onthly memory verse: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5).
Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,
I hope this letter finds you and yours healthy in body and soul, filled with the joy of the Lord’s salvation, and seeking His glory as you go through another week.  It was a delight to praise Him with you this past Lord’s Day, and I have been praying for you in the time since.  As we have gathered the past few Sundays, a few of you have mentioned the recent legalization of online gambling in North Carolina, with online ads and billboards popping up everywhere, and asked for a biblical response.  That being the case, the following is a bit of my rationale for believing that gambling, while not explicitly forbidden in Scripture with a verse that says, “Thou shalt not gamble,” should nonetheless be prohibited and avoided as a good and necessary consequence of biblical teaching.
In the first place, the Lord warns us against the love of money.  For example, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs,” and, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (1 Tim 6:10).  See also Ecclesiastes 5:10.  Of course, this alone wouldn’t be enough to prohibit gambling, as one might well respond that it is at least theoretically possible to engage in gambling without loving or coveting money, instead doing it as a form of recreation.  However, it is a worthwhile caution, given that, while one might conceptually simply be seeking entertainment, the thrill of possibly gaining a sizable sum of money with a bet is obviously what drives many, if not most, of those who engage in gambling to do so.
In the second place, the Lord warns us against seeking to gain wealth quickly.  “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (Prov 13:11).  The word translated “hastily” can be translated “meaninglessly” or “vainly” – that is, without the normal, diligent effort required to acquire money and property.  A different word, more directly meaning “makes haste” or hurries” is used in Proverbs 28:19-20, which says, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.  A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.”  The principle in such instruction is that the Lord has instituted a natural means of acquiring money and property that we’re not to attempt to circumvent with schemes designed to gain wealth speedily, without investing the corresponding labor or skill to attain it.  And further, that those who attempt to find a loophole displease the Lord and will find themselves not richer but poorer for doing so.
In the third place, the Lord instructs us to provide for ourselves and our families, and to serve Him and do good to others, through honest and diligent work.  Thus, the Apostle Paul speaks of the example he himself set during his time among the Thessalonians, writing, “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess 3:7-10).  He further instructs the Thessalonians, “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thess 4:10).  Further, in telling those who formerly sought money in wicked ways to bear fruit in keeping with repentance, he says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph 4:28).  All of this is simply a reiterating of the fact that, from creation and continuing after the fall, man is called to labor in order to enjoy the profit of his toil (cf. Gen 2:15; 3:17-19).  In this way, he is to provide for his household, support the work of the ministry, and to do good to others as he is able (cf. 1 Tim 5:8; 1 Cor 9:13-15; 1 Cor 16:2; 1 Tim 6:18; Heb 13:16; 1 Tim 6:17-19).  Throughout the Word, then, it is plain that the Lord intends for us to work to gain the money we desire, and to use that money to meet our own and our families’ needs, to share in the work of the gospel, and to help those who are in need, which hardly seems compatible with risking it by gambling in hopes of cashing in quickly.
More might be said, but the above would seem to be sufficient to establish a reasonable case that needlessly risking one’s money in hopes of speedy gain, rather than laboring to earn an income and then using it wisely for God’s glory and people’s good, runs directly against the grain of Scripture.  The Lord calls us to worship Him alone and to honor the means He has established, condemning those who would welcome the “gods” of Chance and Destiny into their thinking, hopes, and lives (cf. Isa 65:11).  He prohibits stealing, which is effectively what gambling institutions and states who profit from them do when they greedily entice people to wager away their wealth by engaging in a high-risk activity that produces far more losses than gains for its participants.  He warns against pursuing riches without exhorting ourselves to earn it by means of some reasonable exchange of services, knowledge, goods, and so on.  He speaks of the poverty and punishment that come to those who ignore His wise counsel and give themselves to such pursuits in spite of the His instruction.  Who then can think it a good or wise thing to gamble with whatever wealth He is pleased to provide us?  What argument can be made for it providing some positive good to society, or for its needing to be a lawful scheme that organizations and states ought to be able to undertake?  Wherever gambling has gone it has brought with it poverty, broken marriages and homes, and other vices such as drunkenness into which the weak are all too prone to fall.  All of this being so, the burden would seem to lie on the advocate for the approval and / or legalization of gambling to make a case for its biblical compatibility and benefit in promoting human flourishing.
In sum, while no single chapter and verse can be cited that explicitly and succinctly declares gambling as a sin by name, its basic antagonism to God’s given means of gaining wealth, His strict warnings against trying to short-circuit the process, and His instruction about how money is to be used, seem to establish it as a good and necessary consequence of biblical teaching that gambling ought to be viewed as something that is out of bounds for the Christian, and that ought to be outlawed by the state.  As enticing ads continue to increase, may the Lord give us the wisdom and discernment to think through this and like matters by employing the whole counsel of God.  May He grant repentance to those who would defraud others of their wealth by wooing them to gamble it away, and to those who would defraud themselves and the people they’re called to support and help by buying the lie that easy gain is only one well-placed bet away.  And, may the diligence and stability of those who heed His instructions and warnings serve as a light to guide others to the wisdom of the Lord, in whom true blessing and lasting benefit are found.
In Christ,
Pastor Eric
Join us for the prayer meeting each Wednesday in the Fellowship Hall.  Dinner is served at 6:00pm, followed by a brief lesson and a time of prayer at 6:30.  Or, join us for prayer each Thursday at 10:30am in the adult Sunday School room.Click Here to Visit Our WebsiteCopyright (C) 2024 Covenant of Grace ARP Church. All rights reserved.
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