23 November 2009

A good question

by Phil Johnson



A reader sent me this excellent question:
Do you think your principle ["if you merely participate in a gambling contest with a desire to win, you are guilty of coveting that which belongs to your neighbor"] applies exclusively to gambling, or does it apply to any and all forms of competitive activity? For example, if I enter a boxing match, or any other competitive activity, I am entering it to win. Does this mean that I am guilty of violating the tenth commandment by coveting my opponents title, belt, or even reputation? It seems to me that it does, but I'm not sure.

Possibly but not necessarily. There's nothing wrong with competing in a contest to win. The apostle Paul clearly commended that desire in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

There are undoubtedly times, however, when an athlete's motives might be tainted with sinful pride and even sinful ill-will toward the opponent. (I think that's been a pervasive problem in modern professional sports at least since the time of Cassius Clay.) But I don't think that's always necessarily a part of athletic competition, or Scripture would condemn athletics altogether.

What makes gambling different, and always wrong in my estimation, is that there's no way to win without actually hurting other competitors. Your victory costs them something real (not just their own pride or title), and what you win is something to which you have no legitimate entitlement. Therefore, I have suggested it's tantamount to stealing.

Winning someone else's title isn't nearly the same thing, because you are entitled (by definition) to compete for that. It isn't really the other person's personal and private possession—except for a stint between contests.

I made note of this obliquely in my description of why gambling is tantamount to stealing: "It is the taking of that which belongs to your neighbor and to which you have no right."

You couldn't say that about the title in a sporting contest. You have a right, if you have the ability, to be champion of the US Open. But if you win, that title is rightfully yours for only one year, unless you legitimately win it again.

Phil's signature

50 comments:

Scott said...

Would you consider any sport with a cash first prize to be sinful? In this common style of competition all participants are required to pay a specified registration fee and then the winner gets a cash prize. Poker night at my friend's house is hardly distinguishable from such a competition. We all put in five dollars to play and then the first, second, and third place finishers take home portions of the cash. Other than local variations on how the cash is divided, this is the standard form for all poker tournaments.

Would you be more comfortable with the situation if we were playing basketball or running?

Gov98 said...

You know...
I was doing a Bible study topic on our approach, as Christians, to government, and to rules, and what really stunk was, that in the process of doing the study, I realized that there really isn't room for a Christian to even speed, or realistically even California stop...we're called to follow the rules in all cases where they are not in opposition to God.

In some ways, I'm noticing a similar issue with gambling... there's a lot of sin that's at the level of "speeding," but is speeding a sin, yeah I think so. Is it small? Yes... Does Satan want to undermine our testimony on petty sins? Yes.

And I say that as someone who has gambled, now I serve at my church in a way which prevents me from gambling, the thing that I don't like is...even after my service is completed, I don't think I should gamble after reading this. As fleshly people our hearts (mine included) is always far more inclined to what I can get away with than what is right. I think that's true here too.

Phil Johnson said...

Scott:

It depends on whether the "registration" fee is really just a stake. See the post where I gave the definitions.

There's a legal reason promos like Publisher's Sweepstakes don't legally count as gambling, but the lottery does. If the "entry fee" is actually treated as a gambling stake, then the game is technically the same as a wager. Depending on how the winnings are distributed, it may actually be a form of parimutuel betting.

Phil Johnson said...

PS: But to answer your first question directly: No. It's possible to have a sport with a cash prize and not violate any of the principles that make gambling wrong. It depends mostly on where the cash prize comes from.

Scott said...

So if the cash prize comes from the contestants you would consider the activity a sin?

Interesting... this is the standard structure for basketball tournaments and Battle of the Bands competitions across the US.

Sir Aaron said...

Scott:

We'd really have to know the accounting structure at that point. Many such contests have sponsors who pay for a lot of stuff. I don't really consider it to be the same. When you pay to enter a sporting event, you aren't wagering. You are paying to enter a tournament. When you gamble you generally get chips that reflect the value of money you put in. Each hand has a specific value. Sporting events don't generally rely heavily on chance.

That's the opinion I'm beginning to solidify at this point, anyways.

Andrew D said...

Scott,
I do not know what kind of basketball tourneys you are referring to (do you mean the NCAA Final 4 office pools???), but I can speak to the battle of the bands contests:

The registration fee does go towards funding the prize. However, assimilating crowds of energetic people who want to here live music and hear "undiscovered" bands is easily worth the registration fee.

