Is Gambling a Sin in the Bible?

By its very nature, gambling is risking a person’s current position or wealth against the odds in the hope of gaining a greater position or wealth. Is this considered a sin in Scripture? Does God condemn the sport of gambling? Contributing Writer
Updated Apr 23, 2024
Is Gambling a Sin in the Bible?

Gambling, though not explicitly condemned as a sin in the Bible, is cautioned against due to the associated risks of addiction and the pursuit of wealth as emphasized in the Bible. God has warned against the temptation. Most often when people gamble it is because they become addicted to the love of money. A simple game can become a sin when it takes over our minds and hearts and leads us down a road of never being satisfied.

"Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Is Gambling a Sin According to the Bible?

This short answer is, no. Unless it becomes one for you.

Let me explain.

While the Bible never actually calls gambling a sin, it provides principles that offer guidance on this issue. For instance, Jesus taught, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other.

1 Timothy 6:17 teaches to “command those who are rich in this world’s good not to be haughty or set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.” 

Many of us may not consider ourselves “rich,” but when we have provision for all our daily needs and a relationship with Christ, we are indeed “rich” beyond measure.  When we gamble our resources, we jeopardize both our current resources for daily needs and also our closeness with Christ. 

1 Corinthians 6:12 teaches the believer, “all things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” 

Even if gambling is lawful for Christians, the behavior is not expedient or helpful.  In all fleshly addictions, the addict quickly becomes under the power of the substance or behavior. 

Betting $5 on one hand of blackjack and winning $10 no longer results in a thrill and the gambler must bet increasingly amounts, just as the drug addict must increase his/her dosage to achieve that desired “high” the body remembered from the first usage.

If Christians can agree that God supplies all of our necessities of life, why then do we desire to risk a portion of our bounty for more? 

Luke 12:15 warns us to “take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” 

God is not teaching us to refrain from attempting or striving to better ourselves.  However, our lustful flesh often deems monetary wealth and earthy possessions as the primary means of bettering ourselves.  The Word warns in Ecclesiastes 5:1, “he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” 

1 John 2:15 instructs believers to “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

So is Gambling a Sin For Me and Morally Wrong?

Some argue that gambling can be a harmless form of entertainment when done responsibly. It is believed that as long as it does not lead to addiction or harm, gambling can be a recreational activity similar to other forms of entertainment, such as going to the movies or playing video games.

When the desire to gamble comes from a desire for money, that's when it gets morally tricky. We are called to be good stewards of the blessings bestowed on us by God.  The want and lust for worldly things and wealth cannot exist in the life of a Christian who sincerely loves and desires a close relationship with Jesus Christ. The striving for greater wealth at the risk of losing current wealth signifies an emphasis on an ability to purchase blessings and true joy. 

Christians should be much in prayer before engaging in any endeavor which jeopardizes their current financial state.   

Casinos, Lottery, and Sports Bets, Oh My!

By its very nature, gambling is risking a person’s current position or wealth against the odds in the hope of gaining a greater position or wealth.  A sin is anything that harms or hinders our relationship with Christ. 

The casino capitals of Las Vegas, Atlantic City and American Indian reservations throughout the country make billions of dollars in revenue each year because of legalized gambling. However, the question remains: “Is participating in gambling a sin for Christians?” Governments can legalize products, drugs, or behaviors in the attempt to generate local revenue, but many of these measures are contrary to Christian beliefs.

Poker, slot machines, blackjack, and craps are easily determined to be games of chance and, thus, gambling by modern American society. However, gray areas exist where in which the public find it difficult to draw the line or define as morally wrong.

The sports-viewing landscape has been forever changed with the popularity of fantasy sports. The advent and nationwide acceptance of fantasy sports participation has created gambling addicts because of the ease of its participation.  Additionally, fantasy sports are viewed as acceptable and even harmless because we see the advertisements on televisions, websites, and on the walls of sports arenas. 

There is no universally agreed-upon Christian stance on gambling, playing the lottery, and betting money at casinos or with sporting events. Individuals within the faith may arrive at different conclusions based on their interpretation of Biblical teachings and their personal convictions. While the Bible doesn't directly address an issue as sin doesn't mean something isn't sinful. Some Christians may engage in gambling as a form of entertainment within the bounds of responsible behavior, while others may abstain from gambling entirely due to moral or religious convictions. It is always advisable for individuals to seek guidance from their faith community, religious leaders, and personal reflection when navigating moral questions.

