What does the Bible
say about gambling?

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QUESTION: What does the Bible say about the lottery, lottery tickets, casinos, and gambling in general? Is buying lotto tickets or visiting places where people play various games of chance a SIN?

ANSWER: Although the words "gambling" or "lottery" are not in the KJV Bible, numerous verses denounce the attitudes that are behind them. They include idol worship and greed, which are the foundations that encourage this kind of behavior.

People often indulge in gambling, be it playing the lottery or going to a casino, because they hope to "get lucky." Scripture states that such things as fortune, fate, luck and destiny are as foreign gods in whom the people foolishly place their hope. The Eternal is clear that not only does he not like this behavior but he will also punish such disobedience.

11. But you who forsake the LORD, who forget My holy mountain, who prepare a table for Fortune, and who furnish the drink offering to Fate, 12. Therefore I will destine you to the sword; and you will all bow down to the slaughter; because I called and you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not hear but did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I did not delight" (Isaiah 65:11 - 12, HBFV)

The TEV translation of Isaiah 65:11 states that those who reject our Creator worship gods of "luck and fate." There is another interesting passage in Proverbs that references some of the same kinds of stereotypical signs often associated with gambling. They are listed just before a list of seven things God himself states he HATES.

Worthless, wicked people go around telling lies. They wink and make gestures to deceive you, all the while planning evil in their perverted minds, stirring up trouble everywhere (Proverbs 6:12 - 14, TEV)

The CEV translation of Proverbs 6:13 states that liars go around "winking and giving signals" in order that they may deceive other people. The TMSG translation of the verse says that those who indulge in evil "wink at each other," shuffle their feet around, and signal others by crossing their fingers behind their backs.

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One of the deceptive beliefs behind this behavior is that by making a small "investment" one can become rich. This attitude leads to what the word of God defines simply as GREED. Gambling also encourages the false notion that a person can get something for nothing. Being greedy is ultimately a waste of time and distracts a person from what is truly important in life.

Someone once stated that the person who dies with the most toys (cars, houses, other possessions) wins at life. It is this type of materialistic drive and the desire to have MORE that helps fuel an obession with gambling. The world's wisest man, Solomon, stated the following in the book of Proverbs regarding the foolish pursuit of riches.

4. Do not weary yourself to be rich; cease from your own wisdom. 5. When your eyes look upon it, it is gone! For surely riches make wings for themselves, and they fly into heaven like an eagle (Proverbs 23:5)

20. The grave and destruction are never full, so the eyes of man are never satisfied (Proverbs 27:20)

24. For riches are not forever; nor does the crown endure to every generation (Proverbs 27:24)

One day a person shouted to Jesus from a crowd asking him for help in dividing a family inheritance between him and his brother. Jesus' sharp, to-the-point response first stated that his purpose on earth was not to be a judge or arbitrator between people to settle their disputes. The word "arbitrator" used in the NASB and other translations for Jesus' response in Luke 12:14 come from a Greek word whose meaning is very similar to the word "destiny" in the Hebrew. Both words have in common the same concept of portioning out or dividing that gambling business partake in when they take the wealth of one person and give it to someone else.

Jesus warned the man who screamed for his help to be wary of covetousness (greed) since God never intended a person's life revolve around the accumulation of physical things (Luke 12:15). He then gave what is known as the parable of the foolish rich man who built bigger barns (verses 16 - 21). The book of Jeremiah does warn us not to be "greedy for gain" (see Jeremiah 6:13, 15). In short, the Bible says that gambling is something we should not indulge in.

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