In other words, most bands will pay the fee just for the publicity (just like they might pay a marketing manager to obtain publicity). That's how you get a fan following.

Having said all that, if the band members putting up the money don't care about publicity, but mostly just want to win other people's money, then yes they are gambling.

My high school band was like most - talented but not serious (it was fun while it lasted!) and now work as a business analsyst for an automotive retailer
*sigh*

Andrew D said...

Also, with sports a lot of the money is to pay for the grounds (maintaing those fancy clay tennis courts!) or for referees (basketball). Also the venues themselves are entitled to be compensated for hosting the event.

Then all of the participants receive the obligatory free t-shirt, pens, hats & wristbands.

It is not gambling scheme. If it was, it would be regulated as such by the government.

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

Thank you for your responses.

Aaron: I play poker at my friends house every month. While the chips have a numerical value, it is not a monetary value. The prize goes to those who get first, second, and third place. There is no "cashing out."

Andrew: The basketball tournaments are not "office pools." They are usually five on five tournaments and they are held across the US. In regards to the Battle of the Bands scenario, it sounds a lot like my poker nigh. I don't do it for the money; I do it for the fun of playing with my friends. The prize is just icing on the cake (which I rarely get).

You wrote, "if the band members putting up the money don't care about publicity, but mostly just want to win other people's money, then yes they are gambling."

So as long as I am putting up the money for the benefit of hanging out with my friends, unconcerned about winning, it's acceptable?

Andrew D said...

Scott,
Do your friends require that you put up money for them to hang out with you?

When they are unavailable for the "pay-for-hang-out-time" do you pay a "professional friend" to accomplish the same purpose?


If the answers are "no" then your borrowing of this analogy for your poker game fails, and it is gambling.

Danny said...

What then about casting lots in the bible? Isn't that something just left to chance?

Phil Johnson said...

Did they cast lots for money?

Scott said...

Andrew: No my friends do not require me to pay to hang out with them. However, they do require me to pay to engage in that particular social activity. Just as the band is required to pay in order to participate in the particular activity even though the prize isn't the goal.

But I don't only play with friends. I play with others who know my friends and enjoy the activity as well. I am not paying for the friendship but for the specific activity which I enjoy with my friends. I spend less than going to a concert with these guys. And generally speaking, I take home only my enjoyable experience as a result of both scenarios.

A great time is had by all and we all leave happy. In fact, most of the time we close the night by talking about our lives and praying for one another.

Scott said...

I'm confused, Dan. Would you say that throwing dice, as long as it's not for money, is not gambling?

I can wager my watch, my car, or an intangible (ideas, positions, etc.) and that is not gambling?

Phil Johnson said...

Please read the previous posts in this series--especially the definitions--before asking questions. Most of these issues have already been dealt with.

Jesse said...

Is there a distinction between basketball tournaments or battle of the bands because the outcome is determined by skill and not chance? Those participating in that sense control the outcome, and (unlike poker where skill is one of many factors) the prize is given to someone who earned it in the strictest sense of the word? When someone loses, they lost because of skill, not because of dice. Or am I making an artificial distinction?

This is not a personal question. I have no basketball or band ability.

John said...

Even though your definition includes the phrase "to which they have no right," I don't think that covetousness as defined in the Bible has such a qualification.

Not that I want to disagree with you; I just don't think this post was as convincing or conclusive as most of your posts are.

John said...

You may point to the phrases, "your neighbor's wife," "your neighbor's donkey," etc..., but those seem to be examples rather than qualifications. And even if we can get beyond the issue of coveting, we still have the pride issue.

ferron brimstone said...

Human Nature being what it is,if you have to ask "Is this a sin? It is a pretty good bet ;) it is.

Jason said...

Phil, Reading this post and the comments has brought up a question I have restled with for years and talked to many brothers about that I would like to get your opinion. It's unrelated to gambling, but with sports being mentioned and competition it brought it to mind. I have always struggled with boxing and this UFC fighting as a sport that believers participate in. Wrestling is one thing but to be in a sport that undoubtly brings physical harm to anothers body and in fact the goal of which is to knock out your opponent seems to me to be contrary to Scripture. I know that the purpose of a believer in this situation would be to score points and not to inflict harm, but it still trouble me to see believers beating people. Any thoughts?

stratagem said...

I have a friend who is a base-jumper. I wonder about "gambling" with one's own life in this way, even though it doesn't deprive another of their rightful possession? The best I've concluded is that it's a gray area, since many forms of entertainment have some risk to life and limb connected to them.

