It says that you are “better off” not to. Actually, there is no verse that specifically addresses the subject of gambling (playing the Lottery), so how do we come to the conclusion that gambling is something that can become sin in one’s life? First of all, we had best define gambling. Gambling (playing the Lottery) is an activity, based on chance, in which one risks the loss of money or some other valuable in order to earn a reward.
When the Word of God does not speak directly about something, we must then look for biblical principles that are applicable to determining whether it is right or wrong. Before we do that, however, it is important to understand why the Bible would not have a verse specifically condoning or forbidding gambling. Although we may not know all the reasons, one of them is that a large part of everything we do in life involves a “gamble,” a calculated risk. Let’s look at some common examples of the gambles in life. When a farmer puts a crop in early to get the advantage of early sales, he risks losing his investment to a Spring rain washout. When a person in business “gambles” money in an advertising campaign, he risks losing his investment. When a General takes a chance that an end-around maneuver will catch the enemy off guard, he is risking the lives of the men on that mission. When a person looks at some food that has been in the refrigerator long past the expiration date, does not want to waste it, and thinks, “It is probably okay,” he gambles that the food will not make him sick (or worse). Taking risks is an inherent part of life (Ecc. 11:6).
Another reason that gambling is not mentioned specifically in the Bible is that there are times when it blends into entertainment in a manner that is neither harmful nor sinful. Everyone who has ever gone to a movie because “the advertisement looked good,” but then hated it and was sorry he spent money on it, has experienced that kind of gambling, or risk taking. If people are playing a game, and they all agree that “the loser buys dinner,” that is gambling, but usually not a sin. Many things that are not harmful in some circumstances, such as eating, sleeping, drinking wine or alcohol, or sex, are both sinful and harmful in other circumstances.
It seems clear from the nature of life that gambling is sometimes a sin and sometimes not. Therefore, we should examine the Word of God for the biblical principles that would govern gambling. The overarching principle of life is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Also, Scripture tells us, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom” (Prov. 4:7). In contrast to these things, the vast majority of gambling today, in casinos, card games, horse racing, sporting events, or in the lottery, is not a demonstration of love for God, love for neighbor, or even just plain wisdom. Rather, it is based on greed and the idea that our money is ours to do with as we please. For Christians, the reality is that the resources we have are from God, and we are to steward them in service to Him.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the people on earth do not live their lives as if they will be held accountable for what they do. This is pure foolishness, for the Bible tells us over and over that there is a coming Judgment, when we will be held accountable for what we do.
2 Corinthians 5:10 (KJV)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Many people have the attitude, “It is my money, and if I lose it gambling, so what?” However, it is not “my money.” Everything we have, including our very lives, belongs to God, and we are to use our time and possessions for His glory. Scripture says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). God expects us to honor Him in all we do, and He will hold us accountable if we do not live that way.
Many people who think nothing of gambling $20 at the horse track in hopes of a big win have not considered how much that money would mean to a poor family in a third world country. Similarly, someone who takes just $5 from his paycheck every Friday to buy a lottery ticket “to win big,” demonstrates a profound lack of wisdom—the wisdom God says we are to hold supreme. Many people who do that die broke, but that same $5 per week, if invested over a 40-year work life (age 20-60) would be worth more than $55,000. Extend that just 5 years (age 20-65) and it would be worth more than $80,000 (7% Interest rate). Saving money systematically during our working years requires vision and discipline, and our country would be much better off if people would quit wasting their resources trying to get rich quick.
Another problem with participating in organized gambling like at casinos or the racetrack is that it supports the gambling industry, which is responsible for ruining countless lives. Research shows that the social costs of gambling are huge, and many studies indicate that these costs are greater than whatever profits gamblers make. Anyone can go to a meeting of Gamblers Anonymous or Gam-Anon (for friends or family of addicted gamblers) and hear the stories of ruined lives, broken families, and failed businesses that always accompany the gambling industry. So if a Christian participates in organized gambling, he is not just involved with harmless fun or entertainment, because the lives of people we should love as we love ourselves are being badly hurt.
In light of what the Word of God says about how we as Christians are to live our lives with a total commitment to God, we should ask ourselves if there is really any benefit to even a little social gambling. If we win, we have taken money from someone without giving him anything in return. If we lose, we waste money we could have used for a godly purpose.
Scripture has a lot to say about money and wealth, and it is noteworthy that although gambling occurred in the biblical cultures, no godly man or woman is ever shown participating. Furthermore, though the Bible has many verses on gaining wealth, none mention gaining wealth by winning at gambling. The Christian will be better off in this life and the next if he avoids gambling and wisely invests his money and/or gives it to godly causes.