The Sin of Gambling
Douglas J. Kuiper
To preach the Word of God, we believe, is the fundamental task of the church of Jesus Christ on earth. It is not her only task; she must also administer the sacraments rightly, exercise discipline amongst her members, and care for her poor. But none of these may she do, without also preaching the Word. Her work, in other words, is a spiritual work.
This means that the church of Christ must stay above politics. That is, she ought not endorse a particular party or political candidate, and she ought not open her pulpits to politicians. Individual Christians must be concerned about political matters, for they are also citizens of an earthly kingdom. The church as an organization ought not, because she represents the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ, which is not of this world (John 18:36).
However, because the truth that she preaches does bear on political and social issues, she may and must set forth the truth of God's Word as it pertains to those issues.
One such issue is that of gambling. Gambling is prevalent in our society. And gambling is sin, when evaluated in light of God's Word. The church of Jesus Christ must condemn gambling.
This the Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church does. Her evangelism society publishes this pamphlet, in which she condemns all forms of gambling on the basis of the Word of God, with the prayer that this will encourage God's people who are given over to the sin of gambling to leave it, and strengthen all His people to speak out against it.
May God's name be honored and glorified!
Rev. Douglas Kuiper
Byron Center, MI
October 25, 2001
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The Evangelism Society of the Byron Center
Protestant Reformed Church
1945 84th St SW
Byron Center, MI
Why Is Gambling Sin?
Why Is it Important That We Know Gambling to be Sin?
How Should We Respond to this Sin?
Gambling has a bad effect on society. It promotes crime, as those who lose their money steal to get more, or get drunk to drown out their sorrow. It contributes to greater poverty, as those who cannot afford to gamble do so anyway. It leads to addiction, for some are so obsessed by the hope of winning the jackpot that they gamble compulsively. And all these, in turn, put great stress on families, which results in more broken homes. Studies have demonstrated the truth of these assertions.1
These negative consequences of gambling are a commonly heard reason why many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, oppose gambling. Political organizations that oppose gambling emphasize these consequences as being the real reason to oppose gambling. And the Christian agrees that it is in every man's best interest that our society be free from social evils, in order that life may be more pleasant and safe.
These are reasons to oppose gambling, indeed; but are they the only reasons? Is there a more fundamental reason why we should oppose gambling?
The answer of the church of Jesus Christ, on the basis of the Word of God, must be: "Yes, indeed!" The more fundamental reason why we should oppose gambling is this: gambling is sin!
Let us give this reason due consideration when we speak out against gambling. For, first, this reason explains why gambling has the negative consequences mentioned above. Sin leads to more sin, and to the corruption of society. These consequences are God's judgment on the sin of gambling. And, second, this reason explains why the Christian should be concerned not merely with the negative consequences of gambling but with gambling itself. We may not gamble, for gambling is sin.
Why, then, is gambling sin? Why must we know it to be sin? And how must Christians respond to this sin? To answer these questions is the burden of this pamphlet.
The gambling industry is immoral.
We begin our argument by noting that the gambling industry as such is immoral. By the gambling industry, we have in mind the organizations that sponsor and benefit from gambling. Those that sponsor gambling include casinos, lotteries, bingo parlors, and other places in which gambling is legally permitted. Those who benefit are Indian tribes or any other group which runs casinos; the state or federal government, which runs the lotteries; any churches which might sponsor the bingo games; any businesses or industries, such as car racing, which might sponsor gambling houses.
What is wrong with running such institutions? What is wrong with benefiting from gambling?
The question must be faced, in light of the fact that many consider the gambling industry to be right and good. We are told that gambling is good because it raises money for good social causes. Because the excess money from state lotteries supports the state education system, some say that gambling is an investment in our children. Because the casinos are often willing to pay a percentage of their earnings to the local communities, which use the funds to fight crime, some argue that gambling is good because it makes a positive contribution to society, and even lowers taxes.
In other words, the end justifies the means. The motive excuses the act.
Our response is different. Running such institutions, and benefiting from their activity, is wrong! The industry of gambling is morally wrong!