Citizen Grim said...

Amusing thought: Imagine if, somewhere in the Bible, God proscribed gambling as the method for the Israelites to obtain resources at the expense of the Canaanites. Imagine if He promised to sovereignly intervene to guarantee the success of their gambles, even against long odds, so long as they remained faithful to Him. Nevertheless, they abandoned Him for mere chance and luck of the draw.

Craig and Heather said...

The topic of "gambling as a sin" seems to be quite a hotly debated issue here. And it looks to me as though the two "camps" generally fall into

1. It's sin no matter how you cut it

and

2. It falls into the realm of "debatable matters" and so should be left up to individuals according to their own consciences.


I'm sure there are many sub-categories here, but I've noticed:

This topic definitely isn't a "light" one.

There are many here who would have a serious conscience issue if they were to participate in or approve of gambling.

Even the pro-gamblers tend to recognize how destructive gambling can be to one's family/friend relations, bank account etc.

The Bible does not appear to specifically address gambling, but does speak to many of the underlying motives that drive folks to participate.

Whether or not gambling in itself is evil, there is a social/moral stigma attached, which causes many to believe that it certainly is wrong--or at the least is playing with fire.

(I'm specifically talking about games of chance-or "bluffing" in which a "pot" of money is to be the prize---the kinds of games you would see in casinos)



So, I'm wondering, what we ought to do with:

Abstain from every appearance of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22

And

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats;
it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble.
The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God; happy is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves.
But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
Romans 14:20-23

And
For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol's temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?
And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.
Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.
1 Corinthians 8:10-13

I wonder how seriously we take those instructions when it might infringe on our own freedom to do something which we personally feel is "fine"?

For the record, I believe that if someone understands those passages well enough to claim he is the "weaker brother", then he isn't likely a weaker brother but someone who is trying to manipulate others. That sort of person needs to learn to grow up and accept that God deals with us as individuals.

Still, since this topic has been so vigorously discussed here--with genuinely convinced believers on both sides---

I wonder how Paul's instructions might affect pro-gamblers' positions?


Heather.

John Doe said...

Phil- greetings;

I read your write-up on gambling and have a few thoughts...

Primarily I think it is not necessary for you to go beyond your first point in which you rightly state that gambling is a violation of wise and faithful stewardship. Any such practice shows a clear disregard for things entrusted to us. Done.

All the rest (the ethical and the moral arguments you expounded on) don't add much of value above and beyond your first point (I don't think at least). Because you simply drag yourself away from sound inference into unprofitable questions which the scriptures are silent on:

..."an athlete's motives might be tainted with sinful pride and even sinful ill-will toward the opponent," you write as if to insinuate that if that were always the case "Scripture would condemn athletics altogether". (I hope I am merely following your argument to its logical conclusion, not taking it out of context.)

Would not the finest, nicest, and most polite of the boxing fellas that ever lived - but who nevertheless never confessed Christ as his savior in his heart - have harbored just as much pride in his heart as Cassius did on his worst day? So a particular way in which this pride might rear its head (in case of Cassius in a manner of brash and irreverent speech, to say the least) is of little consequence in establishing scriptural 'validity' of athletic competitions, just as many different manifestations of man's pride in a particular business venture do not render that line of business unscriptural.

I think you would agree.

In summary, yes, gambling is wrong Phil- and you got #1 right. It is however no more wrong than any other sin, and as such, deserves no 'special' attention beyond sound condemnation.

All the best.

d4v34x said...

In a Bass Fishing tournament, entrants pay a fee which both helps defray the cost of the event as well as fund the prize pool. Sponsor corporations also donate money to do both. In addition, sponsors may pay entrants to wear their logo on their hat or shirt, or have it emblazoned on their boat. The winners, who triumph by a combination of skill and (incalculable) chance, are awarded prize money, some of which came from fellow entrants.

In a poker tournament, entrants pay a fee which both helps defray the cost of the event as well as fund the prize pool. Sponsor corporations also donate money to do both. In addition, sponsors may pay entrants to wear their logo on their hat or shirt. The winners, who triumph by a combination of skill and (often exactly calculable) chance, are awarded prize money, some of which came from fellow entrants.

Is poker less of a gamble than tournament bass fishing?

Stefan said...

Gov98 hit the nail on the head. Even if it isn't penny-ante poker, most of us push the envelope (to put it mildly) on "be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy" on a daily basis, even if it's in small, petty, "not really sinful" ways. I know I do.

David_and_Goliath said...

