Sins are thoughts and actions that break God's law, that He tells us not to do because they hurt our relationship with Him or with others. Considering gambling in light of God's Ten Commandments, can it be a sin?
Webster's Dictionary defines "gamble" as "to play at any game of chance for money or other stakes." The laws of probability clearly show that to gamble is to lose, so nearly everyone agrees that gambling is unwise and wasteful. This is especially so when a gambler uses money that should have been used to take care of the needs of his or her family. The apostle Paul wrote that if a Christian doesn't "provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy:5:8). This could be compared to stealing from his or her family, thus breaking the Eighth Commandment.
Also, to attempt to win something for nothing, to "beat the odds," can be the sin of covetousness (an inordinate desire for wealth), breaking the Tenth Commandment. The following excerpt from our booklet titled The Ten Commandments explains this:
The apostle Paul's description of covetous people in the last days is instructive. "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" (2 Timothy:3:1-5.) This is a vividly accurate description of our world.
One glaring example of the almost universal acceptance of covetousness is the burgeoning popularity of government-run lotteries. Millions of people surrender part of their paychecks each week hoping to win a fantasy life of ease and luxury. Likewise, the gambling meccas of the world are hugely popular vacation resorts, specializing in entertainment appealing to our baser instincts.
Promoting covetousness is big business. Advertising agencies and research firms make a science out of manipulating the selfish appetites of consumers. Like ancient Israel, we are a covetous society, from the least to the greatest.
A form of idolatry
Covetousness is much more serious than just a social malady. When we put greed, lust and self above God, coveting becomes idolatry.
Paul warns us, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience" (Colossians:3:5-6).
Paul elsewhere links the sins of coveting with idolatry, pointing out that these and other sins can prevent us from entering God's Kingdom. "For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Ephesians:5:5).
Jesus commanded His disciples to "beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke:12:15). Likewise, Paul tells us, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4).
For more information, please read our booklet The Ten Commandments .