This is true, first, because it is motivated by greed. The goal of the gambling institutions is to get lots of money quickly! And they accomplish their goal well; gambling is a lucrative business. Notice that the goal of the gambling industry is not merely to get money; any businessman has that goal, because he needs money to live. But the goal of the gambling industry is to get lots of money quickly, without providing a beneficial service or a sound product in return. It manifests covetousness, which God's law forbids ("Thou shalt not covet," Exodus 20:17), and the love of money, against which God's Word also warns us ("But they that will [the word "will" here means "desire to," DJK] be rich fall into temptation and a snare, ... For the love of money is the root of all evil" (I Timothy 6:9, 10).
Second, gambling is an improper way for the church or state to raise its funds. A government has the right to tax its citizens, and members of a country are required to pay taxes. Jesus said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's" (Matthew 22:21). Paul, having emphasized the importance of civil government, and that government is the servant of God, commands under inspiration of the Spirit: "For this cause pay ye tribute also: ... Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor" (Romans 13:6-7). We see, then, that Scripture tells us that a government should raise its money by taxation! This is the right way, because it treats all citizens equally; every member of the country contributes to the support of that country. Taxation should also impress upon every member of the country the benefit that government is to us, and it should encourage responsible citizenship.
Also, a church should get its funds from its membership by freewill offerings. Jesus said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). In Old Testament Israel, a temple tax of one half a shekel for every person over twenty was required (Exodus 30:11ff.). The support of the ministry of the gospel (which is the fundamental work of the church) must come from those who benefit from that ministry, Paul taught the church of God in I Corinthians 9.
Gambling, however, is an attempt to raise money for church (bingo games) or civil government (lotteries) by offering an incentive to give, and the hope of something in return (winning the jackpot). This is not the God ordained way for legitimate authorities, such as church and civil government, to raise money.
Third, we can argue that they are essentially legalized thieves. Just as a thief takes and does not return, so these organizations take and do not return. The instances in which they return are the exception; most people leave without the money with which they came. The gambler is asked to spend money on something for which he gets no tangible benefit. That is stealing. Furthermore, just as a thief takes with force that which is not his, so the organizations use force. It is not physical force, but psychological force, using advertisements and other gimmicks to encourage people to part with their money.
Stealing, we know, is clearly forbidden by God's law. The eighth commandment says, "Thou shalt not steal" (Exodus 20:15). And every human being desires that none steal for stealing puts one's own possessions in jeopardy.
One might argue that gambling organizations are not guilty of stealing, because they take money with the consent of the owner. It is, of course, true that no one gambles unwillingly; therefore some of the responsibility for this falls on the gambler himself. This does not, however, absolve the organizations of guilt. If I run a scam, I cannot argue that people parted with their money willingly. It is still a scam, and a theft, for which I would be held liable. Or if I sell an item that is not worth the price I charged, I cannot explain it away by saying that the buyer paid me willingly. God still considers that stealing on my part. Proverbs 11:1 says, "A false balance is abomination to the LORD." The examples just offered are modern day equivalents of a false balance -- a way in which a man tries to get more money for an object than what it is worth. Because gambling organizations do this, they are guilty of theft.
Having seen that the gambling industry as such is wrong, let us now consider that gambling is sin also on the part of the gambler.
Compulsive gambling is sin.
Few sincere, Bible-believing Christians would disagree with the assertion that compulsive gambling is sin. That is, gambling is sinful for those who are addicted to it. This is true for a number of reasons.
Compulsive gamblers sin by wasting time. Gambling is for them such an addiction, that most or all of their spare time is spent gambling in one form or another (lotteries, casinos, sports betting, video poker machines, etc). Weekends and vacations are taken up with trips to cities that have casinos. The more addicted to gambling a person becomes, the more likely he is to neglect his job and family, and to focus exclusively on gambling.
We must remember that time is a gift from God! God created time when He created the world. The first day of creation week, we read, God created light, divided it from the darkness, and "called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day" (Genesis 1:4-5). On the fourth day, He created the sun, moon, and stars, which were intended to be "for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years" (Genesis 1:14). After all of this, He created man. Time was created first, for man's sake! That is, man must use his time to the glory of God, and in the service of God. This same truth is emphasized in the fourth commandment of God's law: "Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God" (Exodus 20:9,10).
The compulsive gambler wastes this gift of God, by using it for himself instead of for God.
Compulsive gamblers sin also by wasting money and possessions. Any money on hand they will use in gambling. They will sell or pawn off their belongings to get more money with which to gamble. And when their resources are gone, they are very likely to turn to stealing to get money.
