Life is full of risks. Taking a risk is not necessarily wrong. It depends on the context of that risk. Christian business folks need to prayerfully approach making decisions for the future of their business. This involves faith in the Lord, sound business knowledge, and skill as a leader. Gambling is also a risk, but does not include abilities given to us by God.

Walking into bars just to drink or into casinos just to gamble is wrong. If we are willing to gamble away $100, the right thing would be to put that money to a worthy cause. Why help a business that invites prostitution, organized crime, ruination of marriages and families, and demonic addiction? Although the Bible does not directly state that gambling is wrong, it does say “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). This can be interpreted as “money should be earned by work, not by taking chances to lose more than one gains.” Also, we need to guard our reputations, especially in today’s hi-tech, cell phone camera, YouTube crazy generation. Many people are now being “caught” doing something, and, especially if taken out of context, this often damages us and it sends the wrong message to others who have heard that we are believers in Jesus. We are always role models whether or not we like it.

What about buying lottery tickets? Again, we are then supporting a system that has ruined many families and individuals. It is also hoping to gain wealth quickly, and without earning it. Not good. If you feel it is okay, allow the Holy Spirit to reveal your motives for the purchase, then truth will come to light. Excellent relevant Scriptures include:

Do not weary yourself to gain wealth…. – Proverbs 23:4

Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it. – Proverbs 13:11

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished… A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, And does not consider that poverty will come upon him. – Proverbs 28:19-20,22

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15

Some Christians believe that small-time, friendly wagering (just to make things interesting) is okay. Here we must be careful. There needs to be balance between two Biblical concepts: 1) Paul tried to act like people from different cultures so that they would be more open to respond to the Gospel when he shares it with them (when in Rome, do as the Romans do), and 2) we should not do something that causes someone else to stumble, i.e., if a believer rejects all forms of gambling, then we do not flaunt it in front of them. So, if a couple of pals of mine want to bet a dime per hole on a golf course “just to make it interesting,” I see no problem with that, especially if they are non-believers because our willingness to partake in this makes them feel that we do not have a “holier than thou” attitude. We still must be careful even with this example because the “stakes” may slowly rise over time, and therefore a line must be drawn. Perhaps we could offer an alternative “bet” such as the loser buys the soda drinks at the end of the round. This way, there is no exchange of money. Be sensitive to the Spirit on these issues. He will always glorify Jesus and lead us to Truth.

In conclusion, if we allow these three portions of God’s Word guide to our decisions, we will not do wrong:

  1. Romans 14:17 – “For the Kingdom of God is not eating or drinking, but righteousness and peace andjoy in the Holy Spirit.”

  2. 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

  3. Romans 12:1-2 – “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

If we follow through with these specific instructions, God will let us know what to do in specific situations.

Feedback so far:

NF – Very interesting views and good advice given here!! Thanks for sharing them!

AL – Question. I’ve often considered hosting a low-stakes poker night. I used to do this long ago and the stakes are set such that a $5 “buy in” lasts all night and bets are done with coins or chips. It was a typical norm that, effectively, the same $5 would be passed around week after week within the group. We all actually did this to save money because between snacks and coins, we’d each spend 3-4 hours on a Sat. night together and spend less than $10 each (and, like I said, you’d often win back whatever you’d lost the following week). Those were some great memories. In comparison, movies, dinner, and other ways of going out costs so much and don’t often feel like “bonding” the way competing does–even if skill levels are low.

I don’t feel conflicted about doing it now in the same way your golf example makes sense. Also, with cards, if the bets mean literally nothing, then people play very different (and sometimes silly) strategies compared to even when mere pennies are on the line. And, I gave some thought to doing that over the winter to pass the time inside in a more interactive way. But, like you said, I didn’t know who might have had a problem in the past so I didn’t bother.

So, when you have time, what are your thoughts on this? What do you feel about penny poker (or more accurately, played with pennies, nickels, dimes, and/or quarters) with a fairly low maximum bet of like .25 to .50 per hand. Feel free to share portions of this if you’d like.

Dave to AL – Thanks for your challenging thoughts. It seems to me that there is one big difference between my golf example and your poker one, and perhaps I did not make my example clear enough. In my golf example, the context is that I, the Christian, am playing with non-Christians with the hope of planting seeds of salvation in them and they are the ones initiating the gambling piece. In your example, you are the Christian who is initiating gambling, albeit very small stakes. While there may not be a black and white answer to your question, the Scripture does say to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess 5:22). Of the various translations on this verse, I think the King James Version is the best. Others do not necessarily emphasize or contain the word “appearance.” This is an important word and hits the crux of the meaning of what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. Something may not be wrong within a certain context, but others may not realize all the facts and believe we are sinning. A single man may allow a single woman to stay overnight at his apartment or house and not come close to having sex with her, but the outside world does not know that and would suspect it. Therefore, single Christian men should not do that.

Since your motive is bonding with people via a fun activity, there are many alternatives that can achieve the same objective without raising any eyebrows. Since there is so much stigma with gambling among many people, I would suggest *Croquet-Golf with a trophy to win at the end! Now those who qualify for the annual CG Tournament must pay a $3 fee to enter. This pays for the name etching on the trophies for the champs. Now, one may assert that the fee is an “ante” and is no different from what you wanted to do. Point taken, but somehow Croquet-Golf does not evoke the same thoughts as cards and poker. I’ll pass on these emails to Pastor Mark in order to get his thoughts.

*Croquet-Golf is a game I made up and is played in my yard. One has not lived until one has played CG at Hinkleyville Hills CG Course!

AL – Thanks for your feedback. It makes sense.

GR – A usual excellent work and I appreciate all the time and effort involved in this study. I take mild exception to your ok concept of betting a “dime” or probably a dollar on the golf course or any where else. Whenever that happens, I have to ask my self, WHY? What is the purpose of betting to “make things interesting?” I don’t care, golf is interesting enough. Betting is about winning and when that becomes important on a golf course or anywhere else, then other non-biblical motives enter into things. For example, do I want my girls to win their soccer game on Wednesday nights at Doug Miller’s? Yes, but am I willing to bet on that? WHY. Same holds true on a golf course. If I am golfing with John B or Larry, I really am there to have fun, NOT to win. I want to do well. I think betting contaminates the pureness of activity and is driven by the Love of Money and greed. I am willing to bet you I am right. LOL.

Dave to GR – Yes, your comments are definitely taking the high road on this issue. (I’ll bet you a dollar that you will not have the courage to play Croquet-Golf this season).

CL – excellent.