Sunday, June 12, 2011
What About Gambling?
In my last post I had a commentary about a person who claimed God gave his mother a winning lottery ticket after he prayed. One of the comments I received questioned what the problem was with gambling which would lead me to say I didn’t believe God would work that way.
Well, over a decade ago I did a series on Biblical Ethics for my high school Sunday School class. The text I used was Robertson McQuilken’s, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics. I found my outline for this course and decided to cut and paste here the section on gambling. While my outline had much quoting from McQuilkin, I used him as my jumping-off point for my own lesson. So here you have mostly McQuilkin’s comments extracted from that section of his book. I tend to agree with what he says.
McQuilkin tells us the reason he places gambling as a subset of "social responsibility" rather than under "personal integrity" is that it is virtually impossible "to make a convincing case from Scripture against gambling as inherently sinful, but it is no difficult task at all to marshal biblical evidence against gambling as a social evil."
Biblical basis for opposition. For the serious gambler, it is a violation of the commandment against covetousness. Selfishness is also present in most gambling. Kenneth Kantzer, in Christianity Today, said gambling is "an artificially contrived risk, taken for selfish gain at another's expense, with no constructive product or social good as its goal." But is gambling a sin? Maybe not, but sin often lies at the root of gambling and sin is often the result of gambling. McQuilkin says, "Human experience indicates that even recreational gambling promotes covetousness and leads away from giving as a way of life. It often nurtures the fantasy that luck rather than hard work is a way to prosperity. All too often it sucks the gambler into a life of dishonesty. Even if one should escape the common evil results, is it right for the strong to validate gambling by personal example and help create an atmosphere in which others will fall? Seeing the practice in real life outcomes leads to the conclusion that gambling is not a legitimate part of a God-pleasing way of life."
Social effects of gambling. There are more compulsive gamblers in America than there are “alcoholics” (drunks). This often leads to poverty-destroyed families. McQuilkin says, "The gambling business is dominated by the major crime syndicates. One organized crime boss said that the syndicates could get along very well on gambling alone even without their other mainstays: narcotics and prostitution." These should be additional reasons for Christians to avoid gambling.
State lotteries: McQuilkin tells us that what happens in state lotteries is "the enhancement of the professional gambler's take and the increased involvement of syndicated crime because the state develops a whole new crop of gamblers. This occurs because the novelty of a state lottery normally wears off in about one year and the state must begin major marketing to enlist new gamblers. ... The state finds itself an ally of organized crime, an exploiter of the poor, a promoter of social blight, and a loser in the gamble to make a bundle with little effort and cost. No lottery has begun to measure up to optimistic projections, and many, within a decade, have failed financially. And who can calculate the cost to the state in the fight against organized crime and the accompanying corruption in law enforcement, not to mention the increase in welfare costs for increasing numbers of gambling losers?”
Summation: "In the light of the way gambling has worked out in the life of the nation, it seems the most responsible position for the Christian is total abstinence, opposition to any form of church sponsored gambling, and cooperation with all people of good sense in opposing state-operated lotteries and pari-mutuel betting."