Gambling: An Ungodly Attempt to Acquire Wealth - Rev. G. Ph. van Popta
Copied with permision from the Clarion (1995) Vol.44, No 7
The Bible teaches that there are two legitimate ways to acquire wealth: labour and inheritance.
In Ephesians 4:28 the apostle Paul wrote: Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. God commands us to work. God commanded Adam and Eve to work. God placed man over all of creation. He put him in charge of the earth, including the wealth of the earth. Gen. 2:1 Off speaks about the wealth God placed in the earth for man to discover, use and enjoy. Four rivers flowed out of Eden. The river Pishon flowed around the whole land of Havilah where there was gold - good gold (Gen. 2:12). There were also precious stones - bdellium and onyx stone.
God put this wealth in creation. He put man in dominion over it. Man had to work in creation. By his work, his labour, he could enjoy and use the wealth that God had placed there. The first legitimate way to acquire wealth is byway of labour.
The second rightful way to gain wealth is by way of inheritance. The OT says a lot about inheritance. God had given each tribe, clan and family land in the Promise Land. It was to remain in the family, passed on down through the generations. The book of Proverbs says things like: "House and wealth are inherited from fathers . . . and . . . a good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children." Somewhere Paul wrote that parents lay up for their children.
The Bible speaks of these two ways to acquire wealth - hard work and inheritance. It forbids theft and dishonest business practices. It forbids gambling as a way to get wealth.
The opportunities for gambling abound. Travel agencies offer discount package tours to Reno and Las Vegas, the two holy cities for gamblers - Mecca and Jerusalem for gambling pilgrims. TV commercials try to convince you that you had better not miss out on buying your lottery ticket because your number might come up this week. And if you haven't bought your ticket, you'll have to walk around in shame with a bag over your head.
A survey of a couple of years ago showed that 85% of Canadians, coming from every age and income bracket, have played the lottery at some time. About 50% of Canadian adults buy lottery tickets on a regular basis, spending an average of $8.50 per month. Buying lottery tickets is pure stupidity. You are 3 1/2 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to win a state or provincial lottery (Tom Watson in Don't Bet On It!).
Provincial lotteries have been around for quite some time. An even worse curse has been inflicted upon our communities lately: the VLT (Video Lottery Terminal). VLT! It could stand for Very Lousy Transaction! There are people who spend most if not all of their paycheque at the altar of the VLT. They cash their cheque into dollar coins and feed their children's food into the mouth of their god. It's a great transaction for the government, for the hotel owner, and for the owner of the VLT. It's a Very Lousy Transaction for the gambler and his children.
The ungodly thing about gambling whether at the casino in Las Vegas, at the ticket counter at the drugstore, or in front of the highly addictive and mesmerizing VLT- is that you are no longer depending upon God. You have exchanged the true God for Lady Luck, Dame Fortune. Gambling is a form of idolatry. It is a religious activity, a form of worship. If you gamble in whatever form and place, then you are bowing down before the goddess Lady Luck. You are bringing a sacrifice, an offering, to the altar of chance. You are praying: "O Lady Luck. Bless me and keep me; make your face to shine upon me and be gracious to me; lift up our countenance upon me, and give me luck. Let me win big!" As they pay their money and take their chances, gamblers say: "Please, please, let me win!" That's a prayer. Not a prayer to the LORD God. A prayer to another god.
We ought to be warned by what the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:5 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater [and that surely includes all gamblers]), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. The old Lord's Supper form, before it was "improved," barred gamblers from the Table, and rightfully so considering they are barred from the kingdom of Christ and of God.
God said what he would do to those who depended upon Luck in Is. 65:11,12:
But you who forsake the LORD, who forget My holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny; I will destine you to the sword . . . because . . . you did what was evil in My eyes, and chose what I did not delight in.
Fortune and Destiny were heathen gods of luck and chance. Israel had begun worshipping them. These gods are still around. Their temple is the casino. Their altar is the ticket counter. Their mouths are the slots on the VLTs.
We can also bring the office betting pool into the picture. You know-the little betting pool of cash won by whomever gets the closest in the basketball or football scores. You might say: "Now you're going too far. The office betting pool is just a bit of harmless fun." Well, not really. The office betting pool is like shop-lifting a candy bar. You are not committing armed robbery but it is still theft. It's like being angry, or hating. It is not murder in the physical sense but your catechism certainly lines it up as a sin against the commandment: "You shall not kill." In the office betting pool you are not stuffing your whole paycheque into the mouth of the VLT, but you are still gambling.
The commandment: "You shall not steal," forbids all greed and all abuse or squandering of God's gifts. That covers all gambling. Gambling, in whatever form, is not one of the ways God allows us to acquire wealth.