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Daily Devotional: Send Me: What the Bible Says about Calling | A hiker sitting on a hilltop overlooking a city below. Daily Devotional: Send Me: What the Bible Says about Calling | A hiker sitting on a hilltop overlooking a city below.

Questions and Answers | Is Gambling a Sin?

I play golf a couple of times a week, and we play some games to create competition. In doing so, we play for small amounts of money, like 50 cents a hole. Is this a sin?

Even though your friendly wagers are just for fun, you raise a serious issue. Throughout most of its history, the church has tended to frown on gambling, considering it irresponsible at best and a sin at worst. How should we view gambling in this age when Christians increasingly view it as a legitimate form of entertainment, and municipalities, schools, and even some churches engage in some form of it for funding?

Isaiah 65:11 criticizes those who put their trust in chance by worshiping the gods of chance. They “spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny.” This is not an explicit reference to gambling but to idolatry. It is, however, a condemnation of those who entrust their fate to chance instead of God. Tertullian, a church leader in the second century, warned that gambling was unworthy behavior for a Christian. “If you say that you are a Christian when you are a dice player,” he cautioned, “you say that you are what you are not because you are a partner with the world.” Martin Luther condemned gambling because it sought to take advantage of those who lost. John Calvin viewed gambling as a form of excess and outlawed games played for gold or silver, along with those that could produce excessive expenses for those who lost.

Proverbs 16:33 says: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” Yet gambling in- creases the risk that we might trivialize God’s providential work. For some, it may even be a form of tempting God. The lure of gambling is more than the excitement of winning, an element in every game. Gambling appeals to a combination of greed and selfishness—the one who wins gains because they have taken advantage of the loser.

The fact that there is no explicit prohibition of gambling in the Bible makes it a matter of individual conscience. Christ counsels us to look to God to provide for our daily needs and to seek the kingdom more than riches (Matt. 6:11, 33). God provides money to meet our needs, so we may also be generous and willing to share (2 Cor. 9:11; 1 Tim. 6:18). Given this, we might question whether gambling is the best way to be stewards of our disposable income.

BY Dr. John Koessler

John Koessler is Professor Emeritus of Applied Theology and Church Ministries at Moody Bible Institute. John authors the “Practical Theology” column for Today in the Word of which he is also a contributing writer and theological editor. An award-winning author, John’s newest title is When God is Silent: Let the Bible Teach You to Pray (Kirkdale). Prior to joining the Moody faculty, he served as a pastor of Valley Chapel in Green Valley, Illinois, for nine years. He and his wife, Jane, now enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan.

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