Gambling and the Christian

Gambling is not a new concept. It has often been considered a valid sport or possible way to gain money or possessions for centuries. Throughout history, gambling has frequently been recognized by churches and other religious organizations. The Bible even illustrates the Roman guards kneeling at Jesus’ feet playing lots for His clothes as He hangs on the cross. But gambling does not always have the best outcome possible. It affects lives, relationships, and families and can have extremely harsh consequences. As Christians, we have to understand the role gambling may have in our lives, how it impacts our faith, and what options we may have for recovery.

Biblical Take on Gambling

Unlike many other vices, there is no specific command or statement made for Christians to avoid gambling. In fact, many times throughout the Bible, individuals are described as ‘casting lots’ in times of heavy decision making. Joshua 18:10 mentions this very act as "Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the Lord, and there he distributed land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions." Casting lots is also mentioned in Leviticus when choosing between a sacrificial goat and another option. The apostles even cast lots when determining a replacement for Judas after his death.

Although gambling is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, God has given clear and specific guidelines regarding how we should view and handle money. In his first letter, Timothy cautions that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs," (1 Timothy 6:10). One of our primary responsibilities as Christians is to be good stewards of everything God has given us, including our time, our talents, and our treasures. Gambling can easily can our focus to be on money and possessions, causing us to covet and turn away from our responsibility as good stewards. In what many term Biblical economics, God proclaims the goodness of hard work, saving, and giving. When gambling becomes the focus, these principles along with discipline and accountability are ignored.

When Gambling Becomes a Sin

Just because the specific words gambling or gamble do not appear in the Bible, Christians cannot automatically assume it is not a sin. There is no specific mention of the word pornography; however, it is easy to understand the sinful nature of that. Any vice, whether it is gambling, alcohol, or simple love of something materialistic becomes a sin when it becomes the focus on your life. Anything that separates us from the love and grace we receive in our relationship with God is a sin. When gambling becomes the forefront of your life, when it becomes your priority instead of God, it has become a sinful element in your life.

The Addiction of Gambling

Unfortunately for many, gambling has the potential to turn into a powerful addiction. Current research indicates there are more than two million adults that practice pathological gambling in the United States. Another four to six million are considered to be problem gamblers. Like any other addictions, the effects of this can seep into your life and slowly destroy it. The consequences of a gambling addiction can affect marriages, job stability, children, and even physical and emotional health.

Compulsive gamblers cannot control their desire or impulse to gamble. It is all they can think about and all they focus on. They continue to gamble whether they are winning or losing, depressed or happy. Compulsive gamblers will also continue the game even when they know they cannot afford to lose. Like many other addictions, gambling can be easily hidden. There are no obvious signs or symptoms that point directly to a gambling problem. Because of this, many family members may not even know their loved one is gambling until there is a significant financial problem.

Support for Gambling Recovery

When gambling becomes the primary force in your life, circumventing your relationship with God, that gambling addiction becomes a spiritual issue. While traditional treatment options, such as group or individual counseling, twelve step programs, or support groups should be utilized, there must also be a focus on the spiritual element as well. Finding a small group setting in your local church will allow you to immerse yourself in the study of the Word with a like-minded group of people and will go a long way in your recovery. In addition to that though, you must take time to rebuild your personal relationship with God as well. Daily meditations and time alone with God in prayer can help you stay focused on His love and grace as you move away from your addiction to gambling.