Below are Pastor John MacArthur’s statements (from his sermon transcripts) on Gambling listed out and summarized and my comments in parentheses).

- Where there’s reasonable manageable risk, you don’t have gambling. (Texas Holdem has manageable risk)

- Gambling is a game. It is not a game based on skill. (Texas Holdem is based on skill)

- It is not a game based on reason. (Texas Holdem is based on reason, it’s unlike rolling dice)

- It is not a game based on anything controllable. It is a game based on sheer chance. Gambling is an appeal to sheer chance, random luck without skill or one’s personal involvement. (There is no such thing as chance, as JM explains in the Battle for the Beginning series; Texas Holdem has skill and personal involvement)
That’s gambling. It is an appeal to sheer chance without any control, purely random. (Texas Holdem has controls and is not purely random)

-Gambling is built on the sin of materialism. First Timothy 6:10, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
The sin of greed, that whatever you have is not enough. Luke 12:15 says, “Beware and be on your guard against every form of greed for even…for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Texas Holdem may OR may not have this element. If played with small amounts of money, it keeps it competitive and yet the focus is on fun/fellowship, not making money. If I am simply seeking to win a competition and (in reality) not coveting the other players money, this is not greed nor covetouesness.)

-Gambling is built on the sin of discontent. Philippians 4:11″Not that I speak from want, I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am for I know how to get along with humble means and I also know how to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (If I am content in my circumstances in life, then playing Texas Holdem doesn’t affect my contentment level. You can be happy when others do well and win a hand.)

-Gambling is built on exploitation, it is a subtle form of thievery. It exploits the poor. (Playing Texas Holdem may OR may not contain this element. Playing cards with friends/family for fun and fellowship does not exploit them).

...more to come...
Is Texas Hold’em a Sin?

David_and_Goliath said...

part2:
Below are Pastor John MacArthur’s statements (from his sermon transcripts) on Gambling listed out and summarized and my comments in parentheses).

-Gambling is predicated on this lust, this lazy lust for entertainment. The lazy person who tends toward poverty. (A hard-working person who takes care of the needs of his family and others can spend time playing games with family/friends without it being considered lazy! If this game is played every once in a while and is not a common everyday or every week activity, then it shows that there is not a ‘lazy lust for entertainment’ in someone’s life).

-Gambling is built on the sin of distrusting God. I believe God knows what I need and I believe that God will provide what I need. (Like I said, if I am content in my circumstances in life, then playing Texas Holdem doesn’t affect my contentment level or my trust in God. This would only apply if I played to solve financial problems)

-Gambling is built on the sin of irresponsible stewardship with God’s provision. (Again, Texas Holdem may OR may not have this element. If played with small amounts of money, it keeps it competitive and yet the focus is on fun/fellowship together. If I play and lose ten dollars to my friend or family member, but we have great fellowship and memories, then this is not necessarily bad stewardship. If playing with amounts that would affect your ability to meet the needs of others, then that would be bad stewardship.)

...more to come...

Is Texas Hold’em a Sin?

David_and_Goliath said...

Is Texas Hold’em a Sin?

part 3:
Below are Pastor John MacArthur’s statements (from his sermon transcripts) on Gambling listed out and summarized and my comments in parentheses).

-Gambling is predicated on irresponsible family leadership. If a man doesn’t take care of his family, he’s worse than an unbeliever – 1 Timothy 5:8. And it’s built on the sin of not loving your neighbor. If you have some extra, give it to somebody who needs it. Don’t throw it away in some appeal to chance. If you really love your neighbor you’re going to give him what he needs. (This is true regardless of Texas Holdem or not. I believe Texas Holdem – as described above, is not considered gambling).

-Gambling makes a persistent appeal to covetousness and is fundamentally opposed to the unselfishness which was taught by Jesus Christ and by the New Testament. The attempt inseparable from gambling to make a profit out of the inevitable loss and suffering of others is certainly the antithesis of loving your neighbor as yourself. If we’re ever going to curb gambling, we’re going to have to curb covetousness…pretty formidable task. Greed, materialism, love of money, they flourish in a gambling environment. Gambling built on covetousness is an act of unfaithfulness to God because it assumes that God has not given us what we ought to have. (Again, this is true regardless of Texas Holdem or not. I believe Texas Holdem – as described above, is not considered gambling).

Phil - let me know your thoughts. I want to submit to the Word of God in this area. I do not believe the way I play Texas Holdem with friends/family is considered gambling. Please show me how I am flawed in my thinking if you believe so. God Bless - David

Tim said...

