Wisdom Wednesday

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

As I write the front cover of the Sydney Morning Herald is dominated by the conversation around poker machines. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that in any given month approx. 40% of Australians will participate in gambling. For some it is nothing more than a frivolous entertainment. For others it is a crippling addiction.

How should Christians think about gambling? What are the ethics of gambling. What does the Bible say?

Well, like so many things, the Bible has no specific dot point or pointed passage but rather gives us a framework to think about gambling.

The first is that we must flee from the love of money (Hebrews 13:5, Luke 12:15, 1 Timothy 6:10). So much of gambling is in the hope of striking it rich. People want a quick and easy way to financial security. The Bible warns us against this. We are to trust God that He provides as we do honest work.

Secondly, we are to be other-person centred. We love our neighbour. Some forms of gambling are built on taking money from others. Christians should be conscious of this and consider the dangers of taking from vulnerable others. I’m thinking here of online poker for instance. We should also take into account the dangers of supporting an industry that is so harmful to others. Yes, I understand there are many others. But perhaps none so clear as gambling.

Thirdly, we are to be faithful stewards with the money God has given us. One of the hallmarks of gambling is the risk versus reward. Playing against the house is always weighted against you. Is this the best use of the money God has given you?

Finally, we must differentiate between gambling and investment. The parable of the talents found in the gospel accounts give some space for investment. And yes, there is a risky element to investing. But often it is a more known risk. And we should be wise to stay away again from aiming to get rich off excessively risky investments. But we should also know that investing is a helpful way of supporting good society.

So. Summary? Don’t gamble to make money. Don’t gamble in ways that harm others. Don’t gamble with large sums. Invest money wisely so that you can be generous now and into the future, trusting God that He provides.

For Today:
  • Have you ever had a gambling problem? Do you struggle with it?
  • Where does this framework leave you in terms of the ethics of gambling?
  • How are you going with your stewardship of money? Does anything need to change?
Pray: Praise the Father that He is sovereign and provides for His people. Give thanks for Jesus who offers us true contentment in Him. Ask God for His Holy Spirit that He would help you and others flee from the love of money and pursue good stewardship.
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