GamblingHorse_racingTomorrow 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 …

10 thoughts on “Should Christians Gamble?

  1. Hi Mark,
    Really enjoying Church!! and your Blog !!! I don’t believe that Christians should gamble – that doesn’t mean that I won’t watch the race, I might if I am anywhere where I can see it, but I won’t be going out of my way to do so and I wouldn’t place any bets. I might be wrong, but I believe that the spirit of Jezebel is behind the spirit of luck – a way of controlling things, finances, people, it certainly causes destruction in people’s lives. A survey was done on people who had won large amounts of money 4 or 5 years later and most of them were right back where they were before they won the money and in some cases, worse off because of breakdown in family relationships caused by the win by a family member.
    I watched ’60 Minutes’ last night and was greatly delighted with the segment on the 800 Australian Light Horseman who won the battle of Bathsheba. What courage they displayed! What a great debt we owe to our forefathers!! We might be living a very different lifestyle now but for them.
    I praise you for your courage in bringing the teaching on sex. I have been in a Church where this subject would not be touched – along with fasting and money (business) ethics since they believed these subjects caused people to really get off balance. I guess because people hold very strong views on these subjects. But these subjects need to be taught on. They are an integral part of our everyday lives and therefore we need to know what God says about these things. A lot has to do with the way you bring a message, if you cover all bases, then no one should get off on a tangent in wrong areas. I think that you did cover all bases and it came across really well. Thank you!

  2. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for being willing to engage with issues that are so relevant. Your balanced and wise approach is much appreciated by all. It was also great to see you at the wedding on Saturday, I know it makes a big impact on young people when they see their leaders making the effort and taking the time to be in places they are… not that it seems like much of an effort to you!
    When it comes to gambling, I dont think its a matter of ‘believing’ that its ok, or ‘believing’ that its not ok… I dont think gambling is something you can or cannot ‘believe’ in, it just exists, its a part of our society and our nations identity. The Bible is clear (as you’ve pointed out) that its not a wise way to spend your money, and its certainly not something you can put your trust or hope in.
    So the decision for me as to whether I will gamble or not, is not about how spiritual I feel or whether or not I ‘believe’ it to be sinful, its more down to how much I want to trust God and continually establish His position as the Lord of my life. God is a relational God and its my choice in every decision of life (big and small) to build or destabilise my relationship with Him. If thats my goal (intimacy with God), then something that would hinder that goal simply becomes something I dont WANT to do, rather than a rule I must be ever vigilant not to break!
    Have a great week,

  3. If the odds of winning the lottery are one in 7 million, it makes you wonder …has anyone ever tried to buy every ticket when it’s one of those massive $20 million jackpots.. hmm..
    For the record, I have no problem with gambling if it comes out of someone’s recreational budget (ie. money they would have spent on the movies or going bowling etc.).

  4. Mark,
    some great thoughts here. I am really enjoying your blog. I love how you go after the sacred cows no one wants to talk about.
    I say what matters most to God is stewardship. I find it funny how the church picks certain things to be evil and others are just fine.
    Gambling is bad/buying stock with no info is fine.
    Drinking is bad/overeating is fine.

  5. Hi Mark,
    I think that putting small amounts of money on the horses is ok, I think our freedom in Christ extends that far.
    However, I think gambling for Christians becomes problematic if you are doing it because you don’t trust that God will provide for you. Then that’s idolatry. I also think it’s problematic if you do it in such a way as to make someone else stumble.
    I think Paul’s teaching in Romans 14 and 1 Cor 8 is applicable.
    Also just wanted to thank you for the sacred sex series. I loved how you tackled a tough topic without it becoming really heavy. A really great mix of good humour but yet seriousness. Thank you!
    God bless,

  6. Hi Mark,
    My wife & I enjoy all your teachings. I pray for you & your family everyday. God will annoint you & Nicole more & more everyday and He will take you both to a higher level.
    God Bless

  7. I have a friend named Mike who is handicaped and says he looks at gambling as a business because he is unable to work like others. He has a regualr practice of gambling but feels he is wise and not addicted. He is a Born again Christian.
    How would you answer to a situation like this. He lost all his fingers and most of his toes to frost bit at 14. He also has other health problems like being very over wieght.

  8. Hi Darlene. So sorry to hear about your friend. Obviously, it is a conscience issue for him as to how he spends his money. Some forms of ‘investment’ are somewhat of a gamble, including the share market. Ultimately, he would be wise to put his money to work in a way that minimises risk and maximises return. This is not always easy in today’s fairly volatile economy! I pray that God gives you wisdom in how best to be an encouragement to him.

  9. Mark, I thank God for finding this site.I am so impressed with all that you have shared on this site re gambling.I strongly believe that Gambling is not right for christians. It is Greedy.The Bible teaches against greed and covetousness. Jesus warns, “Beware and be on your guard against every form of greed” (Luke 12:15 NASB). Gambling appeals to “the love of money” (1 Tim. 6:9-10), which is the root of all sorts of evil. Such greed is idolatry (Col. 3:5). The gambling industry’s success depends upon the material greed of men. “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth, and does not know that want will come upon him.”(Proverbs 28:22).Thank you and God bless.

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