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Does the Bible Say Anything About Gambling?

When the issue of gambling arises, debate can become a battle of conflicting statistics without the Bible coming up much. That’s true even among Christians. For example, Wayne Grudem’s 600-page book on “politics according to the Bible” has only a page and a half devoted to gambling—and those pages don’t have a single specific Scripture reference.1 A survey of websites devoted to approaching public policy from a Christian perspective likewise turns up a relatively small amount of material on gambling compared with the flood of resources applying the Bible to marriage, homosexuality, human exploitation, and abortion.

The disparity of resources may be justified. Those other issues may be more pressing than gambling. (Or my search may not be representative of all the Christian materials available.) Nevertheless, it’s easy to get the impression that the Bible says little to guide us on the issue of gambling. You might be surprised to discover the following principles in God’s Word:

God honors hard work over “get rich quick” schemes. Proverbs 13:4 says that a “sluggard craves and gets nothing.” In contrast, “the diligent is richly supplied.” A lazy man seeks the fruit of diligence, but his yearning is never strong enough to motivate honest labor. The New Testament likewise denounces those who seek financial gain without work (2 Thessalonians 3:10). While God does not mechanically bless those who work, His general mode of operating is to withhold personal and communal prosperity from those who rely on hopes of “getting rich quick,” like gambling.

We should reject government initiatives that promote a distorted view of God’s moral order. It’s bad enough when private citizens promote “get rich quick” schemes. But governments are supposed to give “approval” to those who “do what is good,” not to activities that encourage citizens to make poor moral choices (Romans 13:3-4). When governments give implicit approval to the practice of seeking quick, easy riches, they violate the Scriptures.

The blessings of windfall wealth can be fleeting. As Proverbs 13:11 states, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle.” Given this biblical wisdom, it’s not surprising that 90 percent of lottery winners are broke within five years.2

Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) precludes believers from participating in activities in which they hope for the failure of others. In gambling, winning depends on others’ failing and losing money. Do you want others to wish for you to lose money? Then why participate in an activity where you hope for their failure? (Incidentally, that’s not how businesses work. The success of one business doesn’t depend on the failure of most others.) The command to love our neighbors is also a point at which believers should bring statistics into the discussion. After all, does endorsing an activity that takes money from the poor disproportionately qualify as “loving your neighbor”? What about an activity that leads to addiction, coincides with higher crime rates, and drives addicts to suicide more often than any other addictive behavior? All of those are true of gambling.3

Granted, there is room for believers to differ on the particulars of gambling according to the dictates of their consciences. For instance, some feel that buying a raffle ticket is acceptable when the buyer understands his purchase as a donation to charity rather than an attempt to win easy money. And the Catholic Church says that “games of chance” are acceptable as long as they don’t involve significant cheating or “deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs.”4 There is gray area. We need not be dogmatic where the Bible is not specific.

Still, the Bible says much that applies to gambling. Those who stake their position solely on the shifting sands of social science without consulting Scripture are making a bad bet.


Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 550-551.


Carl Richards, “A Financial Plan for Misbehaving Lottery Winners,” New York Times, December 3, 2012, (accessed January 7, 2014).


Cf. Gamblers Anonymous Website, (accessed January 7, 2014).


Catechism of the Catholic Church, part 3, section 2, chapter 2, article 7, Vatican Website, (accessed January 7, 2014).