Should Christians Gamble?

Show Notes:

Matt: J.D., as we’re recording gambling was just legalized in North Carolina this month, like it has been in 37 other states. That has us wondering – is gambling a sin?

J.D.: Some of our long-time listeners might remember us talking about this 2 years ago, but we thought given its popularity, we’d revisit it. So, look, the reality is that gambling is a HUGE deal right now, especially for young people. If you don’t understand, here are a few numbers:

  • At least 20% of the American population has or does participate in sports betting.
  • More than 30 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds nationwide do.
  • The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) conducted a study on college campuses just last year:
    • • 58% of the respondents (college students) have participated in at least one sports betting activity, though the NCAA includes fantasy sports in its definition of sports betting.
  • The NCAA examined what it determined risky behaviors, including betting a few times a week or daily; betting $50 or more on a typical bet, or losing more than $500 betting sports in a single day. The survey found that 16% of 18-22-year-olds had engaged in at least one of the risky behaviors.
  • The National Council estimates 3 to 4 percent of the population, about 9 million Americans, experience “problem gambling.”
    • And those that do have a 20 percent higher risk of suicide.

So is it morally wrong to gamble?

    • Gambling can seem harmless. You throw a little bit of money on a sporting event, on a slot machine, or on a lottery ticket… what’s the harm in that?
    • I am going to draw distinction… Vegas type stuff and a $20 office pool
    • The issue of gambling is not small in our society. 
    • Gambling is at least a $44 billion dollar industry in the US – and that’s just the legal gambling, to say nothing of off-the-books gambling.In fact, as more and more states legalize gambling, it’s getting worse.
    • Some studies say up to 10% (6-9%) of young adults experience problems related to gambling.
    • But gambling has some big moral ramifications. 
    • 3 primary problems with it: 
      • First, it goes against the work ethic in Scripture. 
        • The Bible has a lot to say about honorable work. There’s always chance, but work creates value: win/win. Gambling by definition is win/lose.
        • What about the stock market? It’s “risky,” you can win big or lose big. Parable of talents, win big and Jesus commended it. Yes, but even there you are adding value. There’s another kind of playing the stock market that is more speculative and more like gambling.
        • Al Mohler says: “Gambling severs the dignity of work from the hope of financial gain, offering the hope of riches without labor, and reward without dignity.”
  • Second, the gambling industry intentionally takes advantage of the poor. 
      • Grudem: Every single study shows that the largest group of gamblers are those in the lowest financial brackets.It’s no accident that there are so many lottery ticket outlets in low-income areas. 
      • One study I read shows that “problem gambling” – which we mentioned earlier – is twice as likely to be an issue for those in the lowest-income areas than it is anywhere else. 
      • There’s a certain desperation to turn around their financial situation, and the gambling industry knows that and plays into it. Any honest politician will tell you that lotteries draw most of their money from the poor, seducing them out of their money on the chance of getting rich
  • Third, gambling is addictive. 
    • That little hit of dopamine from a gambling “win” leads your brain to want more… and more… and more. Just like with any other addiction.
    • Studies show that “where gambling businesses are established, crime rates increase.”
  • So… should you gamble at all?
    • Honestly, you need to use your own personal judgment on this. I realize it may sound ultra-spiritual, but this is exactly the kind of issue where the Holy Spirit will guide us… what may feel totally right to one believer may feel morally wrong to another. 
    • So walk in freedom, but also in wisdom and with love for others and their weaknesses, too.

Matt:  Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and be sure to check out YouTube and subscribe @J.D.Greear.


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