Did you know that you have a greater chance of being killed by a vending machine (one in 112 million) than winning the Powerball lottery?

Against the Odds

Indeed, millions of people play Powerball, Mega Millions and other lotteries that don’t want people to know they’re far more likely to be struck by lightning than to win.  The odds of winning a major lottery like Powerball are one in 292 million.  The odds of being hit by lightning are only one in 15,300. 

The odds are not great, either, in casinos, which operate according to the adage that “the house always wins.”  Aw, so what – it’s only “gaming.”

Whenever someone minimizes the reality of a sin (or vice), the first thing they do is to change the term to something more palatable.

That’s how gambling, long considered a societal vice, became “gaming.”

In fact, the name switch might be regarded as an example of “gaming the system,” or getting around the rules.  But whether it’s “gambling” or “gaming,” it’s a sketchy pursuit.

Under the rubric of Stewardship, Timothy Plan’s website says this:

“GAMBLING: We are called to be wise stewards with all that God has given us— not as one who gambles away his money or brings himself to ruin. This screen identifies gambling-related activities, including equipment manufacturers, casinos, riverboats, cruise lines, racetracks, and gambling software.”

The Bible – No Friend to Gambling

While there’s no Bible verse expressly calling “gambling” a sin, many verses certainly point out that our gains are to be fruits of our labor.

Proverbs 13:11 warns that “Wealth gotten by vanity (or “hastily” in some translations) shall be diminished, but he that gathereth by labor shall increase.” (KJV)

Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul explains that, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (NKJV)

Like any vice, gambling has the power of being addictive, which explains why so many people seek out groups like Gamblers Anonymous after having lost their life’s savings or ruptured family trust.

Jesus encourages good stewardship in many ways, one of the most memorable of which is his rebuke of the lazy servant in Matthew 25: 14-30.   Having left three servants with differing amounts in their trust, he returned and found that two of the three had invested the money and returned it to Him with earnings, while the third merely buried it. 

Jesus minces no words, ordering that the “wicked and slothful servant” be cast “into outer darkness.”

The parable is about much more than money, since we’re commanded to use all of our talents and abilities to further the kingdom of God.  But it’s a powerful reminder not to waste what we’re given.  It all comes from God and we are accountable.

Since gamblers nearly always lose, they throw away money that could have been more wisely spent.

The Investing Difference

Some people have suggested that investing in the stock market is a form of gambling.  But they ignore a crucial difference:  gambling is all about winners and losers.  Someone gains, but only at someone else’s expense. There’s nothing productive going on.

Investing in a company that issues returns reflecting the health and success of the company is a win-win, not a zero-sum game like gambling.  It helps build capital so businesses can be launched and expanded, resulting in a profitable, growing economy, which ultimately benefits everyone.

A market-based economy is essential for securing all of our other cherished liberties, such as freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the press, and property rights. 

“In fact, America would not be America without a way to invest our money,” Mr. Ally says.  “And, if done wisely, it provides a way to give back.” 

Bad Consequences

Gambling has many negative outcomes, as chronicled in a study by Baylor University Economics Prof. Earl L. Grinols, “The Hidden Social Costs of Gambling,” published by the university’s Center for Christian Ethics:

Business and employment costs include lost productivity on the job, lost work time, and unemployment-related employer costs (such as retraining workers or searching for replacement workers). Bankruptcy imposes costs on society in the form of legal and other resources expended.

Suicide imposes costs on families and the wider society as well as ending the life of despondent gamblers.

Illness related to pathological gambling has been reported to include stress-related sickness, cardiovascular disorders, anxiety, depression, and cognitive disorders.

Social service costs are unemployment, treatment costs, and other social services and payments related to gambling.

Direct regulatory costs relate to government oversight of gambling and the gambling industry.

Family costs include divorce, separation, child abuse and neglect. Domestic violence is also related to gambling disorders.

Abused dollars are dollars obtained improperly but not reported as a crime. Often this is the case because the money or property is stolen by a relative or friend.

In addition, communities that legalize gambling see a rise in all manner of crimes, from prostitution to rapes, muggings, larceny, substance abuse and car thefts. 

“Gambling’s for Fools”

The Bible has many verses about the advantages of working hard, but you won’t find support for “get rich quick” schemes, the soul of gambling.

In his “Biblical Stewardship” curricula, Timothy Plan founder and CEO Art Ally explains why money – all money – belongs to God and why it’s so important to Him.  He begins with some verses establishing the relationship.

In Genesis 1:28, God appoints man and woman as stewards over all of his creation:

“Then God blessed them, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (NIV)

Psalm 8 says: “You made him ruler over the works of his hands; you put everything under his feet; all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field.”  (NIV)

1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “Now, it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (NIV) 

Stewardship “isn’t a subcategory of the Christian life,” Mr. Ally writes. “It is the Christian life. “

He elaborates: “A steward is someone entrusted with another’s wealth or property and charged with the responsibility of managing it in the owner’s best interest.”

Would gambling fit under that definition?

“Gambling’s for fools,” Mr. Ally says. “Anyone can do the math. Las Vegas was not built on winners.”

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