By Jack H. Kirby
The works of the flesh are enumerated in Gal. 5:19-21. Mentioned in this list are such things as fornication, lasciviousness, drunkenness, revellings and such like, of which the apostle says, “they who practice such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.” In 1 Cor. 6:9, 10, Paul again lists a similar list of immoral sins which he also says will cause a person not to inherit the Kingdom of God. In this list, he includes the sin of covetousness, along with the others such as mentioned before, fornication, adultery, drunkards, extortioners, etc.
The word “covetous” is defined by Webster as “inordinately desirous of gain, especially of money, greediness.” This is especially descriptive of one of the most prevalent sins of our time – that of gambling. Many people ask, “What is wrong with gambling? Where does the Bible condemn it? Well the answer to the first is – it is sinful; and to the second – it is condemned here in 1 Cor. 6:10 under the sin of covetous, or covetousness.
Gambling is almost as old as the human race. It thrives on man’s inordinate desire to gain from his fellow man something for nothing. One cannot “win” without another “losing.” For every winner, there must be one or more losers. Often thousands of losers provide the very high stake for the lone winner. Jesus said, “Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness” (Lk. 12:15); gambling thrives on covetousness. Gambling also thrives on selfishness and ill-will – hoping that self wins and that ethers lose – and on obsession for unrighteousness main-non. It breeds hatred, contempt, lying and cheating, and it attracts the criminal racketeer.
Gambling is not simply taking a chance or a risk. Driving an automobile is not gambling; planting a crop is not gambling; investing in stock is not gambling. Gambling is along a chance at another’s expense; in gambling, each one engaging must hope he wins and that others lose. It is Defined: “1. To play a game for money or other stake. 2. To hazard; wager” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary). One cannot engage in gambling and. at the same time believe end practice those things commanded :or a Christian to do in living the life he is to live.
Gambling is not only a violation of God’s will but nearly every state in the United States of America has legislated against it. Unfortunately, many law enforcement officials do not conscientiously enforce the statute; some gambling is openly winked at and tolerated. In June of 1957, an assistant attorney general of Texas stated in a public speech that bingo and raffles (even to raise money for church or charity) are “as illegal as tip books or slot machines.” Many people condemn “big” gambling and condone “private” gambling. Who’s doing it, the size of the stake, and the purpose involved do not make any gambling right.
Regrettably, many people who are good people and want to live exemplary lives become unwittingly and thoughtlessly involved in gambling. They would not even enter a gambling casino; they would not line up at the “place your bet” window at a horse racing track. But the punch board presented by “a friend,” flipping or matching coins, the door-to-door raffle for a turkey, a boat, a gun, or a car, the office football pool, the “friendly” wager on some political event or a game of sport, or the chain letter are all forms of gambling. The chain letter may seem more innocent because if the chain keeps going surely every one who “plays” will win. But such chains cannot keep going indefinitely. (Start with one and double the sum as is done with the chain letter; before you have doubled even thirty times, you will reach a sum equal to the entire population of the world.) In time, it plays out or runs out of customers and thousand or even millions find themselves on the losing end. Everyone who receives a sizeable “pot” receives it at someone’s expense; for everyone who gambled and won, there will be many who gambled and lost. A Christian should be anxious to rid himself of everything that will hurt his influence and jeopardize his soul’s salvation.
Crime is increasing in our nation. We are a criminal nation, no doubt about it. The figures, increasing daily, are a disgrace. Do you know what the biggest business is in the United States? General Motors? American Telephone? General Electric? No. It is organized gambling. Every year the American people pour forty-seven billion dollars into illegal channels of gambling. The FBI estimates the “take” by racketeers every year is twice the wholesale value of all automobiles produced in one year. Do not concentrate your indignation on the professional racketeers. For every vise lord, there are a thousand patronizers of vice; for every professional gambler, there are a thousand betters lustful for a quick buck.
A few years ago Life Magazine said the United States is the “gamblingist nation that ever existed.” Fifty million adults and many more minors are betting 30 billion dollars a year. The annual profit to bookmakers and others on the receiving end is six billion dollars, or more than the combined profit of U.S. Steel, General Motors, and 97 other largest manufacturing companies.
Many say they see no harm in gambling as it is only taking a chance, and all life is a chance. No, gambling is not just taking a chance – gambling is a wager placed on a chance. The outcome of the ball game is a chance; a wager placed on that chance is a gamble! Life in uncertain, and is in that sense a chance, but that within itself is not a gamble. A wager placed on the uncertainity of life is a gamble. Playing cards is not, within itself, a gamble; but a wager placed on the outcome of the game is gambling. Gambling is stealing from another by mutual consent.
There are three legitimate means of transferring money. (1) The Law of Labor – (physical or mental), where one actually earns, by time and energy expended, the money he receives. (2) The Law of Exchange – in which a commodity is exchanged for its value in money. (3) The Law of Love – in which something is given without any desire or expectation of receiving any return. Gambling comes under none of these laws. It is wrong because it denies the integrity of work, the law of labor. It takes food, clothes, and other necessities of life from the gambler’s family. It is stealing – just as dueling is murder. The dueler takes another’s life with his consent. The gambler takes another’s money with his consent.
Gambling is wrong because it violates the law of exchange – nothing is received in return for something given. Gambling is wrong because it is the opposite of the law of love. It is based on coveting the possession of others.
Sometimes Christians are found matching coins, placing small bets, buying chances on football charts, etc. Small time gambling is no less gambling than big time gambling. Most gamblers started their gambling on such a small time scale. Many fathers and mothers have taught their children to gamble in just such a way. Thus we condemn the big time gambling, but plant and water it in our own back yards.
But someone may say, “Why, the word `gambling’ is not even in the Bible.” This is true, and neither do the words “rape,” “manslaughter,” “larceny,” “suicide,” “embezzling,” “bootlegging,” “white slavery,” and “racketeering” occur in the Scripture, but the evils involved in all these, as in gambling, are clearly and repeatedly condemned. Gambling is evil because it is a scheme to get something without earning it. The Lord says we are to earn our living by the sweat of our face (Gen. 3:19). Jesus stressed that the laborer is worthy of his hire (Lk. 10:7). He said to the children of Israel, “Behold, therefore I have smitten mine hand at thy dishonest gain” (Ezek. 22:13). The Lord said further, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28). We are commanded to “provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Rom. 12:17). By what stretch of the imagination can a person feel that money or property acquired by gambling is honest gain? The Lord branded gambling as an evil when He forbade covetousness.
One of the greatest problems faced by law enforcement officers in their efforts to outlaw gambling has been the churches! Gambling in churches is defended on the basis that the money goes for a good purpose. But it is never right to do wrong that good may come from it. In the first century some reported that Paul taught this, but he said it is a slanderous report. The apostle further said that anyone who would teach, “Let us do evil, that good may come” will receive damnation and it will be just (Rom. 3:8). We trust you will consider these things and resolve to live your life more in harmony with God’s will.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 39, pp. 634-635
October 4, 1979