Gambling and Jesus

In examining the virtues surrounding Ohio’s Issue 3, we first have to examine the subject of gambling from a spiritual perspective.

There are those denominations, the Methodist Church being the most passionate, who decry gambling as sin. I would suggest that this view is most influenced by that movement’s founder, John Wesley, who held gambling as a vice akin to alcohol; Wesley viewed gambling as a corruptive practice that preyed on the poor. There are others today who claim that the Bible declares gambling to be a sin. This view is problematic as there is no specific verse that condemns the action; true, there are verses that decry the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10) but there are those who never gamble who have violated this provision. There are also verses that speak against attempting to “get rich quick” (Proverbs 10:4) but this could also be applied to playing the stock market. Using these kinds of verses to construct a biblical command like, "gambling is sin," is poor hermeneutic (biblical application). These biblical texts, and others like them, ultimately instruct the believer to avoid the idolatry of money worship— again, something that people who have never gambled can be guilty of.

In short, there is no biblical provision prohibiting government-instituted gambling. There is also no biblical provision that prevents a Christian from gambling. And while it should be acknowledged that Christians should practice moderation in all things (addiction to anything is sinful) this is not a sufficient reason by which to oppose gambling on biblical grounds. Our country’s history has taught us that simply enacting prohibition does not eliminate the problem*

And while I’m on this point, we Christians must be careful of criticizing those who gamble because there are people who can both enjoy it and refrain from becoming addicted to it; it can be a perfectly fine hobby.

I’ll admit, as an ordained minister, that I have gambled before. I don’t do it often or in large amounts because I do not find it enjoyable to flush my money down the toilet. On the other hand, there was a time in my life where I passionate about golfing. I bought golf clubs, magazines, lessons, and played frequently, all of which were not inexpensive. No one would criticize devotion to golf, or boating, or traveling or animal ownership as sinful. Yet all of these activities, like gambling, could be considered to be a waste of money.

So gambling is not necessarily anti-Christian.

I believe it important to distinguish this idea because too often opponents of gambling are dismissed for being prudish or attempting to impose their personal morality on others. As a result, their objections are ignored and the true issues behind them are never explored. I can be a Christian and be opposed to Issue 3 without having to state that, “God says it’s bad.” And you, as a Christian, have every right to disagree with me.

But what I hope to do as I continue this thread is to convince you that Issue 3 is not the best thing for our community— and to do so without having to pull spiritual rank.


*There are Christians who will counter this objection to prohibition by taking it to the extreme, suggesting then that we shouldn’t prohibit anything at all. That position is ridiculous, and I’m not going to go into that in this post.