I must say that 99 times out of 100 I agree with Phil, but this is probably the one. That is not to say that gambling is okay. Most of the time it is wrong. A stewardship issue clearly applies. If stewardship was the basis Phil used I would agree with him. Where Phil's argument is weak in my opinion is that he is arguing that ALL gambling is wrong and that it is tantamount to coveting and stealing.

As I read it, based on Phil's definition gambling would have to include any tournament (slot, poker, chess, pool, golf, basketball, etc.) where the prize pool is funded from entrants. It would also include any fantasy football league where money was involved.

Granted I do particpiate in fantasy football and enjoy the occasional poker game, so maybe I am defending my own behavior, but I do not think that is the case. I am also an Elder in my local church and I would have a problem if someone said that participation in type of tournaments I noted above were sin.

So while on specific examples I would probably be in agreement with Phil 98% of the time, I think he is incorrect in his blanket (ALL) argument, or definitions.

Sir Aaron said...

Heather"

With those verses and gambling, I take this approach. I believe most gambling exists entirely to promote covetousness. And by then the casinos use this greed to then take your money. So as a whole, I avoid gambling. But when it comes to other questionable games, tournaments, etc.,I avoid anything I don't feel comfortable with. Those games I do feel comfortable with (because I've determined that it doesn't meet Phil's definition of gambling), such as playing poker for chips, I only play with those whose consciences aren't bothered by such activities. The same is true with alcohol. I beleive the Bible allows us to partake, even considers it a blessing so long as one doesn't get drunk.. So if I'm by myself or with others who share my beliefs, I partake freely without second guessing. But, when my good friend comes over, who says he once struggled with alcohol, I stick with Martinelli.

Does that make sense?

Sir Aaron said...

Tim:

I read it the opposite way. I think Phil's definitions limit the scope of the field. I'm willing to agree with Phil insofar as the the gambling under discussion fits within his definitions. In areas of uncertainty, where we cannot be certain that a game fits within his definitions, I leave that open to the liberty of the Christian assuming that some other principle is not still being violated (for example, paying money to enter any kind of tournament may be sinful if your financial situation is such that you cannot afford it).

After these threads, I do believe it is important to examine our motives for even trivial activities. Our natural heart is deceitfully wicked and sometimes we ignore, then defend "respectable sins."

gmftech said...

Final Word, did you know that LasVegas churches accept gambling chips?

This may be surprising but there are more Catholic churches than casinos in Vegas. Some worshipers will give casino chips rather than cash when the basket is passed. Since they get chips from many different casinos the churches send all their collected chips to a nearby Franciscan monastery for sorting and then the chips are taken to the casino of origin and cashed in.

This is done by the Chip Monks.

Respectabiggle said...

Is the randomness of the dice, cards, or roulette table part of what makes the wager immoral?

Phrased another way, is auto racing for pink slips gambling? There is a "stake", which someone will win and someone will lose, but the outcome is determined by skill and hardware, not chiefly by luck. I guess the same question applies to medieval jousting, where the victor kept the loser's horse and armor.

thatbaddog said...

Things we wouldn't have without gambling:

Virginia (Jamestown financed by lottery, 1612)

Any of the other 13 colonies for that matter (all used lotteries as a revenue source for state operations or defense during critical early periods)

Princeton, Columbia, UPenn, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, William and Mary, Brown, Union (establishmed or supported by lotteries)

America, as we know it (French and Indian War and Revolutionary War both financed by lotteries; also, increasing English regulation of American lotteries was one of the many friction points between the colonies and the crown)

Prominent early promoters and operators of lotteries:

George Washington
Ben Franklin
Alexander Hamilton
John Hancock
Thomas Jefferson

Doesn't prove anything right or wrong of course, unless you are a "Founding Fathers were Fundamentalists/Covenant Nation America" - type, for whom this should conclusively deomonstrate the godly, patriarchal duty of playing Lotto Texas.

Andrew D said...

Tim,
you said that
you disagreed with Phil,
that his arguement was weak,
that some activities you did not expect (which you sometimes do) are included, and
that you would have a problem if someone in your church held the same position.

OK. Your vote has been recorded. But were you going to state why???

thatbaddog said...

Respectabiggle -

That was actually the primary argument by Puritans against all games of chance, and why American Puritans banned not only the games, but even possession of gaming materials (cards, dice, gaming tables), even in private homes.

