Since the dawn of time man has pondered the question – are we good or bad? What is our inherent state of being and is it our actions that define us or rather the traits of our character that we are born with? This has proved too much of an issue to solve and man has come up with a moral code that would define our actions.
One perpetual source of guidance has been the bible. Whether you subscribe to a belief or consider yourself an agnostic or even an atheist, the bible holds universal human truths that we accept without a creed.
Therefore, it’s only natural that we ask ourselves, what does the bible say about gambling, and does it state if gambling is a sin?
Mum the Word: Gambling Not Really a Topic in the Bible
Surprisingly or perhaps not so much, the bible makes no explicit mention of gambling, although it does suggest how God feels about the whole institution. It’s mostly a matter of discussing greed and how it affects us and leads us away from the righteous path. One of the lines about avarice in the bible is written down by Luke in 12:15 when he cautions us to “guard against every sort of greed.”
This brings a more important question, is gambling a form of entertainment? Per modern definition, casinos are designed to specifically entertain the body and mind, although it’s easy to see why some people would consider the profligate lifestyle such establishments invite as sin.
Yet to decry casinos as the devil’s work may be a little over the top. Of course, there is a didactic line from the bible we could use to describe the whole institution of gambling. “The love of money,” does come to mind. In Hebrews 13:5, we are advised to “keep [our] life free from love of money.”
But this brings up the next question, is gambling truly about greed? Studies have shown that win or lose, people are triggered by the idea of playing, not so much the prospect of winning a big jackpot, which defeats the biblical argument for man’s love of gold, and in this case, money.
There is a grain of truth in man’s love for gold, however, and it’s definitely a lasting motif in the bible. If left unsupervised, man tends to turn to what the bible considers false gods. The first such instance is cited in Exodus 32:4 when Moses ventures to Mount Sinai and the Israelites left without guidance begin to adore the “Golden Calf.”
Good Luck Doesn’t Exist, It’s All Part of God’s Plan
Interestingly, the bible does talk about another element that plays an inherent part in gambling, luck. Is luck the mysterious workings of a force that lies beyond God himself or is it something completely different?
We find an answer in Isaiah 65:11 we learn how in Ancient Israel, people paid homage to the God of Luck, a false idol, which Christian God was displeased with. “You kept doing what was bad in my eyes, and you chose what displeased me.”
So, if it’s all providence and luck has nothing to do with it, does it mean that your gambling pastime is God’s will or a challenge that you ought to overcome to achieve the divine? It’s a matter of perspective. Mark 8:36 rhetorically asks “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Depending on your philosophical and religious bent, you can look at this statement as a source of morality or a black feather in the divine equilibrium of your soul. Put this way, your soul is your ability to subscribe to and uphold ethical standards that are found in the bible and have been preached by Christianity.
For the Straightforward Pathway Had Been Lost
In Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, and specifically Inferno, Virgil writes “Midway upon the journey of our life. I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost.” Many agree that it’s the clumsier of the two translations, but the more beautiful one, too.
In any event, Virgil had lost the straightforward pathway, as he calls it, and begins his descent into the nine circles of hell. The bible similarly describes the reason for man’s fall as the love of money, the source of all “injurious things.”
Then, this motif continues to keep coming back up throughout the bible with the book warning us about the inherent downsides of embracing a life in which one’s love for material things rules over one’s fate. “A lover of silver will never be satisfied with silver, nor a lover of wealth with income.”
It’s true that in today’s world wealth leads to more wealth, and people who accumulate it are often tempted to amass even bigger fortunes. Yet, whether the whole institution of gambling is a sinful business remains under question.
Some would decry gambling based on religious principles alone or after having witnessed what has happened to close one. However, one uncomfortable truth remains, it’s our own ability to control our actions or, at the very least, seek help, that matters the most and offers salvation, usually from ourselves.