Some Christians may interpret specific Biblical passages to argue against gambling. For example, principles of responsible stewardship, avoiding covetousness, and refraining from practices that may lead to addictive behaviors might be emphasized. Some who are critical of gambling express concerns about the industry's potential exploitation of vulnerable individuals, especially those prone to addiction or financial difficulties.

What Does the Bible Say About Gambling?

The “casting of lots” is the closest example of gambling mentioned in the Bible.  Many times, we will define the “casting of lots” as simply drawing straws, alluding to possibility of allowing chance to make the decision. In the Bible, casting lots was a practice used primarily for seeking divine guidance and making impartial decisions. It involved using marked objects like dice, stones, or sticks to determine God's will or to ensure fairness in various situations, such as choosing leaders or allocating resources. The purpose of casting lots was not entertainment or financial gain, but rather a means of discerning God's direction and maintaining objectivity in decision-making. This distinguishes it from modern gambling, which is often pursued for entertainment, profit, or risk-taking purposes, and does not have the same spiritual or moral intent as casting lots in biblical times.

Probably the most notable usage of this practice is mentioned in Acts 1:26 when the remaining disciples were to decide upon the replacement of Judas following his rather dramatic departure from the group.  The scripture states, "and they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Mathias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” 

One could reasonably conclude the number of possible candidates was narrowed down based upon “qualifications” prior to the ultimate decision being made by the casting of lots. Thus, any choice would have been appropriate since each candidate was qualified.  There may have been a certain randomness involved in the ultimate choice, but it was not as if some random passerby could have been chosen by the use of the “casting of lots.”

The other notable usage of the “casting of lots” was for the identification of the sacrifices. In Leviticus 16:8, Aaron was charged with casting lots on the two goats brought forth, “one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.” We are then informed that goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell would be offered as a sin offering, while other is to be the scapegoat for the atonement or remedy for sin.  The scapegoat was to be presented alive and released into the wilderness. As with the candidates for Judas’s replacement, the two offered goats were presumably equal and suitable for their offered purpose.  The usage of the choice identified after the “casting of lots” made the difference in both instances.

In true gambling, there is no possibility of manipulation after the choice is made by the bettor.

For example, when the roulette wheel begins to slow down, the casino employee will announce “no more bets” and no one is allowed to add to or change any bets already on the board.  When the blackjack dealer turns over his second card, the bettor is not permitted to change his/her mind about staying on 15.  Thus, even though the “casting of lots” involves chance, the determining factor or usage of the choice occurs after the selection.

Questions A Christian Should Ask Before Gambling

Believers should be in prayer before participating in any of these activities and consider whether participation has any adverse financial or spiritual consequences. Before engaging in gambling, here are some helpful questions to consider asking to make an informed and responsible decision:

  1. Motivation: Why do I want to gamble? Is it for entertainment, financial gain, or other reasons? Assessing the motivation behind gambling can help determine if it aligns with one's values and priorities.

  2. Stewardship: Can I afford to lose the money I'm willing to wager without causing financial harm to myself or my family? Responsible stewardship of resources is an essential consideration.

  3. Prioritizing: Am I prioritizing God's kingdom and my spiritual well-being over the desire for financial gain or entertainment?

  4. Addictive Tendencies: Do I have a history of addiction or susceptibility to addictive behavior? Gambling can be addictive for some individuals, and self-awareness is crucial.

  5. Consequences: Have I considered the potential consequences of gambling, both positive and negative, and how it might affect my life, relationships, and financial stability?

  6. Moderation: Can I engage in gambling activities in moderation, without it becoming a compulsive or harmful behavior?

  7. Impact on Others: How might my gambling activities affect my family, relationships, and responsibilities toward others? Am I being considerate of their feelings and needs?

  8. Legal and Ethical Considerations: Is gambling legal in my jurisdiction, and am I participating in it in an ethical and responsible manner?

  9. Alternatives: Are there alternative forms of entertainment or leisure activities that align better with my values and faith?

  10. Prayer and Guidance: Have I sought guidance and prayed about my decision, seeking God's wisdom and discernment in this matter?

It's important for individuals to prayerfully consider these questions and weigh the potential moral, financial, and relational implications before deciding to engage in gambling activities. 

Chad is a believer in Christ, attorney at law, wannabe golfer, runner, dog lover, and writer. He enjoys serving his church as a deacon and Sunday School teacher. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at his golf devotion He and his wife Brandi reside in Tennessee with their canine son Alistair. 

Photo Credit: Pexels/Pixabay


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