As a boy, I understood that there were many families who were being hurt and kept on poverty by the action of the parents. Even at that young age I could see that some families were being hurt by the immoral places the parents hung out and the immoral activities in which they were engaged. Some of these people were drawn to the back rooms and joints where the beer flowed and the gambling was common. In these places gambling and alcohol went together with other immoral activities.
And even as a boy I saw gambling as being bad because of the things it brought to those families. A person can be caught up in a gambling game and before he realizes what was happening, the money he had earned to support his family is gone. Ego may be involved as to how someone thinks he looks in front of his peers and cronies, so he continues betting and playing until all the money for his family is squandered. Ego will not let him stop until all is lost, even the things needed for the survival of his own children.
Also, with this comes the element of addiction. Some personalities are easily addicted to gambling. To some people gambling is like a drug. They just do not have the will power to stop.
We might consider 1 Corinthians 6:12. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” This is not saying that sinful things are lawful. Rather, it is saying that even if something is lawful, it is sinful to put oneself under its power.
The gambling industry fully understands the personalities of those people they want to entice into gambling. They don’t even try to hide the odds and fully explain that you cannot win and beat the house, and yet people gamble anyway. The thrill is there whether the gambler is winning or losing. There is that addictive quality about this thrill and there will be some who cannot step away from it. And in casinos, there will be the other sinful activities available. Vices always attract other vices. Alcohol will be plentiful, and sometimes free, and the shows and the crowds will be there to tempt in many ways.
But someone might say, “What is the harm if I gamble and don’t go to these places and I don’t spend money that is needed by my family?” Here are some points to consider.
What do the pillars of your congregation have to say about gambling? What do church leaders say? Do they support you in this? Or, are they against it? If you engage in gambling, will it be against their convictions? And would you announce it to your family? What are the convictions of mature Christians, including those who “watch for your souls” (Heb. 13:17)?
Would your gambling cause some other person to follow you and do the same? Is there any way for you to be sure that this person would not become addicted and ruin his life? Would that person ever abuse his family because of gambling? If that were to happen, would your influence be partly to blame?
Some churches have raffles and raise money for the church or for charities this way. Also, governments prey on a citizen’s desire for gambling and raise money by using lotteries and alcohol sales. But we know that the proper way for a government to raise money is by taxes and the proper way for a church to raise money is by free will offerings by the members. We are to “give as we have been prospered on the first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:2, paraphrased).
But what about punch boards and raffles and contests that require the player to pay a fee to play in order to win a prize?
Surely such activities are in the same category as all other types of gambling. It might be argued that such things are less harmful for the player, but they are still the same basic thing. I would suggest that we need to apply the same basic rules and the same litmus test to these activities as do to any type of gambling.