But money and possessions are also gifts from God, to be used in His service. The eighth commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," reminds us that God gives humans enough resources to live on, in order to accomplish His purpose for us on earth. It is our duty to use those resources wisely, and not desire what is another's. The child of God who prays, "Give us this day our daily bread," expresses that he looks to God to provide for his needs. Jesus commanded His disciples, "Seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things [food, drink, clothing, DJK] will be added unto you" (Luke 12:31).
But the gambler spends what God has given on gambling, and loses it. The result is that he and his family become poor. They lack the necessities of life -- not because they were never able to have them, but because they have squandered what they had!
Related to these two reasons why compulsive gambling is wrong is a third: God commands us to work, and in that way He will supply our needs. The proverbs of Solomon, inspired by God, teach us this: "The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. He coveteth greedily all the day long ..." (Proverbs 21:25-26). Proverbs 28:19 says, "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough." The reader ought to note that in this passage the KJV puts the word "persons" in italics, meaning that it was an editorial addition. This is an unfortunate addition, for the sense is really, "he that followeth after vanity," or "after vain things," unprofitable things, such as gambling. The apostle Paul had to command the Thessalonian saints very frankly "that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10).
The gambler, however, hopes to get money without working; and if he should win the jackpot, he often quits his job, to revel in his wealth.
Fourth, compulsive gambling is wrong because it is motivated by greed and covetousness.
The reason why such people gamble is their hope to win the jackpot. They are willing to sacrifice all their possessions, in the hope that they will get much more in return. This is not a conjecture, or a judgment, all my own; compulsive gamblers readily admit this.
Scripture condemns greed and covetousness. "Thou shalt not covet..." is the tenth commandment. Three passages show that God hates and will not save a covetous man. Psalm 10:3: "For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD hateth." I Corinthians 6:9,10: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither ... thieves, nor covetous ... shall inherit the kingdom of God." Ephesians 5:5: "For this ye know, that no ... covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of God and of Christ."
Jesus warned us against covetousness in Luke 12. His warning begins in answer to a question from a man: "Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me" (v. 13). Jesus' response in verse 15 is: "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). Then Jesus spoke the parable of the rich fool, whose death was God's judgment on him for laying up treasure for himself.
The apostle Paul warned against covetousness in I Timothy 6:9-10: "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." The writer to the Hebrews said: "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (13:5).
From Hebrews 13:5 we can also see that, while covetousness is forbidden, contentment with what we have is positively commanded. The tenth commandment shows this also. When God forbids one thing, He by implication commands its opposite. So when He said, "Thou shalt not covet," we must understand Him to be requiring contentment of us. In other places in Scripture, the same duty of contentment is set forth. In Luke 3:14, John the Baptist tells the soldiers to be content with their wages. Paul says in Philippians 4:11: "I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be con tent." And again in I Timothy 6:6, 8: "But godliness with contentment is great gain.... And having food and raiment let us be therewith content."
Such contentment certainly does not characterize the compulsive gambler; he is interested only in getting more. And were he to get more, he would very likely still not be happy, but keep gambling, for greed motivates him.
Compulsive gambling is wrong. What about the other kind of gambler, the one who does it only for recreation?
Recreational gambling is sin.
Those who would defend recreational gambling come up with several arguments in support of their position.
One attempt to defend it on the basis of Scripture is to point out that Scripture nowhere forbids gambling in so many words. Therefore, the argument goes, gambling falls under the realm of Christian liberty we are free to do it, so long as we do not violate any of God's commands or scriptural principles. One who uses this argument may grant that compulsive gambling is wrong because it violates express commands regarding how to use our time and money, and that one's motive for gambling may be wrong (greed). However, the argument is, if one's motive is not wrong, and one gambles merely as a recreation, one does not sin. Some who use this argument seem to clinch it by reminding us that we must not add to God's Word (Revelation 22:18-19).
Another attempt to defend it is to point out so many other recreations in which much money is spent and nothing is gained. Is there really a difference between gambling and eating out? Between gambling and getting the best seat at the baseball park? Between gambling and a nice cruise in the Bahamas? In fact, the argument goes, recreational gambling is less expensive than some of these things.
We have answers to these attempts to justify recreational gambling.
