Gambling is a complex issue that Christians have debated for centuries. There are several passages in the Bible that can help shed light on God’s perspective on gambling.
Bible verses about gambling
Here are some of the key Bible verses that mention gambling or relate to some of the problems associated with it:
- Proverbs 13:11 – “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.”
- Proverbs 28:19 – “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.”
- Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
- 1 Timothy 6:10 – “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
- Hebrews 13:5 – “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'”
These verses warn about the dangers of loving money, warn against greedy gain, and say that you cannot serve both God and money. While gambling is not directly mentioned, these principles can apply to gambling in certain circumstances.
Gambling can promote greed and materialism
One of the main dangers of gambling that is highlighted in the Bible is its tendency to promote greed and a love of money. Verses like 1 Timothy 6:10 warn that the love of money can lead people astray and cause them to wander from the faith. Gambling offers the lure of quick and easy wealth. This can cause people to crave money and pursue it through immoral means. While not everyone who gambles is greedy, the temptation is certainly there.
Related to greed is the problem of materialism. A gambling mindset can lead people to focus on gaining more possessions and wealth. But verses like Matthew 6:24 say you cannot serve both God and money. Your focus should be on the kingdom of God rather than earthly riches. Gambling can shift people’s priorities toward material gain rather than spiritual matters.
Gambling often exploits the poor
Another issue that the Bible highlights is how the poor are often exploited by various economic systems. Verses like Proverbs 14:31 say that “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker…” Gambling frequently targets and hurts the poor. People with lower incomes spend a much larger portion of their money on lottery tickets, casino gambling, bingo, and more. Governments also rely heavily on gambling revenues to fund their budgets, often increasing the tax burden on the poor.
So while gambling is not inherently wrong or sinful, Christians should be cautious about supporting gambling institutions that can exploit vulnerable people. The Bible calls on Christians to defend the poor and voice concern about economic practices that enrich some while putting others at greater financial risk.
Gambling can lead to addiction and destructive habits
The Bible strongly warns against addiction and habits that lead to personal ruin. Verses like 1 Corinthians 6:12 say “I will not be mastered by anything.” Also, Proverbs 28:19 warns against following “worthless pursuits” that lead to poverty. While gambling in moderation does not always lead to addiction, many people develop a gambling problem that wreaks havoc in their finances and personal life. It is estimated that around 5 million Americans meet the criteria for pathological gambling at some point in their lives.
So if gambling leads to an unhealthy preoccupation, loss of control, and continues despite negative consequences, it clearly goes against biblical principles. Christians should be careful with gambling and avoid fostering destructive habits in themselves or others.
Gambling can be based on superstition and chance rather than God’s providence
Faith in God’s sovereignty and belief in His providence means we acknowledge He is in control. Gambling often appeals to superstition and the allure of getting rich based on sheer luck. This is contrary to a Christian worldview. Proverbs 16:33 says “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Rather than relying on games of chance, Christians should find security in God’s wise plan for their lives.
That being said, just because something involves an element of chance does not automatically make it sinful. There are plenty of harmless games that involve dice or random outcomes. The Bible nowhere explicitly prohibits games of chance or skill. But Christians should examine their motives and avoid fostering a superstitious mindset.
Gambling can lead to poor stewardship of money and resources
Christians believe God has entrusted people with money and possessions to use wisely, not squander. Gambling often involves poor stewardship as people recklessly risk money in games of chance. Verses like Luke 16:11 say “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” While prudent investing is permissible, gambling often reflects poor stewardship rather than wise money management.
Of course, wasting money on all sorts of entertainments and leisure could also qualify as poor stewardship. The issue is not necessarily gambling per se. Rather, Christians should avoid significant waste and make wise financial decisions.
Gambling winnings can come at another’s expense
For gambling to work, money must change hands. For every winner there are many more losers. Your winnings essentially come right out of someone else’s pocket. So gambling can go against Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” if your financial gain comes directly at their expense. Of course, many other businesses also profit from people voluntarily spending money on entertainment or non-essentials.
But Christians should at least be aware that their winnings come at a literal cost to other gamblers. This places an extra moral burden to use that money wisely rather than simply for personal gain. Additionally, responsible governments and business owners should implement reasonable protections for gamblers so this form of entertainment does not cause financial devastation.
Gambling can be addictive like alcohol or drugs
As mentioned previously, the Bible strongly warns against addiction. While most people can enjoy alcohol in moderation, anything that becomes addictive and destructive is dangerous. Verses like 1 Corinthians 6:12 warn believers to avoid being mastered by anything except the Lord. Gambling frequently leads to compulsive behaviors that can destroy finances, relationships, and more.
So it is wise to avoid gambling in situations where you may be particularly vulnerable to addiction. If you struggle to stop at a reasonable level of time and expense, it is good to avoid casinos and opportunities to gamble altogether. Anything that becomes compulsive goes against God’s standards for healthy living.
Gambling can contribute to laziness rather than honest work
The Bible regularly praises hard work and cautions against laziness. Verses like 2 Thessalonians 3:10 say “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” And Proverbs 14:23 warns that “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” Gambling is not considered “work” in any meaningful sense. While it involves risk, it is ultimately a game of chance rather than diligent labor.
In most cases, gambling winnings allow people to avoid honest work and still profit handsomely. This goes against biblical values of working diligently and not seeking to get rich quick without effort. Christians should pursue meaningful work rather than hoping for jackpots and huge payouts from idle entertainment.
Examples of “positive” gambling in the Bible
Although gambling clearly has many dangers, there are some recorded instances in the Bible where drawing lots or similar activities had positive results.
In Exodus 28:30, lots called “Urim and Thummim” were part of the high priest’s breastpiece and may have been used for guidance or decision making. In Joshua 18:10, casting lots was used to divide the land fairly amongst the 12 tribes. In Acts 1:26, the disciples cast lots to choose a replacement for Judas. However, most scholars agree that these episodes reflect God’s providence more than irresponsible gambling.
These isolated examples may not justify gambling as a habitual practice. But they do show that God can use unusual means to guide his people. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit and noble motives, some forms of “gambling” may not be inherently sinful. But as always, wisdom and moderation are key.
Gambling and sin conclusions
In summary, the Bible does not explicitly prohibit all forms of gambling. In moderation, certain games involving chance may not be sinful. However, there are plenty of cautions and principles that should make Christians very wary of gambling.
Gambling frequently leads to greed, addiction, poor role models, exploitation of the poor, unwise stewardship, and laziness. Christians should be guided by wisdom, self-control, care for others, and good stewardship rather than chance games that appeal to human vice.
Essentially, gambling is often dangerous but not necessarily sinful in itself. Biblical principles suggest it should be avoided in excess. Caution and moderation are always wise when participating in activities that may become compulsive. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Christians can enjoy harmless entertainment without losing focus on eternal priorities.
The Bible does not hand down strict rules about gambling. Rather, it offers timeless principles that believers must apply for themselves- an approach that works for many issues in the Christian life. With wisdom and discernment, we can make decisions that uphold biblical values while exercising freedom in areas of ambiguity.