November 18, 2017

The Highest Form of Selfishness

Morris D. Hunsucker Sr.

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:1).

Not long ago, I heard a friend of mine say, “There is no prohibition in the Bible against gambling.” My almost instant response was, “Haven’t you ever read the Tenth Commandment? How is it possible to gamble and not be guilty of coveting something that belongs to your neighbor?” I did not intend to sound mean, but I do not understand why so many Christian people today are trying to rationalize and legitimize the deadly and dangerous vice of gambling. You would not believe all the foolish and silly statements I have heard from those attempting to justify their lustful desire to “win” something that belongs to someone else. Here are four I hear most often:

  1. “I don’t think it’s a sin unless it becomes an addiction.” Are you saying that it is fine for a man to gamble until he is addicted, but then he should quit? How will he be able to stop after gambling becomes an addiction? If you realize that gambling is addictive, why not avoid it altogether?
  2. “If I win, I’ll tithe, and that would really benefit the church.” So, you would not rob the Lord, but you would attempt to bribe Him. Will the Lord ignore or excuse your sin because you gave some of the proceeds to the church?
  3. “I don’t gamble all the time. I buy only one lottery ticket a year—and then only if the prize goes over 100 million dollars.” The greater the stakes, the greater the odds and the greater the certainty that you will lose. You are not a “smart gambler” because you wager only occasionally. You are just as foolish as the hard-core addict.
  4. “It’s just an innocent form of entertainment.” There is nothing innocent or virtuous about the gambling industry. Gambling has laid waste to many a man’s fortune. It has ruined countless marriages and taken food from the mouths of thousands of children. It has plunged many into despair and desperation and caused many others to take their own lives.

Gambling is a sin because it violates the standard of Biblical law in Exodus 20:17 and is in direct opposition to many other Biblical principles. There are at least ten sound Biblical reasons that the Christian should have nothing to do with gambling.

First, gambling is a clear violation of the principle of stewardship. Using that which the Lord has provided to support the gambling industry is not good stewardship. Afaithful steward does not waste the money or resources which the Lord has provided by taking chances or “playing the odds” (Luke 16:9–12; 1 Cor. 4:2; Luke 6:38; 1 Pet. 4:10).

Second, gambling is a clear violation of the principle of industry. God honors labor and supplies the laborer with his daily needs. The Bible has a name for those who want “something for nothing.” They are called “slothful” and “sluggards,” and they are always condemned in the Scripture. Idle dreamers do not want to work and wait; they’d rather risk and waste their future on a wish (Rom. 12:11; Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:10–12; Prov. 10:4; 12:11, 24, 27; 13:4; 18:9; 19:15; 26:16; 28:19–22).

Third, gambling is a clear violation of the principle of contentment. The Christian is to be satisfied and content with that which the Lord has given him. Those who seek “great gain” through gambling may want to read 1 Timothy 6:6 again: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” The man who is not content with little will not be content with great riches. Contentment is a matter of the heart, not the pocketbook (Phil. 4:11, 12; 1 Tim. 6:6–12; Prov. 23:4–5).

Fourth, gambling is a clear violation of the principle of self-control. Gambling is dangerously addictive and can quickly become a controlling master. No gambler ever intended to end up wagering his life savings on a game of chance, but that is just what happens in gambling halls across America every day (Prov. 25:28; Titus 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:5–7; Gal. 5:22, 23).

Fifth, gambling is a clear violation of the Lord’s command that we live holy lives above reproach. Gambling does not become the life of a saint of God who desires to live “blameless” and “without rebuke.” No gambling man can honestly say he has a “pure heart” and a “good conscience” towards God and man (1 Tim. 1:5, 3:7; Eph. 5:1–3; 1 Peter 2:12; Phil. 2:15; Acts 24:16; 2 Cor. 6:3).

Sixth, gambling is a clear violation of the Lord’s command that we “love not the world.” It appeals directly to the “lust of the flesh” and the “pride of life,” and like most fleshly lusts, gambling declares “war against the soul” of a man. AChristian cannot be a gambler and still be in obedience to the command that he “give none offence” (1 John 2:15–17; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Cor. 10:32; Phil. 1:10).

Seventh, gambling is a clear violation of the Lord’s command against evil associations. The gambling crowd is not the Lord’s crowd. Gambling is and always has been associated with crime, corruption, and all the baser elements of society. We have a clear command to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).

Eighth, gambling is a clear violation of the Lord’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Gambling is about love of self, not love of neighbor. You can win only if someone else loses; therefore your desire cannot be for your neighbor’s good. This is the highest form of selfishness. It is more than the desire for gain; it is the desire for gain by another’s loss (1 Pet. 1:22; Rom. 13:9, 14:21, 15:1; Luke 10:27; James 2:8; Hab. 2:9).

Ninth, gambling shows a basic lack of trust in the sovereignty of God. We are not to trust in the “deceitfulness of riches” but rather in the “riches of his grace.” Dear Christian friend, you cannot believe in God and luck. The two are mutually exclusive (2 Cor. 5:7; Mark 11:22; Matt. 6:33; Phil. 4:19; Ps. 37:23; Matt. 13:22; Eph. 1:7).

Finally, gambling is a clear violation of the Lord’s command against covetousness and stands in direct opposition to the Tenth Commandment. Covetousness is the desire to have something that belongs to someone else. Betting your dollar with the desire to take dollars from your neighbor is covetousness (Ex. 20:17; Col. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:9, 10).

No Christian who desires to please God would involve himself with gambling in any form. Lotteries, raffles, sports pools, slot machines, horse tracks, and yes, even “penny ante” poker all clearly violate Scriptural principles. When a Christian gambles he is risking much more than money. He is risking his testimony for Christ.

Morris D. Hunsucker Sr. is an assistant pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Avon, Indiana.

(Originally published in FrontLine • November/December 2000. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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