make intoxicating liquor.
In East Africa in every village, one of the small feed grains is boiled in large pots with sugar to produce pombe. Pombe is called a native beer, but it is an ardent spirit that sends one into a drunken binge in a very brief period of time! In that area, they tap a certain species of bamboo and the fluid they drain from it begins to ferment almost immediately. The English call it Bamboo Wine.
In the sugar cane producing islands of the Caribbean, the chief product is rum, and those who drink it straight or mixed are soon inebriated. In the United States there are 18,000,000 alcoholics. In addition to these, there are millions of Americans who
are problem drinkers, social drinkers, cocktail party drinkers, serious drinkers, swill pots, gin hounds, bottle suckers, booze hounds, winos, and a dozen other captions. Alcohol consumption is one of our major health problems in this country and the cause of much of our crime. Something like 150,000 people will die this year in the United States as a direct result of drinking intoxicants. Other countries around the world are similarly affected.
The addiction to drugs is as great or greater than that of alcohol. Eighty billion dollars ($80,000,000,000) worth of drugs come into this country each year from South American countries through the Bahamas Islands. It is more than a hundred billion dollars per year business in this country, and for that reason it is almost impossible to counteract or control. Sixty percent of those who occupy our prisons are there on drug related charges. It is the major cause of crime of every sort. A drug addict's desire; his want and need is so great that it is next to impossible to deter him from satisfying his addiction. This kind of drug abuse produces every conceivable evil. There is no way to excuse it or justify it.
People become habituated to tobacco. They are nicotine addicts. Three hundred and sixty thousand people will die this year, according to the report of the Surgeon General of the United States, from the various damaging effects of cigarettes. This injurious, harmful drug has cause the loss of health and life and you cannot compensate for it.
All of these thing I have said to point up the fact that many Americans have become addicted to gambling. Just as one becomes an alcoholic with an abnormal and insatiable craving for alcoholic drink, so one becomes accustomed and habituated to the practice of gambling. It may not be compelling from the physical standpoint—that is, not as physiologically addictive; but it nevertheless becomes as fixed and as deep rooted and ingrained because it is psychologically addictive.
To put it in everyday parlance, “One becomes hooked on gambling.” One of the definitions of the New Testament word for addiction is, “habitual inclination, to devote to a pursuit.” Christians are to be “addicts”, but that addiction should be only to the service of fellow Christians, the saints (I Corinthians 16:15). Instead of being habitual addicts to drugs, alcohol, and
tobacco, we should be chronic and established addicts of good works in the interest of others. If one is hooked on gambling, there is no adequate way to handle the stewardship entrusted to him by the Lord.
Everything we have belongs to God and should be used at His direction. There is no way a Christian can gamble and, at the same time, be a true custodian of the possessions with which the Lord has entrusted him. Paul laid down some disciplined instructions: “Owe no one anything except to love one another” (Romans 13:8). This sounds harsh and inflexible, but we need to ask, “What is our purpose in the Christian life? Upon what is our Christian focus centering? Does it converge on a single goal?” If so, then gambling is a dissipation rather than an expedient. What are we accomplishing by participating in this questionable activity? How will we be able to justify it in the judgment? They gambled for Jesus' clothing in the shadow of the cross. Was the victor really victorious? Where is the work ethic we should be teaching our children? Do we tell them that it is lucrative and that they should become adept in all phases of it to enjoy the bounty?
If we allow Christ to dwell in us, because of His presence we should keep His habitation and abode cleanly swept. “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (II Corinthians 7:1). “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1–2).
It is a total impossibility for a Christian to gamble and “seek those things which are above”. We cannot play games for money or some other stake which requires taking a risk in order to gain an advantage. A Christian positively cannot involve himself in the risks of loss that always accompanies gambling. Look to Paul as your example and follow those principles clearly enunciate by him for the daily conduct of your life.