The Ancient Faith
MORAL ISSUES CONFRONTING THE CHURCH: GAMBLING
Have you noticed that the language has grown more rank on radio and television and in newspapers and magazines? This is only one symptom of the moral sickness and decay around us. Perhaps you grow weary of hearing the long list of immoral practices in our society. We hear constantly of alcoholics and drug addicts, many of whom are adolescents. We hear of violence, rioting, and corruption in government. We hear of things we never thought we would hear – child pornography, suicide machines and men “marrying” men. Sexual immorality, abortion, and divorce are rampant. And now a disease, contracted in the main by sexual immorality, threatens the demise of society. These are all symptoms of a deep spiritual vacuum in our society. These problems will not go away, however depressing and deplorable they may be. Christians must define the problems and confront these sins.
WHAT CAUSES IMMORALITY?
Immorality is the result of shutting God out of hearts and lives. The apostle Paul said that because men “did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient (Rom. 1:28). Spirituality cannot survive in a vacuum and human beings cannot separate themselves from all spiritual influences without paying the price. When the devil tried to get Jesus to satisfy his own fleshly desires by using his power to turn stones into bread, Jesus said: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). Americans have blundered badly in serving mammon rather than Jehovah, in singing the songs of the world rather than the songs of Zion and in resorting to the golf courses and amusement parks rather than the worship of the church. Man shall not live by bread alone, and that’s the reason for so much stress and anxiety, which, if not productive of suicide, may result in disease and untimely death.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
(1) We must keep defining and condemning sin. Satan does not “play fair.” He mislabels his devices. He doesn’t call the sins by their real names and that makes them more acceptable, but it is our duty to call sins by their real names and show the necessity of repentance.
(2) We must hate the sin, but love the sinner. We must ever keep before the weak and wayward the hope in Christ for forgiveness and acceptance upon repentance.
(3) We must do as Jude exhorts: “Keep yourselves in the love of God (Jude 21). Let us not believe Satan’s lie that “no one else is doing right.”
(4) We must teach our children. The only hope for the church is to raise a generation of children that knows the Lord. That means more teaching at home than is taking place at this time – more Bible study, more gospel singing, more praying. In this article, I can’t deal with every topic, but please read this updated article on gambling.
Today in the United States, almost every state has some form of legalized gambling, whereas a decade or two ago, the very idea would have been turned down on moral grounds. One of the latest gambling crazes is the state lottery, which is now legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia. People who can barely buy groceries stand in grocery lines and purchase lottery tickets. Never mind that a person’s chances of being struck by lightning are higher than winning a lottery, many are not deterred. One poll has shown that perhaps 70% of the adult population in California has purchased at least one lottery ticket. One preacher told of being shocked when he saw lottery tickets fall out of an older, respected church member’s purse. Gambling has been called “the nation’s largest industry,” taking in $7.8 billion in 1990.
WHAT IS GAMBLING?
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines gambling as “the betting or staking of something of value with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on the outcome of a game, a contest, or an uncertain event whose result may be determined by chance or accident or which may have an unexpected result by reason of the bettor’s miscalculation. All elements of the definition are essential.” In view of this definition, I say that gambling has four essential elements:
(1) Gambling creates an artificial risk. One “deep- thinking” woman said that life is a risk. Others say that buying a home, getting an education, falling in love, crossing the street, and flying in an airplane are risks. However, we must travel, work and pursue daily affairs to survive and these are not connected with creating an artificial risk, motivated by covetousness.
(2) Gambling has a selfish goal. The gambler is taking an artificial risk in the hope of getting something for nothing. He wins at someone else’s expense.
(3) Gambling has no productive by-product, no social betterment. As evidence abundantly shows, even state-operated lotteries do not improve society. They sell illusions, since more than 99.9% of the players lose, and the small revenue generated is overshadowed by the climate of immorality they create.
(4) Gambling brings gain at someone else’s expense. In an investment, everyone may gain, but in gambling and betting, the odds are carefully stacked so that there will be more losers than winners.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH GAMBLING?
People ask: “Does the Bible say not to gamble?” No, the Bible does not say, “Thou shalt not gamble,” but the same is true of many other things which are wrong. The Bible is not big enough to name every sin by its specific name, so it deals with principles. I believe that gambling is a violation of some of the most basic principles taught in the Word of God. Let us review some of those principles.
(1) Gambling is a violation of the commandment, “Thou shalt not covet.” (Ex. 20:17; Rom. 7:7). To covet means “to desire earnestly to possess.” Take covetousness out, and gambling would die overnight. It is covetousness that causes men and women to take hard- earned money which rightfully belongs to their families, and cram it into a poker machine because they want another’s money for which they have not labored.
(2) Gambling is wrong because it violates God’s commandment which says, “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor, neither rob him” (Lev. 19:13). Paul said, “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (1 Cor. 10:24). Gambling would not survive if the Golden Rule of Jesus were followed (Matt. 7:12).
(3) Gambling is wrong because it is the antithesis of industry and honest work. God set the tone for the whole human race when He said, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Gen. 3:19). Paul said to the loafers of his day, ‘We command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread,” and he further decreed “that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (1 Thes. 3:10-12).
(4) Gambling is wrong because it is addictive. Jesus said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). Gambling tends to become not just a recreation, but the very center of life. It is estimated that there are some 6 million compulsive gamblers in the county today. Paul said, “I will not be brought under the power of any” (I Cor. 6:12). The best way to avoid that is to never begin gambling.
(5) Gambling is wrong because of the evil example it sets. Someone weaker and without knowledge is following your example, and Paul said, “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Rom. 14:21).
(6) Gambling is wrong because it is an enemy of the home. Paul said, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (I Tim. 5:8). Gambling often robs the homes of those who can least afford it of money needed for food and clothing, making the gambler worse than an infidel, and leaving women and children in poverty.
(7) Gambling is wrong because it is detrimental to mental peace and tranquility. It is accompanied by fear, frustration and anxiety. The suicide rate in Nevada is about twice of the national average.
(8) Gambling is wrong because its fruits are evil. Jesus said that “a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matt. 7:17). Thomas E. Dewey, former governor of New York said: “The entire history of legalized gambling in this country and abroad shows that it has brought nothing but poverty, crime and corruption, demoralization of moral and ethical standards, and ultimately a lower living standard and misery for all people.” Remember the gamblers at the foot of the cross. Christians should oppose gambling, large or small, public or private. Do not participate in office betting, cake walks, raffles, bingo games, or playing cards for small stakes. These differ only in degree, not in kind. Do not trust in the false goodness, Lady Luck, or you are destined to be deceived and misled. Put your faith in God.
[This is from the July 1992 special issue of the Old Paths Advocate].