Why Gambling Is Wrong

Earl Kimbrough
Dothan, Alabama

Gambling in the United States has reached the point where Life magazine considers it the "gamblingest nation that ever existed." The gambling craze is not restricted to any single class of people. If the factory worker has his "numbers," exclusive clubs have their slot machines and gambling tables. Half the states have legalized some form of gambling, thus helping to spread the practice among the masses. And it is not altogether uncommon for churches to have bingo and lottery. It is not surprising that gambling is widespread among people claiming church membership. There even seems to be a general indifference toward it by some church leaders.

Gambling has been defined by the Encyclopedia Americana as "The practice of betting money or other valuables... on games of chance and skill." I believe that this practice is wrong and sinful. Here are some of the reasons why I so regard it.

1. Gambling is habit forming. Certainly habits are not wrong per se. Good habits are desirable and should be cultivated, but all bad habits should be shunned. Gambling is the type of thing that can get a stranglehold on a person. Horace Levinson in The Science of Chance says, "Gamblers gamble as lovers love, as drunkards drink, inevitably, blindly, under the dictates of an irresistible force." Senator Kefauver in his book, Crime in America, writes, "The fascination of gambling to many people is so strong, in my opinion, it would be complete folly to make the facilities more available than they are."

No Christian can afford to be under such a demoralizing and slavish master. The Holy Spirit teaches us to "keep under" our bodies and bring them into subjection to our spirits lest we be lost (1 Cor. 9:27). Our Lord observed that no man can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). Since petty gambling can and does make habitual gamblers and brings men under the blind dictates of an irresistible force, surely it ought to be avoided by those whose desire it is to please God. As social drinking (so-called) makes drunkards, so petty gambling makes habitual gamblers. No drinker ever intended to become a drunkard and perhaps few petty gamblers intended to get hooked on gambling. The face of evil is seldom ugly, but in time its true character comes to light.

2. Gambling breeds many evils. It robs wives and children of the necessities of life. Senator Kefauver, after his extensive investigation of crime, said, "Pages could be filled with examples of how fine citizens and family men became paupers, embezzlers, and worse because of the enticements of the gambling tables." A man is to provide properly for his own household (1 Tim. 5:8). But in losing their good and often hard-earned money by gambling, many have violated God's law in this respect and thus failed to perform their duty. Gambling wastes time, money, and energy that certainly could be put to better use.

Barnes and Teeters in New Horizons in Criminology said in 1947, "It is moderately estimated that the public loses $1,200,000,000 annually through betting on horses." This amount has not decreased since 1947 and there are clear indications that it is getting worse. And remember this is just a moderate estimate of the amount bet on horses. When we multiply this by all the other ways and means of gambling, the figure is staggering indeed. Reader's Digest reported in 1950 that "In Akron, Ohio, two million dollars a year is bet on the numbers in the three largest rubber factories," and "At Willow Run the syndicate took a million dollars annually out of Kaiser-Frazer plant before the police closed in." Aside from the waste and loss involved, gambling breeds other evils: embezzelment, robbery, parental neglect, and cheating in other ways. These are often the direct result of gambling.

3. Gambling has a harmful influence on the church. It weakens the individual member by bringing him under an unwholesome influence. His gambling will also more than likely have a weakening influence upon others, especially the young, and might well cause them to be brought under gambling's captivating power. Paul said, "It is good neither to eat flee), nor drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak" (Rom. 14:21). Gambling members certainly put the church in an unfavorable light with those who know the truth about gambling. Christians are to "walk honestly toward them that are without" and "Provide things honest in the sight of all men." Gambling causes one not to do so. And gambling weakens the Christian's voice against worldliness. It puts him in the hyprocritical light of trying to oppose worldliness while actually practicing it. "Thou therefore that teaches" another, teaches" thou not thyself?"

4. Gambling violates God's teaching on material gain. There are three ways one may properly and with God's approval obtain money or property. (1) He may work for it, i.e. exchange labor for something of value (Eph. 4:28). (2) He may sell or exchange something of value (Acts 4:37). And (3) he may receive it as a gift (Acts 20:35). Gambling disregards all three of these proper ways to obtain material gain. It seeks rather to gain at another's loss. Every time one person wins, others lose. Hence, the win is at somebody's loss. The fact that the participants consent to risk their money does not lessen the evil. Two men may consent to enter a duel, but that does not remove the sin of murder if one should kill the other. In gambling, all who enter do so with hope of winning at another's expense. Any person who would try to justify such a thing either does not understand the moral teaching of the Bible or else he does not pay any attention to it. He most certainly violates it.

5. Gambling is a form of covetousness. The word "covet" means "eager to have more, i.e. to have what belongs to others; hence, greedy of gain" (Vine). One who seeks to obtain what belongs to another without giving fair exchange is covetous, and there just isn't any way to dress it up and make it look pretty. Covetousness is the basic ingredient in gambling. It matters not how small the stakes, nor how rich the contestants, covetousness is the root of all gambling. Gambling in the name of charity is no more wholesome than doing any other thing that is morally wrong in the name of charity. Getting drunk in the name of charity doesn't make getting drunk any less repulsive in the sight of God. Covetousness is sin whether done under the guise of charity or in the name of greed.

There just is not any way to make sin acceptable with God. Covetousness is bad regardless of the parties involved and regardless of the setting in which it is carried out. It is unworthy of any who wears the name of Christ.

To those who are interested primarily in doing right and in pleasing God, these words will no doubt be seriously considered. But those who have little or no respect for the moral teachings of the Bible will probably go right on gambling and thus further inflict this evil upon themselves, their families and society in general. In so doing they endanger their souls and contribute to the internal moral decay of this nation, which if not checked will ultimately bring about its downfall.

Truth Magazine VII: 11, pp. 9-10
August 1963