Last week it was announced in our local newspaper that a citizen of the county had won the lottery. The woman will receive $50,000 a year for the rest of her life. She bought the winning ticket at our WalMart Super Center. She said that she usually buys one ticket per week but decided to splurge for two the day of the purchase. It was that second ticket that hit the jackpot. Stories such as this one keep people buying lottery tickets. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that playing the lottery is gambling and the Bible teaches that gambling is not of God.
Perhaps your response is, “Oh, come on, Russell. What’s wrong with having a little fun? I can buy a lottery ticket every now and then, go to a casino a couple of weekends a year, or put some money on the ballgame, and it not be a big deal.” Well, my friend, it is a big deal with God. Let me take the Bible and give you four solid reasons why He hates gambling.
Reason #1: God hates gambling because it shows a lack of contentment (1 Timothy 6:6-10, Philippians 4:11-12, Hebrews 13:5, and Exodus 20:17). When you gamble, you are, in essence, saying to God, “I am not content with the financial situation in which you have me. I want more money.” The subject of discontentment can be traced back beyond the tenth commandment, all the way back to the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve coveted the fruit from the one tree that God had deemed off limits to them.
Reason #2: God hates gambling because it involves get-rich-quick schemes (Proverbs 28:20,22; Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 13:11). The Bible never promotes such schemes. Instead, it consistently promotes hard work, good stewardship, and even wise investing.
Reason #3: God hates gambling because it exploits the poor (Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 28:27; Proverbs 29:7; Psalm 41:1). Did you know there are many more lottery outlets in poor neighborhoods than in higher income areas? Did you know that on those days when welfare checks arrive around this country, long lines form around the stores that sell lottery tickets? Did you know that in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, the Illinois state lottery rented billboards that showed a lottery ticket and the caption, “This could be your ticket out of poverty”? In gambling, for one person to win, other people must lose. And what category of people can least afford to hand over money and get nothing in return? That would be poor people.
Reason #4: God hates gambling because it frequently destroys peoples’ lives (Proverbs 24:1-2; Ephesians 5:11). Ungodly people and their industries work to tear down society rather than build it, and the Bible tells us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11). But how does the gambling industry tear down society? First, gambling leads to an increased crime rate. Studies have shown that while casinos initially bring short-term economic benefits, property crimes take a sharp rise by the fourth year. Second, gambling leads to addiction. A survey done by two Duke University professors found that 10% of those who buy lottery tickets are compulsive gamblers who account for a whopping 50% of all money bet on lotteries. It’s also been proven that people are twice as likely to become problem gamblers if a casino is located within fifty miles of their home. Third, gambling leads to what we might call “a culture of destruction.” One survey of compulsive gamblers found that 22% had divorced because of gambling, 49% had stolen from an employer to pay gambling debts, and 79% said they wanted to die. Fourth, gambling leads to a demise in local business. Show me $50 that was spent on lottery tickets, and I’ll show you $50 that wasn’t spent in local stores on groceries, gasoline, clothes, or dinner.
The fact is, the gambling industry is a dirty business that thrives off peoples’ pain. Evidence of this is seen in the pawnshops that are frequently located near casinos. One pawnshop owner in Reno, Nevada has actually displayed a jar of gold-filled human teeth that his customers have pulled and pawned. Why would we want to have anything to do with an industry that causes people to do such a thing?
Matthew 27:35 is an interesting verse on this whole subject. It says of Jesus and the Roman soldiers: “Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, ‘They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.'” Even while God in the flesh was giving His all in dying for the sins of mankind, sinful men were engaging in the equivalent of “shooting dice” to see who would get His clothes. Instead of recognizing what Christ was doing for them, their attention was focused upon gambling. Sadly, there is something about that scene that makes me say, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
Ah, but here comes the cry, “But so many people are doing it.” Well, a lot of people are cheating on their spouses too, but that doesn’t make it right. A lot of people are abusing their kids, but that doesn’t make it right. A lot of people are watching pornography, but that doesn’t make it right. Therefore, let’s have none of this argument that says that gambling must be okay because so many people are doing it. That argument is nothing but a lie. The hard, cold truth of the matter is that God hates gambling, and it’s about time that message started being heard.