With regard to the first argument, we grant that we cannot find in Scripture a text that says, "Thou shalt not gamble." But Scripture need not tell us in so many words that a particular activity is a sin, for it to be sin. We are not necessarily guilty of adding to God's Word (which would be a terrible sin, indeed!) by calling sinful that which Scripture does not say in so many words is sinful. In interpreting Scripture and applying it to our lives, God's people ought to follow this sound rule, set forth in the Westminster Confession, I, 6: "The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture" [emphasis mine, DJK]. That is, in addition to giving us specific positive and negative commands, Scripture also gives us principles by which to live our life. All that is in accord with these principles is good, and all that violates them is bad.
When determining whether or not an activity is proper for a Christian, three principles must guide us. They are those set forth in the Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 91: "But what are good works? Only those which proceed from a true faith, are performed according to the law of God, and to His glory." (Cf. Romans 14:23, I Samuel 15:22, I Corinthians 10:31, for scriptural support of using these criteria in this manner.) If a particular activity violates God's express command, it is not proper. If it does not violate God's express command, but still cannot be done to God's glory or in manifestation of the faith that is in our hearts, it is still not proper. All three criteria must be met, in
order for the child of God to be convinced that he served God in this activity and that God was pleased with his service.
Therefore, even though Scripture nowhere gives an explicit condemnation of gambling, we may still evaluate recreational gambling as sinful, without being afraid that we are adding to Scripture, because we make this judgment on the basis of scriptural principles.
With regard to the second argument, we must remember that even if there are worse things a person could do than some particular activity, that does not mean the particular activity is not bad. One might argue that to rob a bank is worse than stealing a toy from the neighbor's backyard, but that does not justify stealing the toy from the neighbor's backyard. So here. Even if the argument were granted that it is a bigger waste of money to take a nice cruise, get the best seat in the ball park, or frequent expensive restaurants, than to spend money occasionally on a lottery ticket, or in the office football pool, that does not justify these acts of gambling.
However, we must remember one fundamental difference between infrequent recreational gambling and these other activities: the gambler gets no tangible benefit in return for his money, as one does who rents a seat at a ball park, or who buys a nice meal. The only benefit gambling is sure to give is intangible, namely, the hope of the thrill of winning. And this benefit is not proper for the child of God.
Why, concretely, is recreational gambling sin?
The fundamental reasons have been given already, in connection with compulsive gambling. It is a waste of time, because productive work is not being done, nor is wholesome recreation being enjoyed. It is a waste of money, because no tangible benefit is gained, nor an intangible benefit of any lasting and spiritual value. It is a wrong way to obtain money; God promises to supply our needs in the way of honest work. And its motivation is also greed. Why play the lottery, except in the hope of winning it big? Why go to a casino even for a day, except in the hopes of striking it rich? One must give reasons to God for his motivation for this; and one would be hard pressed to say that his motivation was right.
We use the same reasons to show why recreational gambling is wrong as we did to show why compulsive gambling is wrong, because the sin is the same sin. Gambling is gambling. The compulsive gambler sins more often, and to a greater degree, while the recreational gambler sins less often in that respect, and to a lesser degree. Either way, however, it is gambling.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT THAT WE KNOW GAMBLING TO BE SIN?
One reason why it is important to know gambling to be sin is that we are then able to understand why gambling will have sinful consequences. Admittedly, some of these consequences apply more to compulsive gamblers than to recreational gamblers. The fact is, however, that where you have gambling institutions, you will have compulsive gamblers, and society will feel the consequences.
What are these consequences?
One consequence is addiction. Sin is always addictive! Men by nature love sin! This is true in particular of gambling. Even society in general recognizes the addictive nature of gambling, for programs such as Gamblers Anonymous have been formed to help people break the addiction.
A second consequence of gambling is increased crime. It is not hard to understand how instances of drunkenness will rise, as men who have lost their savings at the slot machine turn elsewhere for comfort in their sorrow. Nor is it difficult to connect an increased rate of theft to gambling, as people steal in order to get more money to feed their addiction.
Another consequence is the devastation of the family. Any addiction will strain family relationships, for the addicted person leaves off proper care for his family, and puts all his time and energy into satisfying his cravings. Furthermore, one major cause of distress and divorce in families is money of which there will always be a shortage in the families of gamblers. Children of gamblers will also suffer from lack of attention by their parents, as those parents busy themselves gambling.
