Is Gambling Sinful?

by T. Sean Sullivan


Are you familiar with, or have you ever heard any of these terms: Raffle, bingo, chances, scratch n’ win, lottery, or gaming? Have you ever made a “wager” on the outcome of a sports event? The Super Bowl is coming up in a couple weeks. It is one of the most gambled events of the year.  Our country is overwhelmed with the opportunities to gamble: The top three addictions in our society are alcohol, drugs, and gambling. The promises are “thousands” here, and “millions” there, and you know “somebody’s got to win”—however the reality is that millions of dollars are gambled and lost before anyone ever walks away with money.


Gambling is everywhere. Gambling is a hard word that is softened by the term lottery. There are several “State Lotteries” that promise big things for the population and actually the only big thing is their profit. For example: The Ohio State lottery has six “games” the 2004 ticket revenue was 2 Billion 154.2 million dollars. To put that into perspective there are 11.4 million people living in the state of Ohio. There ticket sales would equal each person in Ohio buying $189 dollars worth of tickets. Now let’s say that only one in three adults actually plays that $567 dollars worth of tickets. That is a lot of money to throw in the garbage, isn’t it? When you really open your eyes, it isn’t just a dollar any more.


Does the Bible condemn such activities? We must search the scriptures and then we will know what God expects of us in this and any other situation. Not every sin has a “thou shall not”, but the Bible does tell us how to develop our senses in order to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).


“The Bible Doesn’t Say, ‘Thou Shall Not Play The Lottery’ ”


Perhaps not specifically but the Bible does, however, condemn gambling on its principles.  What is the agenda of gambling? On the part of the Lottery Business: to feed on the public’s greed and to have more ticket revenue, than prize payout (barely more than half of the ticket revenue is ever paid out in winnings). Then on the part of the public: to get something for nothing and to get as much money as possible for as little effort as possible.


The Bible speaks clearly on these things. Greed is covetousness, look at greed in the light of the scriptures: Romans 1:28-32 “such a little sin?” It is mentioned here along with “haters of God”.  Ephesians 4:17-24 instructs us to no longer walk as those that are given over to greediness. 1 Timothy 6:10, to pursue “greediness” is to “stray from the faith”.


            What about getting something for nothing?  The picture of the lottery is getting everything you ever wanted without any effort. From the time that man was driven out of the garden we were told that we must work for our sustenance (Genesis 3:19). If a man does not work, he shouldn’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). There are people in this life that get things that they do not work for by taking advantage of others. They are called thieves. We are to work and receive our livelihood (1 Thessalonians 4:11)


We Must Learn To Be Content


Why do you think that you need that much money? Are you not content with what God has given you? Do you think you deserve more? Not all of us are ten talent people (Matthew 25:14-30 “Each was given a measure according to their ability”). We are given according to our ability. We need to have the wise attitude of Agar in Proverbs 30: 7-9


Become content: Learn to find your happiness in Christ, like Paul (Philippians 4:9-13). Also consider 1 Timothy 6:6 and Hebrews 13:5.


Trust In God


When a person desires to win the lottery they silently, but surely, proclaim: They have needs that God cannot meet (Matthew 6:25-34). They want their treasures now on earth and not in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). They don’t trust God (1Timothy 6:17).


We must develop our trust in God. The God of Heaven who, with the words of His mouth, spoke all things into existence. Who, by His own great power, was able to make this world from nothing, has promised to never forsake you or leave you (Hebrews 13:5).


Examine all the things that God has done for you in this life: your home, your health, your talents. As long as we have not wasted our talents or buried them we all should be doing the best we can. God knows our needs Matthew 6:32, if we do not appreciate what we have been given we will squander it away and will not be able to meet our needs. The things that we waste are what we have received from God in order to meet those needs.




Is gambling a sin? Is covetousness a sin? Is greed a sin? Is materialism a sin? Is the love of money the root of all kinds of evil? So an activity that involves all of those things is certainly a sin.


That “Innocent one dollar ticket” says, “Buy me, one dollar is not going to break you”. Is that the point? Just because you do not go broke, is wasteful, covetous, greedy behavior approved. If you think that five hundred dollars doesn’t make a difference to your life and you can therefore use it any way you want consider this: Forget the lottery give it to the Lord and see what great things can be accomplished.


We must trust in God to take care of us according to His will. And no, God does not will that you make personal gain through immoral, or inappropriate means. It simply boils down to a statement Jesus made one time in a garden, “Your will, not my own be done.” Let’s start living that way.

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