Is Gambling a Sin?

25 Sep

Contrary to popular belief, gambling is not listed explicitly as a sin in the Bible… whichever Bible you use. Not that that’s my favorite sin, but it did occur to me, that it wasn’t a commandment. So where do we get this idea from?

I didn’t mean to get into a Bible study, just textual analysis, because it’s something I’m curious about. The simple answer is it’s a variation on greed. Oh, Greed is one of the seven deadly sins — which is NOT in the Bible, that was Pope Gregory I in the 7th Century. However, if you’re a Christian, Paul gets into the works of the flesh and works of the spirit in Galatians:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19-21 KJV

So by this definition, it’s a revel, and we’ve covered hatred, emulations, and strife. Besides, I’ve rarely seen a poker table without drunkenness and seditions. So it’s pretty sinful and Paul makes sure to add “this isn’t a complete list.” But keeping in the Christian canon, let’s get to the root of the issue:

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

1 Timothy 6: 9-10

Ah! It’s not so much the gambling that’s the problem, it’s the money. This may be why we gamble for chocolate on Hanukkah. Speaking of which, we should try for more Tanakh (Old Testament) quotes:

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Exodus 20:17

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.

Ecclesiastes 5:10

Gambling is all about trying to get more than you have. Since the Lord gives you all you need, asking for more is the sin involved. In Islam, this is made very clear:

O you who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, dedication of stones, and divination by arrows, are an abomination of Satan’s handwork. Eschew such abomination, that you may prosper… Satan’s plan is to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer. Will you not then abstain?

Quran 5:90-91

In Buddhism, it seems that it’s not explicitly forbidden, but most teachers will tell you that you it’s discouraged. You are putting up a stake, expending positive karma to gain more, which means you’re gonna pay for it later. I could be talking out my backside on this one, so I’m paraphrasing this article about it.

So in the end, regardless of what you believe, the “sin” in gambling is not the joy of winning or the sadness in losing, it’s the consequences of that action. If you’re doing it for fun, without expectation of winning or concern of losing, then you’re fine. But how often does that happen? That’s how you can have Catholic rectory bingo or card tournaments, because in the end, you might win something, but not enough to endanger your soul.

So like smoking, drinking, or dancing, gambling is something you shouldn’t do unless you’re doing it for the right reasons. Implied sin, not explicit, because it’s so easy to abuse. But what do you think? Am I missing something? Do I not go far enough? Let me know in the comments below!

6 Responses to “Is Gambling a Sin?”

  1. Rob Alberts September 25, 2020 at 10:16 am #

    I do not gamble.

    Although I do make mistakes in life.

    Kind regards,

  2. Jane Tawel September 25, 2020 at 1:05 pm #

    This was a fascinating post to me on many levels and well done. I grew up in the Bible Belt of America where “all of the above” were considered sins. I no longer believe that and find your analysis of when something and when something isn’t sin quite strong and valid. The funny thing is, I have a “thing” about gambling and I have no idea why. If I believed we have previous lives, I might think I was a losing gambler in a previous one, but all I can come up with is my history with money and lack thereof and when quite young never being in control in certain family money matters that ended up effecting me hugely, blah, blah blah. I have no problem with people having fun gambling as you say –But I can not gamble, watch shows about gambling, etc. without a huge amount of anxiousness and despair. Just a “fun fact”. Enjoyed your post and thank you — Jane

  3. Sabiscuit September 25, 2020 at 3:46 pm #

    Interesting analysis. I think a lot of these beliefs and values are passed down through our social experiences. Hunger and greed are shades of the same desire, “to have something to date desire.” We tend to gamble a great deal without knowing it. Safety, security are examples. But we find it easy to notice anything attached to material wealth.

  4. Silk Cords September 25, 2020 at 9:14 pm #

    Without going into the kind of lengthy reply I did last time, I think your analysis is correct. Some things aren’t inherently evil, it’s simply that they’re best avoided due to where they can lead, etc…

  5. anotherkatewilson October 2, 2020 at 6:18 am #

    Interesting… I don’t gamble because I’m numerate. Gambling for entertainment, when you understand that you’re really paying for the added excitement that a bet brings to otherwise less interesting things, seems reasonable to me, and not sinful. I don’t go to horse races, but if I did I would probably place a bet just so I cared about which horse won and therefore found it entertaining. Where I see gambling as being a sin is not so much in the actions of the gambler as of the gambling industry – preying on people who really believe that the next bet will change their life, and spend money they can’t afford on it.

  6. philosophy through photography October 11, 2020 at 6:00 am #

    Well articulated my friend.Ultimately we have to leave it to the wisdom of the individual

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