Tomorrow is Melbourne Cup Day, a public holiday held on the first Tuesday of each November here in our local State of Victoria. The day is built around the Melbourne Cup horse race held at the Flemington Racecourse – billed as ‘the race that stops a nation’.
Without a doubt, Aussies love to gamble – about anything and on just about everything. There’s horse racing, the lottery, casinos, poker, raffles, online betting, sporting events, and the list goes on. In fact, Australians are amongst the world’s leading gamblers. Here are a few interesting statistics:
- By 1999-2000 Australians were gambling almost $114 billion, over 30 times as much as in 1972-73.
- In 1972-73, Australians lost almost $500 million, which was about 1.55 per cent of household disposable income. By 1999-2000 they were losing over $13 billion, or over $900 per head (18$ per week), almost three times as much as in 1972-73, and about 3.5% of household disposable income
- Every person with a gambling problem affects at least seven other people. It often leads to preoccupation with getting money, increasing risk, attempts to stop, lying, and illegal acts to obtain money. Gambling can destroy relationships and can result in depression and even suicidal tendencies.
By the way, the chances of winning the lottery are one in over seven million!
What about Christians? Should they gamble? Ever?
The Old Testament praises hard work, while it condemns and ridicules laziness (Prov.6:6-11; 14:23; 21:25; 31:27). The same attitude is found in the New Testament. Jesus told his followers, “Occupy until I come.” That means to “do business” or to “get to work”. Give your calling the best you can give it. The Apostle Paul and his associates worked, and they expected other believers to work and to earn their own support (1 Cor.4:12; 9:6. 2 Thess.3:10. Tit.3:14).
The Bible encourages us to build wealth through hard work and wise financial management (Deut.8:18. Prov.21:5. 2 Thess.3:6-13). As God blesses us financially, we are urged to honor Him first through generous giving (Prov.3:9-10. Mal.3:8-12. Matt.23:23), to save for the future (Prov.21:20), to reach out to help the poor and needy (Prov.28:27. 1 Tim.6:17-19), to avoid destructive debt (Rom.13:6-8. Prov.22:7. Ecc.4:6), and to live within our means. We are urged us to avoid all types of ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes (Prov.28:20-22; 13:11; 20:21). We are also encouraged to avoid developing a love of money (Ecc.5:10-16. 1 Tim.6:9-10) due to the destructive hold it can have in our life if not handled well (Matt.13:22). Contentment is also an important quality to develop, so that we avoid the spirit of greed that plagues our times (see Phil.4:11-13. 1 Tim.6:6-10). How we handle our financial resources is a measure of our spiritual maturity (Luke 16:11).
Putting this all together, to me, gambling seems to be diametrically opposed to God’s financial plan. God in his wisdom connects the acquisition of money to hard work. You build character, maturity and skills through your work. As you do that diligently, your income grows and you can handle it because you’re growing in character and maturity. People who want something for nothing don’t develop the character necessary to manage it wisely.
Here is some wise financial advice from the book of Proverbs …
"Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows." [Prov.13:11. NLT]
"Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty." [Prov.21:5. NLT]
So what do you think? Is it ‘okay’ to have a bit of a ‘flutter on the geegees’?
Many things in life involve ‘risk’, or, as some would say, are a ‘gamble’. Risks include walking across the street, driving a car, starting a business, or buying a house. How can we discern the difference between appropriate risk and inappropriate risk?
What about investments, which can seomtimes be risky? Is that considered gambling?
I’d be interested in your thoughts …