Gambling: A biblical response by George Mwangi
I remember a fellowship I attended once where one of the sisters in attendance asked for prayer because of a betting entry she had made and she wanted God’s help to win. Then one day while listening to one of the religious radio stations, there was this pastor praying with great enthusiasm for all those brethren who had played in one of the betting competitions that they may receive the anointing that wins. In early 2017, I received an unsolicited SMS inviting me to make use of the sender’s skills to place winning bets in one of the footballing betting companies! I silently declined of course.
Gambling is everywhere and beckoning everyone! But what is it?
Gambling is founded on the desire to make quick easy money; to get rich quickly without having to work at all, leave alone working hard, to sweat. The argument goes this way, “If I can make money without investing my time, effort and creativity, why bother. If all it takes is 20 bob to win 20 Million, why bother to labor? That is why many people who have hit the jackpot in the lotteries, and won big money, never really invest it. They are incapable of investing. So the money ends up eating them up instead of them eating the money. The scripture says that, “Wealth hastily gotten will dwindle, but he who gathers little by little will increase it.” Proverbs 13:11
In 1873, Governor Washburn of Wisconsin, U.S.A, in his annual message declared, “Some law seems to be required to break up the schools where gamblers are made. These are everywhere. Even the church (unwittingly, no doubt) is sometimes found doing the work of the devil. Gift concerts, gift enterprises and raffles, sometimes in aid of religious or charitable objects, but often for less worthy purposes, lotteries, prize packages, etc., are all devices to obtain money without value received. Nothing is so demoralizing or intoxicating, particularly to the young, as the acquisition of money or property without labor. Respectable people engaging in these chance enterprises, and easing their consciences with the reflection that the money is to go to a good object, it is not strange that the youth of the state should so often fall into the habits which the excitement of games of hazard is almost certain to engender.”
Is it not amazing that this was said more than 100 years ago? And yet the same thing has gripped many completely today. It is destroying countless lives of men and women, young and old alike, but especially the young. There are countless betting shops today; each declaring it offers better returns than the other, and that at an affordable ‘investment’. And a great number of people are hooked to this vice. It is like a drug—easy to start, hard to stop! What is more, the government is legalizing various forms of gambling. Look at Sport-Pesa, and the likes of Lotto and many others. They are all sponsored publicly. They are advertised every day in several media outlets. It’s not criminal to conduct gambling and betting businesses. In actual fact, the government collects taxes from them, hence making them legal enterprises. For the Christian, what should be the guiding rules?
Biblical principles against gambling
Gambling defeats the life of faith; it depends on luck.
There is no promise of scripture which you can stand on, for faith in its simplest definition, is standing on the promises of God. Therefore God is not pursued despite a façade of praying for God to help you win. The desire to gamble in order to win makes the heart too centered on the treasure that it has no real emotion for God. “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.“ (Matthew 6:21). And because of the addictive nature of gambling, it enslaves the soul, and consequently leads to its destruction. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?“ (Mark 8:36). A soul that does not live by faith in God is a soul on its way to destruction both here, and in the life to come.
Gambling defeats hope.
The Christian’s hope is founded on Christ’s finished work on the cross. To depend on gambling for God to supply your needs and/or wants is wishful thinking! It creates despair where one makes a lifestyle of gambling without winning. Such examples abound: There is this employee who bets his employers M-pesa float money with the hope that he will win, make money himself and return the employer’s money, and this without the employer’s knowledge. This is misplaced hope, not even built on quicksand, for in this case quicksand may have a better foundation! It is wishful thinking. It is a game of chance and it is clearly a deception built on deception. You cannot trade this way with God.
Gambling for the Christian is clothed with the deception of tithing and giving to sanctify the money.
Most Christians, after they happen to win by chance say, “I will give God 10% and then I use the rest for my needs and then perhaps invest the rest in business.” This is so as to soothe their conscious and involve God where He is not! David says, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord that which costs me nothing” (2 Samuel. 24:24). This principle of David is not an idle one. The principles of tithing and giving are based on the premise of fruitful labor! You cannot tithe/give that which you haven’t worked for! Says Paul to the Ephesian brethren: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians. 4:28).
Gambling by its very nature promotes laziness.
It defeats the spirit of work. Chances are you will find people looking for little money to play to make big money. Men spend their time in bars and market places following football matches so as to know whether their bet won! If one puts his hopes on winning the lottery, then he does not see the purpose of hard work to bring in income. The Christian must keep remembering that God instituted work even before the fall of Adam. Work is not a curse and brings great joy and prosperity God’s way when done. Work is at the foundation of true godliness. God himself is a worker. Anything therefore that sabotages the principle of work is ungodly! Addressing Christian slaves (you may call them servants today) about work, Paul says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23). Can gambling truly satisfy this principle? Can you gamble with all your heart as gambling for the Lord? Does it pass the test of serving Christ?
Gambling promotes violence and destroys families
You often hear of people who commit suicide or kill others because they have lost money. There is this man who betted his entire wife’s loan, about five hundred thousand Kenya shillings. The result was destruction of the marriage and of course the family! Thus the scripture is true that says: “A greedy man brings trouble to his family,” (Proverbs 15:27). We have heard over and over again how many young people have committed suicide because they put they school fees on bet and lost. This is very devastating.
Gambling is fueled by greed for big money and covetousness
Gambling is the desire to instantly get something big for something small, say 20 Million for 20 bob! This is at the heart of it is greed and covetousness. At the heart of any kind of gambling is covetousness. The scripture speaks for itself, “The desire of the lazy man kills him, For his hands refuse to labor. 26 He covets greedily all day long, But the righteous gives and does not spare.” (Prov. 21: 25-26). Paul also warns Timothy that those who desire to get rich will find themselves in a lot of trouble.
“6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:6-9).
We need to keep our lives free from the love of money. For money is never enough. It does not matter how much you make, even when your money is genuinely made. You must train yourself contentment, for as it is written, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes. 5: 10). The writer of Hebrews also warns us to ‘Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” Hebrews 13:5
George Mwangi is a passionate Bible Teacher based in Nyeri and you may read him on www.burninglampblog.wordpress.com