Is Gambling a Sin?
Strictly speaking, the answer is no, gambling is not a sin, SO LONG AS IT IS JUST DONE FOR FUN. What does this mean? Well, it means that a number of criteria need to be satisfied to ensure that its not a sin. Don't worry - it isn't too difficult to satisfy them. Still, a lot of people can't seem to manage to do so.
Here they are:
1) The amount one risks should not, if LOST, cause harm to self or others. This is a simple one, right? If we lose, we have to make sure we aren't depriving ourselves of our livelihood, our children of meals, etc. We shouldn't be forcing our spoused to take second jobs to pay our debts. In fact we shouldn't HAVE any debts. If we DO, then we have gone to far.
This is completely in line with our definition of sin in the first place - an act that yields negative consequences. The consequences aren't punishment - they're the reason we shouldn't have done it in the first place.
This includes not just money, but also TIME. If a person spends ALL their time gambling, taking away time with family and loved ones, its a sin. If a person immediately heads to the bingo hall after receiving their welfare check, a sin. If a person is LYING to their family members about their gambling, also a sin, because this time, the cost is their relationship with their families - again too much to risk.
What about PROFESSIONAL gamblers? Well, again it comes down to risk. If losing means losing EVERYTHING, then yea, its too much. GOD DOESN'T WANT US TO DO IT!
As such, gambling should only involve money that is EXTRA - that we can afford to lose. We have to have a limit for ourselves,which after exceeding, we are capably of STOPPING, WALKING AWAY.
But this brings me to a second point:
2) We also have to have already given sufficiently to the community in time, talent, and money. We are responsible not only for ourselves, but for those around us, for the church, for the poor, etc. We might think we have extra money at the end of our day, but do we? Have we given to the poor yet? Have we spent time volunteering for pancake breakfast, have we made it to church on Sunday, or were we sleeping in after a long night at the casino?
The bible tells us how much is expected to go back to God. That amount is 10%. That's our minimum. And we're required to give it because the community NEEDS it. The poor ARE POOR because they aren't taken care of by the rich. Etc. If, AFTER WE HAVE GIVEN our share to the community, we still have left-over, then we are entitle to spend that money taking care of ourselves on luxuries and recreations - this includes wide screen TV's, 100 pairs of shoes, and even a night at the casino.
3) This ties in to the other two. If we're addicted to gambling, we can't gamble AT ALL - not even with our excess, not even after we've given to charity, not AT ALL. The reason, because we can't and won't stop until we have violated 1 and 2 eventually. As addicts, we are no longer able to exercise self control AFTER the gambling process has begun. Therefore we have to exercise that control at the only time that we have control, BEFORE we begin.
Personally I love spending time with friends around a poker game, with a nickel ante and 5 dollar maximum. I also don't see anything wrong with spending a week in Vegas at the craps table or roulette wheel, so long as we aren't dipping into the kids college fund. We need to come ready to lose EVERYTHING that we're playing with. And if we get lucky, if we win, then bonus.
More to follow on the issue of gaming revenue.
For A LOT more info, see this week's WCR.