August 16, 2018

The Evil of Gambling

By Gene Frost

The word gamble is defined as "to play a game for money or other stake hence: to stake money or any other thing of value upon an uncertain event; to hazard; wager." (Webster's New International Dictionary) There are two essential elements involved in gambling: (1) A stake is involved whereby one stands to gain at the loss of others depending upon the outcome of some selected element of chance; (2) The element of chance is arbitrarily determined by the parties involved. It differs from risk, as involved in farming, driving an automobile, participating in athletics, etc., in that in gambling one stands to gain at the loss of others, the deciding factor (as to who wins and who loses) being an event arbitrarily selected. In farming, etc., profit is not sought at the expense of others and risk is not contrived (the farmer would be please if no risk were involved).Gambling does not involve gain by reason of labor or exchange of values; it does not produce anything of value. It is not a practice of legitimate economy. It is an illegitimate means of transferring property -- "A mode of transferring property without producing any intermediate good," as Samuel Johnson expressed it.

Gambling Violates Legitimate Economy

There are three legitimate means of transferring property: (1) the law of labor, where money is paid and earned by effort expended, either physical or mental; (2) the law of exchange, where a commodity is exchanged for its value in money or goods; and (3) the law of love, where money is given without any expectation or desire for return. Gambling does not qualify in any of these.

The Creator of man recognizes these principles of economy and authorizes them. Man is taught to prosper materially through (1) labor. He is to "labour, working with his hands the thing which is good" (Eph. 4:28), "with quietness . . . work, and eat" (2 Thess. 3:2). The "labourer is worthy of his hire" (Luke 10:7). (See also Matt. 10:10, 1 Car. 9:9-10, 2 Car. 11:8, Matt. 20:1-15). Man may gain through (2) the exchange of something of value, to buy and sell (Matt. 25:27, Matt. 13:44,45, Acts 16:14, Luke 22:36). And he may (3) give and receive, as in relieving physical distress (Eph. 4:28, Acts 2:45, Acts 11:29). Gambling is a violation of all these. It does not involve gain by reason of labor; it does not involve exchange of equal values; it does not involve a gift with no desirq of a return. It produces nothing and adds nothing to our economy. It is a parasite on the legitimate economy and exists without divine sanction.

Gambling Violates Divine Law

"How," one may ask, "can gambling be a violation of divine law when 'gambling' is not mentioned in the Bible?" Not all-sinful conduct is specifically named in the Bible. Rather, the Bible sets forth principles whereby specific conduct may be discerned as good or evil. Because the words "rape, suicide, larceny, bootlegging, white slavery," et al., are not to be found in the Bible, are we to conclude that the conduct they describe receives divine approval? No; they are in violation of the principles of right conduct and are covered by general terms of condemnation. 'Such is true of gambling.

Gambling is wrong because it violates industry that God has ordained for man and makes him unfit for this mission in life (Gen. 3:19). One's income is to come as a result of his own industry: "study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without and that ye may have lack of nothing" (1 Thess. 4:11-12). On the other hand, Paul writes, "we commanded you, that if any would not work neither should he eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). The gambler profits solely at the expense of another's labors. Gambling does not contribute to the good of society --it is non-productive, parasitic.The motivation of gambling is essentially covetousness. It seeks the rewards of another's efforts. To covet is to "long inordinately for (something that is another's)." (Webster's New International Dictionary) This disposition of heart is condemned: "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Tim. 6:10; cf. Col. 3:5).

Gambling is accompanied by evils. "Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:16). Gambling attracts the criminal element of society. And it results in broken homes, theft, and murder, and leaves in its wake starving children and broken-hearted loved ones, and leads to drinking and suicide. Crime reports testify to these fruits.

Gambling is not conducive to godliness. One can hardly picture the Christ rolling dice or spinning the roulette wheel to finance His journey among men to teach righteousness! (1 Pet. 2:21-22) Neither will His professed "disciples" exert an influence for good at the gambling table! Can it be said that gambling is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, or virtuous? Yet, on these things we should think (Phil. 4:8).

Gambling Is Opposed to the Good of Society

From a temporal consideration, gambling is a scourge upon society. It destroys good citizens. Senator Estes Kefauver wrote in his book, "Crime In America," of the findings of the Senate Crime Investigating Committee: "Pages could be filled with examples heard by the committee of the old, familiar story of how fine citizens and family men became paupers, embezzlers, and worse because of enticements of the gambling table."

Gambling is an economic liability. It disrupts legitimate commerce. Senator Kefauver reports: "There is more than abundance of evidence that wherever gambling is allowed to exist, legally or illegally, money is taken out of the normal and legitimate channels of commerce, and that when gambling is minimized legitimate business flourishes." He related the experience of the state of Wyoming, how that business increased tremendously when gambling was outlawed, and as result sales tax revenues to the state soared.

Gambling attracts the criminal element. The Senate Crime Investigating Committee (May 10, 1950-May 1, 1951) discovered that gambling centers (as Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada) had "become headquarters f or some of the nation's worst mobsters." And their interest is not confined to the gaming table but infiltrates the political scene to promote their ambitions. The plea for legalized gambling does not emanate from sound economic principles; rather "much of the propaganda for legalized gambling can be traced to organized and professional gamblers."

Gambling drains from the American economy, and principally into the coffers of organized crime, more than the combined profits of one hundred largest U. S. manufacturing companies (including U. S. Steel, General Motors, General Electric, et al.).

Gambling creates a lawless environment. It has been argued that legalizing of gambling would be a deterrent to organized crime. The conclusion of the Senate Crime Investigating Committee was: "As a case history of legalized gambling, Nevada speaks eloquently in the negative." The state of Nevada has had to substantially increase police surveillance, involving great expense, because of the "influx of hoodlums, racketeers, and the other inevitable parasites who spring up like weeds wherever gambling operations are carried on." Law enforcement becomes a larger and more difficult task.

To promote gambling by law in any city or state is folly. As Senator Kefauver has expressed it: "Gambling produces nothing and adds nothing to the economy or society of man. America will be in a bad way if we ever have to resort to taxing crime and immorality for the purpose of raising revenue to operate our institutions."


For reasons both temporal and spiritually, gambling is evil. The Christian is to abstain from every appearance of evil and show a pattern of good works (1 Thess. 5:22, Tit. 2:7). He is careful of his influence (Matt. 5:16). His will is lost in Christ; he is no longer of the world (1 Cor. 6:19-20, Jas. 4:4, 2 Cor. 6:17-18). Therefore, the Christian does not gamble, nor gives his consent to it (Rom. 1:32).

As gambling itself is wrong, there can be no distinction made in the amount of a stake. It is not wrong only for those who cannot "afford" to lose; it is wrong for all. Whether for large amounts or for the price of coffee, gambling is wrong.

Truth Magazine IX: 1, pp. 6-8
October 1964