Culture News & Commentary

The Sin of Gambling?

"The Bible can't forbid gambling, because that's akin to forbidding risk, and life is risk."

I hate gambling. Even before I was a Christian I played the pokies maybe two or three times and about as many dollars. I thought it was silly. I played competition poker as outreach when younger. But it was never for money, just plastic poker chips. And I got great opportunities to evangelize.

I don’t even like to bet with a friend on a football game, but I might have in the past. I can’t remember, to be honest. I turn off the gambling ads while watching the footy. Because I find the gambling pushers to be sleazy. Can’t stand them. I’d support any politician who said they’d remove every pokey machine from every square inch of this state.

I say this to highlight I am not a man who likes gambling, or what most of us consider gambling.  But all the folks who are claiming that the Bible says gambling is a sin are wrong. 

Firstly, the Bible says God made a bet with the Devil. God can’t sin. Read Job 1 and 2 you’ll see it’s so. 

God also determines the lot: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

And the lot, a bet, can solve a conflict: “The lot puts an end to quarrels and decides between powerful contenders.” (Proverbs 18:18)

The twelfth Apostle was chosen by lot (Acts 1:26). Many more examples can be given from the Bible that are similar.

Most Christians have used Pascal’s Wager to evangelise. That’s literally encouraging people to make a bet, the best kind, one that will save their soul. 

If you play the stock market you are gambling. You are betting stocks will rise, not fall, or fall, then rise, or rise, fall and rise again. If you start a new business venture you are gambling. You are betting on your ability to make money to make it in business.

If as a young man you ask a young woman out you are gambling. You are betting on a yes but also risking anything from a maybe to a no to her screaming, “This man is harassing me, someone help.” Especially in today’s society. If you put all your effort into one career you are gambling on it going well. This doesn’t work out for everyone a lot of the time.

To sum it up, the Bible can’t forbid gambling, because that’s akin to forbidding risk, and life is risk. Playing the pokies or poker for your pay cheque, or betting on the horses is just the lowest form of risk analysis. It’s playing the highest risk for the least chance of a payoff. Though payoffs can be high, they are also sparing and costly. Most who gamble this way spend more than they ever make. It’s a bad gamble.

It’s better to back your ability to work hard, ask out the right girl, get the right response, and make a decent effort in life. This pays off better far more on average. 

All this to say two things: First, no one has ever shown me a passage saying gambling is a sin. Again, if it is, then risking all your savings on a new business venture would be a sin and it’s not. It might go bust, but it’s not necessarily wrong. 

Second, people are hammering the Manly Sea Eagles’ NRL players as “hypocrites” for making a stand against pride jerseys while wearing alcohol and betting branding. But those footy players who have betting ads on their shirts, if they are Christian, have not done anything hypocritical. Alcohol is permitted, gambling is not called a sin in Scripture. (Usury is, but you aren’t attacking Christian bankers are you?). But homosexuality is one of many forbidden sexual behaviours for a believer, like adultery, fornication and more. It’s not something a believer can promote. It’s that simple. 

That many do, they will account for. 

But gambling can’t be a sin, because gambling is another word for risk and taking risks isn’t a sin. Some risks are just smarter and better to take than others.

These men who stood against wearing those jerseys have risked a lot, they’ve gambled their careers, get behind them. The lot has been cast, they have a struggle ahead of them. May the Church support these men, not nitpick them.