Because of these consequences, as we have noted already, many oppose gambling. In areas where gambling is prevalent, others work hard to overcome these consequences of gambling, without realizing that they have never attacked the source of the problem gambling itself.
Will gambling inevitably have these consequences? Could these consequences possibly be avoided?
The answer is NO!
And the reason why that is the answer is that unconfessed sin leads to more sin. God punishes the sins of a people by allowing them to develop further in sin, until they are ripe for His just judgment! Romans 1:18-32 teaches us this; those who denied God's existence were given over to idolatry as judgment; and that, in turn, led to all sorts of sexual sins, including homosexuality; and then verses 29-31 speak of a host of other sins to which God gave them over, as judgment for their earlier sins.
So these consequences of gambling are inevitable. Some will deny this, of course; those who profit from gambling do not want us to think that we will suffer from enjoying this activity. And addicted gamblers will not quickly admit the problems that their gambling has caused.
It takes one whose eyes are opened by Christ, and who truly understands what sin is and what sin does, to know this.
This leads us to the second reason why it is important that we know gambling to be sin: because such is God's assessment of gambling. That it is God's assessment of gambling we have shown, in demonstrating that gambling violates various principles of life and conduct which God has set forth in Scripture. And this reason applies, not only to compulsive gambling, but, as we have shown, also to recreational gambling.
The child of God must always strive to see things as God sees them. In our own strength we cannot do this. Apart from God's grace we call sin good, and what is truly good and pleasing to God we call foolishness. To call gambling sin, therefore, will not make us popular with many people. To call gambling sin does not put us in the camp of the majority. Many think it is good.
Others think it is not good for social reasons, but would not go so far as to call it sin and oppose it for moral reasons. We who call gambling sin are in a minority. Nevertheless, we are on God's side! We are viewing the activity of gambling as God views it.
Why be so concerned to evaluate an activity as God does? The Christian must be concerned to do so, because he desires to express in all that he does his thankfulness for the salvation God has given him. And thankfulness will be shown in doing that which pleases God, and avoiding that which God hates.
There is another reason why we should be concerned to evaluate an activity the same way God does, and this reason applies to Christians and non-Christians alike: we will stand before this God in judgment! Many ignore or deny the reality of this day of judgment, because they deny that Jehovah is the only true God, and that Jesus is the Christ. The fact is, however, that Christ will return to judge all men who have lived, and pass sentence on every man, whether he has done good or evil. With a view to that day, we ought to know gambling to be sin, so that we can avoid it!
Third, it is important for us to know that gambling is sin because only then will we be motivated to respond rightly, guarding against this sin in ourselves, and working to deliver our loved ones and neighbors from the trap of this sin. If a thief, a covetous person, or an extortioner cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, except he turn from his sin; if his everlasting existence after this life would be in hell; then let us call sin sin, and work to deliver others, and ourselves, from it! This must be our response.
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO THIS SIN?
Denounce and fight it.
The church and Christians must denounce and fight against gambling in all its forms lotteries, casinos, sports betting, and any other.
The church must do so in her preaching and teaching, in which she warns her members against it. She must also do so by disciplining impenitent gamblers in the church, which Reformed churches historically have committed themselves to doing. The "Form for the Administration of the Lord's Supper" which Reformed churches have used for centuries warns "gamesters" to keep themselves from the table of the Lord, lest they eat and drink judgment to themselves. The Oxford English Dictionary gives several definitions of the term "gamester," some of which are obsolete uses; but one current use of the word is to designate "one who habitually plays at games of chance for money or other stake; a gambler." By warning such to refrain from partaking of the Lord's Supper, Reformed churches underscore the seriousness of the sin of gambling, as well as the fact that often the elders of the church do not know who in the congregation is guilty of this sin. Were they to know that a member gambles, and does so habitually, or without being sorry for the sin, such elders who are faithful to their calling would discipline that member.
Also, the Christian as an individual and as a member of a country has not only the right, but also the calling, to fight against gambling on a political level. However, even when he does so on a political level, the Christian should not fail to use the Word of God to denounce and fight gambling. That Word, after all, is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) through it the Spirit fights sin in the hearts of sinners! Using this weapon, Christians will fight for the right reason (gambling is sin!) and the right goal (upholding God's honor and glory).
