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Can gambling hurt me spiritually? Can gambling be a sin?

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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 1 Timothy 5:8But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
American King James Version×
). 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 2 Timothy 3:1-5 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
American King James Version×
.) 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 Colossians 3:5-6 5 Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience:
American King James Version×
).

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 Ephesians 5:5For this you know, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
American King James Version×
).

Combating covetousness

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 Luke 12:15And he said to them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.
American King James Version×
). 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 Philippians 2:3-4 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
American King James Version×
).

For more information, please read our booklet The Ten Commandments .

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