RIGHT or WRONG? Gambling
My husband won a trip to Las Vegas. If we set a strict limit on how much money we bet, would it be wrong if we gambled a little bit while we are there?
Since you raise the question, that indicates you have some reservations about gambling “a little bit.” There are many reasons why a Christian might have reservations about gambling, even when it is legal, as it is in Las Vegas. Many Christians will have heard sermons, read editorials in Baptist state papers or participated in Sunday school classes where gambling was decried and condemned. Most adult Christians will have known someone who was addicted to gambling or who has lost a lot of money—or even a spouse—because of gambling.
These lessons seem to have been lost on many American Christians. In 1970, Nevada was the only state that had legalized gambling. Today, only two states—Utah and Hawaii—do not have legalized gambling of some type. Gambling has become a “normal” part of life for most Americans, who bet on the outcome of sporting events and political contests and wager huge amounts of money at online gambling sites.
Why do people gamble? There are, of course, many reasons. Some people gamble in order to escape from economic deprivation. That is why many of the people who gamble can least afford to do so.
Other people gamble in order to compete. In his recent autobiography, PGA golfer John Daly admits to losing between $50 million and $60 million during 12 years of heavy gambling. Why would a person do that? Daly says, “I’m just so competitive.” Gambling makes winners feel important. Of course, it also puts losers into despair. Some folks gamble in order to “fit in.” When everyone around seems to be gambling—especially in a city like Las Vegas—it seems like “the right thing to do.”
Some Christians gamble because they say there is no biblical injunction against it. Strictly speaking, they’re right. There’s no biblical commandment that reads: Do not gamble. There is, however, the injunction from Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves. Gambling winnings implicitly move money from some people or groups to others, to the loss of the first group.
So, what’s the problem with a little gambling? The problem is that human beings have addictions, and one of those addictions is gambling. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 4.2 million Americans are addicted to gambling. All of those addicts began with gambling “a little bit.”
There also is the problem of supporting an industry that preys on addicts. Sixty percent of gambling addicts have incomes under $25,000 a year. They can’t afford to gamble. The end result is that lives, careers and families are ruined by this addiction.
Do you want to contribute to the problem? If not, pass up the opportunity to wager. It’s not worth the gamble.
Philip Wise, pastor
Second Baptist Church, Lubbock
Right or Wrong? is sponsored by the T.B. Maston Chair of Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University's Logsdon School of Theology. Send your questions about how to apply your faith to email@example.com.
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