November 2, 2005
When I was a kid, growing up in the 1950's gambling was a bad, bad thing! Even the police hated gambling. I remember that I would see in the Newspaper where the police would periodically raid some store-front back room and clean out a den of old men playing cards for money. Or, if the police were really sharp they would find some back room full of roulette wheels and slot machines. Then the story would be on the six o'clock news with pictures of all the loot the police had confiscated.
Being an ignorant youngster and hearing gambling put down in the Newspapers, at church and by my family, I began to wonder about it. All the other terrible sins left a trail of dead bodies, robbed banks, burned buildings and other very convincing evidence that sin was sin. But gambling didn't seem to leave behind anything that a kid could put his finger on. It just appeared that people were playing games and the winners got paid for winning.
So one day I asked an adult why gambling was such a bad sin. Eyebrows kind of went up right away. The answer I got went something like this. "Gambling is terrible! It's wicked! It's awful! It makes children go hungry, families break up! It brings in bad things!"
It seems then that I asked which of the Ten Commandments gambling violated. All the other sins seemed to break one of those Commandments. The adults, I asked, seemed a bit irritated that I would press my query any further when everyone knew that gambling was terrible. And I realized that my curiosity was just making the adults irritable. In those times children were expected to believe what they were told. The word of an adult was infallible, and not to be closely questioned. So I went back to wondering, on my own.
Many years went by. And gambling began to gain stature in the world. Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City became more acceptable destinations. As a young adult I went to work for the Federal Government at a research facility. When I signed on I was told that the Government would not tolerate employees gambling or wagering. But, on the very first day in the office I was introduced to the 2 P.M. coke brake game. The men all flipped coins to see who would buy everyone else a coke that day, out of the vending machine. When I refused to participate, I felt a bit of something in the air, a tiny bit of rejection. But I remembered that this was against the rules, even though everyone did it...even the bosses!
When the men asked me why I wouldn't play the game, I decided not to use the Government employee rules as my excuse, because I could tell that they didn't want to work with anyone who was a stickler for following regulations. And I knew that I had a deeper reason. I was a person of faith in Jesus. And even though I didn't really know exactly why gambling was a sin, in my spirit I knew that God was not in favor of gambling. And so I decided to tell the men that it was a "religious conviction" that I would not gamble, even for small change.
Because the men were all aeronautical engineers with degrees in science my answer was not satisfying. They wanted to know exactly why I believed what I believed. "Where in the Bible does it say, gambling is a sin?" They had inquiring minds and they truly wanted to know. And I truly didn't know! I knew that there was gambling in the Bible. The Roman Soldiers gambled for Jesus' personal effects at the cross. So at least I could say that when gambling did appear in the Bible that it was not a humanitarian and charitable work.
I made it a matter of prayer. I called out to the Lord. And even though I was a very weak, impure and immature believer God had mercy on me! God gave me a revelation. The Lord revealed to me that I was to cut in on their game, on a certain day, and that I was to buy them all a soda for free. HE also revealed to me which of the Ten Commandments that gambling broke and exactly why it is a sin.
When everyone went down stairs to the break room that day I went right to the soda machine first and began flooding the vending machine with a pocket full of dimes, quarters and nickels, asking each engineer to select his favorite drink. Their faces all fell. "This is no fun," somebody said! My generosity rained on their parade, and they were caught off guard. These brainy men couldn't figure out why I would willingly part with my money, when I wouldn't willingly join in their game of chance. On this eventful day there was no loser, that they could all laugh at and make fun of! I made everyone a winner and they didn't like it one bit!
Gambling does indeed cause some people to exploit their families, rob their loved ones and strip themselves of needed resources of life. But that is not the core sin of gambling. There are people who can gamble and keep their gambling totally disciplined and within limits. Their love of gambling is not allowed to get out of control. But, God revealed that gambling is truly sin! Here's what the Lord showed me.
God began HIS revelation with a question? "Do people ever enter into some game of chance saying to themselves, 'I can hardly wait! I'm so excited! I'm going to lose some money!'"
You would be very hard pressed to find anyone with that attitude. Everyone I've ever met who was about to gamble always entered the game with the hope that they would win. They had no desire to lose. Their desire was to win! That is what attracted them to the game, the chance of winning, the chance of carrying away winnings, gaining money, gaining riches.
No one who gambles desires to lose! They desire to win. Then the Lord defined gambling. Gambling is an agreement between various people that by chance, by a game of odds a few will be allowed to fleece the many. This is a form of robbery because no one enters a game of chance determined to lose. They enter determined to win. And for that reason, when the many lose they are robbed. They give up their money, or other valuables either grudgingly or at least without great joy, for they were hoping to be the winner of the riches, not the loser of riches.
At the root then, gambling violates two of the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not steal." [Exodus 20:15], and "Thou shalt not covet..." [Exodus 20:17] All of the other negative side effects of gambling are simply evil fruits produced by theft and covetousness.