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 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, or fate, or luck and destiny are as foreign "gods" hoped upon by people. Isaiah 65 says that those who give up on or forsake God "set a table for FORTUNE" and they drink from full cups that contain "mixed wine for destiny" (Isaiah 65, NASB).

The TEV translation of Isaiah 65:11 states that those who reject God worship gods of "luck and fate." Those who worship (meaning they respect or honor) fortune (another name for gambling) will be punished.

There is an interesting passage in Proverbs that references some of the same kinds of stereotypical signs often associated with a gambler.

13 They wink and make gestures to deceive you, 14 all the while planning evil . . . (Proverbs 6:13 - 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.

The deceptive belief behind gambling 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.

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I still remember to this day an unconverted friend of mine who half-jokingly said, at a high school class reunion, "The person who dies with the most toys (cars, houses, other possessions) wins!" Although such a statement does not summarize my own life goals, it does reflect what the vast majority of unconverted humanity pursues.

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 (Jesus') 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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