Confess and repent of it.
Before fighting the sin in others, however, we must be sure that we have first repented of the sin ourselves, if we are guilty of it. That this is proper we know to be true from Jesus' words in Matthew 7:4-5: "Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
Perhaps we have not actually bought a lottery ticket, or even played in the office football pool, let alone gambled in the casinos. If this is true of us, let us not be too quick to assume that we are not guilty, and need not repent! For the sin which is at the heart of gambling is the sin of covetousness and greed, and this sin characterizes all of us by nature! We have not always used our money rightly, in the service of God's kingdom! We have not always trusted God to supply our needs! So, even if we have never gambled, we are guilty of the same heart sin of which all gamblers are guilty. Let us confess and repent of our own covetousness, before we call others to repentance for their sin.
True repentance is characterized by turning from a sin in true hatred of sin, and seeking to live a life that conforms more and more to God's law, and is directed to God's glory.
Truly repenting, we can find in Jesus Christ the forgiveness which we need. For by His death on the cross, Christ bore the guilt of His people, suffering God's wrath and punishment against us for our sins, in order that we might be delivered. And in Christ's resurrection, God gave His testimony that Christ's work on the cross was complete. God declares those who believe in Christ to be righteous, and free from the guilt of sin!
Truly repenting, we can also find in Christ the grace and power to fight against that sin in ourselves, and to guard against it. And this guarding of ourselves must also be our response to this sin.
Guard against it.
We guard against it by warning others against this sin. Parents must teach their children about its dangers. Friends will warn friends.
But guarding always involves some form of positive work. A guard sets up defenses.
The primary way, then, in which we can guard against this sin is by having a proper view of God's gifts. The basic principles have been set forth earlier, in connection with our showing why compulsive and recreational gambling is wrong. Let me summarize the main points.
First, everything that exists is God's. He is the only true owner of all things. "For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof' (Psalm 50:10-12).
Second, everything that we have and own including money, possessions, and time is given us by God. They are gifts, not in the sense that God relinquishes His ownership of these things, but gifts, as a man gives his servant some of his possessions to care for temporarily. That both possessions and time are gifts from God, Solomon teaches us by inspiration in Ecclesiastes 5:18- 19: "Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God."
Third, therefore, we must use our possessions and time in the consciousness that God watches us and that He will hold us accountable for what we have done. The parables of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and of the pounds (Luke 19:12-27) teach us that God will require an accounting of us. That we are stewards of God's possessions must govern everything that we do with what we have! This principle applies not only to gambling, but also to any form of waste or frivolous use of our money. One who quickly buys things that he does not need or will not use; one who spends money like it is water; one whose heart is set on always having nice things such must also take this principle to heart. We all must!
Fourth, understanding that God gives us possessions, we must be content with what we have been given. He has given me a certain amount of His goods, over which I am steward; He has given be content with my lot, and the other person with his. Each must remember that God gives His people exactly enough to serve Him in exactly the way He would have them serve! So if we can truly pray the prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," not only will God answer by giving us the grace of contentment, but He will also enable us to see that what He has given is His will, and we will be able to glorify and serve Him with that amount.
Now if we take these points to heart, and govern all that we do by these principles, then we are guarding against covetousness, and therefore also against gambling. Then we will use our time, money, and possessions in a legitimate way, to God's glory, and manifest thereby our thankfulness to Him for all that He has done for us.
And the power to do this we can find in Christ our Savior, who is the faithful steward of all that God has given Him.
Responding in these ways, Christians and the church of Jesus Christ can win the battle against gambling. Perhaps we can win battles in the political arena. Perhaps not. The world will not always hear or appreciate hearing our perspective. But we can win the battle in our own hearts, and so manifest more and more that we are also faithful stewards and servants of God.
Let us do this, to God's glory!
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>1. Cf. Dr. James Dobson, "Family News from Focus on the Family," January 1999 and April 1999 issues. Dr. Dobson personally studied the effects of gambling when Congress appointed him to serve on the National Gambling Impact Study Commission from 1997 to 1999. Although I will not make further reference to these letters, the reader may be assured that they are full of statistics that support assertions that I make in this pamphlet. I encourage the interested reader to obtain past copies of them, if they are available, from Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995.
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