Answering the question, "Is gambling a sin?" proposes many challenges. The first challenge is that the Bible does not explicitly use the term gamble in any literal English translation. Second, there is not verse that explicitly condones gambling. Therefore, one could assume logically that if the Bible is silent on an issue then it must be either morally neutral or morally acceptable; thus making gambling okay. It is upon that assumption that this article wishes to address.
Assumption: That any event or behavior which the Bible has no explicit comment indicates a position of moral neutrality or moral acceptability on the part of Holy Scripture.
Addressing such a topic that is not explicitly condoned in scripture means that the burden of proof becomes more challenging. To start this discussion one must first be willing to think through several natural questions that arise. These questions will be the guiding argumentation behind the content of this article. Also, the intended audience of this article is the church. Therefore, certain presuppositions are assumed like the person reading this article has made a profession of faith and trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior.
What does a seemingly neutral/acceptable position on gambling indicate about the veracity and sufficiency of Scripture?
Are there any explicit biblical principles that would prohibit gambling for a believer (ie. money, stewardship, discipleship)?
Does refusal to comply with Biblical principles hinder a person's walk with Christ and thus reveal the true heart of the person?
Question 1: What does a seemingly neutral/acceptable position on gambling indicate about the veracity and sufficiency of Scripture?
The answer to this question rest within someone's very understanding of the nature of Scripture, which is also an understanding about the nature of God. The claim that the Bible does not speak to an issue is an attack on the sufficiency of Scripture. The reason it is an attack on Scripture's sufficiency is because Scripture testifies of its own sufficiency. Therefore, a denial of that which Scripture testifies is an attack on the claims of Scripture. An attack on the claims of Scripture is an attack on the veracity of Scripture.
What does Scripture claim? The most important claim of Scripture is for it to be the word of God. Essentially, that which Scripture says is what God says. Paul explains this claim to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate equipped for every good work." The words, "inspired by God" is the compound Greek word theopneutros meaning God-breathed. The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) accurately translates 2 Timothy 3:16 as "God-breathed". Another claim that Scripture makes for the believer is it is the source of direction and guidance. Psalm 119:105 says, "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."
The first claim of Scripture indicates that if a believer is obedient to the Word then he is being obedient to God. This first claim also demonstrates the truthfulness or veracity of Scripture because that which is true about God is also true about Scripture. Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father but through Me." Jesus, being God, is truth; therefore, Scripture, which is the revelation of God, is truth. Consequently all that Scripture claims must be true because it is reflecting and revealing a perfectly true God.
The second claim of Scripture mentioned above indicates that the Word of God is sufficient to light the path of a believer. The logical follow-up question is, "What path is the believer to follow?" The path the believer is to follow is that of being a disciple or imitator of Christ. This path is called sanctification. It is the process of becoming more righteous, holy, and godly. Paul exhorts certain believers to follow his example because he imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Elsewhere, Paul commands believer to imitate Christ directly. For instance, Ephesians 5:1, "Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children." Peter claims in 2 Peter 1 that upon the moment of salvation, man was equipped with the necessary power to obtain the life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
In conclusion, a silent, therefore neutral/acceptable, position on gambling from a biblical perspective is incoherent with Scriptures because of the two claims of Scripture mentioned above. Any denial of the claims would be to admit that the Scriptures and God are neither truthful or sufficient for guidance in all areas of life.
Question 2: Are there any explicit biblical principles that would prohibit gambling for a believer (ie. stewardship)?
It has already been mentioned that the Bible does not explicitly offer any prohibition to the act of gambling. However, as demonstrated in the previous section the lack of an explicit statement does not mean that the Bible does not speak to the issue. This next section is going to present the implicit way in which the Bible speaks to the topic of gambling. While, the topic of gambling will be implicitly addressed the Biblical principles are explicit. The Biblical principle that will be addressed is stewardship.
The concept of stewardship is typically thought of in a financial setting. While that is an application of the word stewardship. The broader picture must first be understood before the specific application can be applied. The word, stewardship, oikonomos, means to manage what has been entrusted. Jesus uses the term with reference to a master placing responsibility on another for keeping care over his servants. Luke 12:42, "Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time." Paul and Peter uses the term to show that believers have been entrusted with God's grace and mysteries; as a result of this entrustment, believers are to be faithful stewards (I Corinthians 4:1; 1 Peter 4:10). Essentially, the word stewardship is taking care of what God, your Lord/Master, has given to you. As Creator, God has given mankind everything. A believer, then, who has committed their life to serving God is responsible to Him for how he cares for God's gifts.
The way in which a believer knows if they are taking "good" care of what God has given them is if it glorifies God. Colossians 3:17 says, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thank through Him to God the Father." Also, 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." The object of a believers actions is to lift up the name of Jesus and bring glory to God.
Now the question becomes, "Does my use of the money that God has entrusted to me lift up the name of Jesus and bring glory to God?" The answer to this question is rooted in the examination of why God has given money. There are several uses for money, both of which have as its goal the help of others. The first is providing for the care of one's earthly family. Proverbs 13:22 says, "A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children..." The second is providing for the care of one's spiritual family, the church. Acts 2:45 explains, "and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." Scripture is clear that we are to provide for our earthly and spiritual family. One way this is done is through being a good steward of the financial resources God has provided.
Question 3: Does refusal to comply with Biblical principles hinder a person's walk with Christ and thus reveal the true heart of the person?
James 4:17 says, "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin." When a believer knowingly fails to comply with the Biblical principles he is sinning belligerently. Sin is the kryptonite to a believers walk with Christ. Jesus tells His disciples in John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." The admonition of Christ to believers is predicated on the understanding that love exist. If someone who claims to be a believer is not keeping the teachings of Scripture then it would go to assume that believer is not loving God. Any believer who is not walking with God is subject to correction and discipline. If God's correction and discipline is not headed or recognized by another believer then the next step Jesus says to do is to remove them from fellowship and to treat them as an unbeliever (Matthew 18:17). This act by the church is serious because it means that a person, who was once part of their fellowship, is behaving in such a way that is not representative of a life that has been changed by Christ. Therefore, the conclusion to make is that person was never truly a Christian. One can see how refusal to obey the Word of God is a testimony of a life that is not saved.
In conclusion, the Bible does not explicitly give any prohibition to gambling, but the lack of prohibition is not a license for a believer to behave as he sees fit. Instead, Scripture gives us timeless principles that can be applied to every aspect of our life. These timeless principles demonstrate the sufficiency of God's Word. If a believer decides to not comply with these principles then he is behaving like a person who has not received salvation.