By Dr Deanza A
Christ Community Church
THE dictionary defines gambling as “to bet money on the outcome of a game, contest, or other event,” “to play a game of chance for money or other stakes.” Another more complicated definition says that gambling is “wagering money—or something of value—on an uncertain event whose outcome is dependent either wholly on chance or partly on chance and partly on skill.” Those definitions have in common two key elements: The first is the element of chance or luck. The second is the wagering of money.
However, those definitions leave out a key element which other definitions include: Gambling is “participation in any game of chance in which a prize is offered to the winners at the losers’ loss.”
What we see is that gambling is based on total chance and randomness - without skill or personal involvement. It is not like normal competition, in which you strive for a prize by producing something better, by accomplishing something sooner, or by doing something more efficiently. In the hope of winning something of greater value, a person risks something of value to the forces of chance beyond his or her control or rational expectation.
Furthermore and sadly, gambling is accompanied by the notion that the longer you engage in it, the better your odds of succeeding. But the truth is that sheer random chance never changes its odds, because there are no elements you can control to increase your likelihood of winning.
With that being said, I have deduced that with respect to the church’s position, there are three schools of thought on the question of gambling and the Christian faith.
The first is the position which sees gambling on a small scale as a harmless social activity.
The second is the position which sees no great harm in gambling but opposes legalization on a major scale. Many mainline denominations and charities take this position as they use various games of chance, in particular raffles, as a fundraising tool.
The third is the position which views gambling as a moral evil and therefore opposes it any form, public or private. Most evangelicals take the third view. Of course, some temper this view by postulating that games of chance do not in themselves constitute an evil but can lead to a number of evils.
I hold the view of the third school of thought, which is opposition to all forms of gambling based on the authority of Scripture.
Firstly, I oppose gambling because it is bad social policy.
I need not outline the myriad of social implications as they have been well documented, with and without empirical evidence, but the evidence include neglect of marital responsibilities, financial crimes, neglect of homes and families, careless attitudes toward occupations and other civic and personal responsibilities; and the list goes on. Sounds like a nightmare to me.
I wish to underscore the fact that our Prime Minister has acknowledged that his Government’s is cognizant of the serious social implications, and inter-alia, said that if the referendum passes, the onus will be placed on operators of gambling concerns to provide professional help for those who are addicted, while the government will collect its money. What an apparent admission of complicity!
There was a time in Bahamian society when the majority of people considered such things as lewd dancing, drunkenness, cursing, and gambling to be wrong. But a dramatic change in the social order of Bahamian culture has taken place. As the moral fibre of Bahamian civilization deteriorates and biblical values are rejected and discarded, activities that once were perceived to be harmful to society have now become harmless or more acceptable.
It is evident by the very discussion that we are having in our society today that many people no longer care about what God thinks or what the Bible teaches. I do, because there is a God in heaven who has given His written Word, which is designed to govern human be ha vi or and shape our character. And it is to our demise to marginalize God and reject His word.
The second reason I oppose gambling is because it is bad government policy.
Governments according to scripture are supposed to promote virtue and not seduce its citizens to vice. According to Romans 13: 1-6, a government is a minister of God – a servant of God. Therefore it is compromised as a servant of God if it promotes a vice such as gambling.
I note that some have argued that gambling could be used for a good cause as evidenced in the thousands of dollars given in scholarships, jobs provided and so on; but the means and the ends must be moral by a servant of God. How can on the one hand you should be protecting your citizens but destroying them on the other hand? Wouldn’t citizens of the Bahamas be outraged if the government began enticing us to use or traffic drugs or engage in another destructive behaviour? Then why isn’t there full outraged at gambling which is also a destructive behaviour and contributes to the corruption of society?
Additionally legalised gambling is dangerous because its money power has the potential to undermine governments. The word in the marketplace is that the purveyors of gambling have already played a significant role in our elections. I dare say a very dangerous path for our society.
Thirdly, I oppose gambling because it fails Jesus’s litmus test
In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus Christ laid down a test by which every activity or philosophy could be analysed, and its true value assessed. He said, quite simply in verse 17-18, that “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.”
What then, could one conclude from even a cursory glance at the “fruits” of gambling? Gambling is addictive, it preys on those with lower incomes, it dramatically affects teens, and it often leads to dysfunctional family relationships and abuse. Surely these would classify as “bad fruits.” We cannot have it both ways. It is either “good tree or a bad tree” and not a good/bad tree. No such tree exists.
Gambling also fails Paul’s litmus test. Colossians 3:17 notes, “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” One would be hard pressed to find any evidence that would classify gambling as something that could be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” It is not enough for a person to ask, “What is wrong with an activity?” Instead, the question actually should be phrased: “What is right with this activity?”
Fourthly, I oppose gambling because it denies the reality of God’s sovereignty. Psalm 103:19 says, “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and He rules over all.”
Psalm 115: 3 says, “But our God is in heaven; He does what He pleases”
God is in control and no problem that we face is bigger than our God. Therefore gambling is an attempt to deny the existence of a sovereign God who rules and decides. Chance, which is the major promise of gambling’s outworking, is the fabric of a human imagination that wants to deny the existence of a sovereign God, who is able to meet every need.
Fifthly, I oppose gambling because it builds on irresponsible stewardship.
Matthew 6:19-20 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Nothing we have really belongs to us; it belongs to God, and we should use all of it to His glory. Therefore, the worst possible stewardship is for someone to throw God’s resources away at the altar of a god called chance or luck. It’s idolatry of the worst sort.
People who trust God do not gamble and people who gamble do not trust God. Indeed the Bible teaches in Romans 14: 23 that whatever is not of faith is sin.
Sixthly, I oppose gambling because it erodes the biblical work ethic. Genesis 3: 19 says, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat food until you return to the ground.”
We are to earn our bread by the sweat of our brows and not from games of chance.
Proverbs 13: 11 says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”
In order to increase our possessions, the Bible teaches that we must work, receive gifts, invest or pray.
The addictive wagering process saps the good that a decent salary can afford. Indeed this culture of a free lunch, living above our means and unprecedented borrowing to satisfy our lusts, must stop because there is no such world.
Seventhly, I oppose gambling because it is driven by the sin of covetousness.
Exodus 20:17 says, “you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”
Gambling, and its accompanying greediness, violates the 10th commandment. It assumes that God has not given us what we ought to have and that more wealth will finally make us happy. But the truth is that as you look around, the more we have achieved, the more unhappy, discontented and miserable we have become.
Finally, I oppose gambling because it builds on the exploitation of others.
Gambling exploits people who can least afford to be victims and violates the eighth commandment, You shall not steal. For everyone who wins something at gambling, there are many losers, who have been duped by the seductive marketing appeal of gambling and prompted to throw away large sums of money.
Gambling is first and foremost a moral issue. Accordingly, I do not think that God is concerned about whether the Yes or No wins in the upcoming referendum. I believe that God is most concerned as to whether His people obey His word on this moral issue.
This referendum is a test on how far the preaching of the Bahamian church has infiltrated the fabric of the Bahamian society.
This referendum is a reminder that those of us who are Christ followers are not of this world.
Philippians 3: 20-21 reads “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control…”
- Jesus is coming sooner than we think. And it’s time to prepare for the inevitable.
I challenge all Bahamians to seek to eliminate from your daily lives the vice and immorality that is characteristic of a society in decline. Be morally, mentally and motivationally changed and learn how God would have people to live joyfully. God bless The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.