The Puritans held to the view that "the lot" was essentially sacred, since its outcome was determined directly by God ("the lot falls in the lap, etc."), so that to use it for a game or entertainment, or indeed any other purpose at all, was a pretty heinous sin.

Of course, the computer that you are sitting at uses a random number generator for crucial operations, so you may want to think carefully about this idea and its applications, lest you be required by conscience to abandon all of your consumer electronics.

wtanksley said...

I made note of this obliquely in my description of why gambling is tantamount to stealing: "It is the taking of that which belongs to your neighbor and to which you have no right."

Clearly, gambling is NOT the taking of that which belongs to your neighbor. The proceeds won in gambling are not the property of any individual contestant; the contestants have given their property up in order to enter the contest. This is simply incontestable; although I've seen people disagree with it, there haven't been any actual arguments presented.

However, this addresses only half of your claim, and the second half got me thinking, because it seems _right_. I think a good Creation-oriented case could be made that the winner of a pure gamble does not have a right to the proceeds. My case for that starts thusly: Gain, monetary or otherwise, is the legitimate fruit of skill and labor, not of randomness. Our workplaces should honor this principle, and our entertainments should as well. When they fail to do this, we will suffer as a society.

This principled approach allows us to notice that few things are in themselves black and white; and that many of us do _good_ things with a _filthy_ heart. Yes, perhaps it's impossible to sinlessly throw dice for gain; but it's possible to, while managing a business, promote yourself by taking credit for an accidental windfall, or conversely to refuse to promote an underling whose skill has truly promoted the business. All three are denials of this principle.

And note that this principle isn't about covetousness. It's about honoring God -- the first half of the Law, not the second. Covetousness can exist without gambling, and gambling can exist without covetousness.

On the other hand, I think that concluding that gambling is theft is equivocation. Gambling that violates this principle would be a sin, but not the same sin as theft.

Now, I've said all that. Here's a test of the principle. Suppose my 4 brothers and I are deeded my parent's house, we don't want to sell it, and it's big enough for only one of our families. In the absence of any reason to give it to one instead of the other, would we be sinning to settle the matter by drawing straws? I'm thinking that it would be, unless we arranged things so that all parties were benefited no matter what the outcome was -- for example, if the winner paid rent to all the others, so that an agreement could be reached before the random decision was made that couldn't reasonably result in bitterness.

-Wm

Andrew D said...

wtanksley,
the store about the 4 brothers doesn't fit. There is no stake.

The 1/4th ownership of the house is of no value to any of them.

So they are free to draw straws if they all agree to do so.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

D4v34x: "Is [tournament] poker less of a gamble than tournament bass fishing?

I think I asked something very similar in the first post of this series. It's an on-topic question.

Tim: "As I read it, based on Phil's definition gambling would have to include any tournament (slot, poker, chess, pool, golf, basketball, etc.) where the prize pool is funded from entrants. It would also include any fantasy football league where money was involved.

I think he is incorrect in his blanket (ALL) argument, or definitions."


I agree with Tim.

onmysoapbox2 said...

Sir Aaron,

I appreciate your taking the time to answer my question.

You said:
I believe most gambling exists entirely to promote covetousness. And by then the casinos use this greed to then take your money. So as a whole, I avoid gambling.

A similar thought has been poking me in the back of the brain. Even if the Bible does not specifically condemn gambling, but the potentially (and pretty consistently) devastating effects are "out there" for everyone to see, it causes me to wonder why we all wouldn't want to place as much distance as possible between ourselves and that known stumbling block.


In my mind, a Christian choosing to stay away completely from gambling (for money) isn't a matter of legalistically avoiding a certain "less than holy" behavior, but rather shows a recognition that it is an activity that tends to be more harmful than beneficial.

Your illustration of playing poker for chips (with those whose consciences are okay with it) or adjusting alcohol consumption so as to not cause a brother to stumble makes sense.

Thanks,

Heather

wtanksley said...

"There is no stake... The 1/4th ownership of the house is of no value to any of them."

Sole ownership of the house is actually at stake, and is of value to all involved (they all want to live there). Further, they all actually have ownership rights that they wish to put at stake. If none of them valued that right, they would simply give it up; there would be no debate.

"So they are free to draw straws if they all agree to do so."

I have to say that I don't think this looks like gambling -- it looks like casting a lot to make a decision when there's no possible grounds for a decision made by wisdom. On the other hand, my principle wasn't intended to define gambling, but rather to explain why gambling feels so wrong and why it's so morally dangerous. So the principle should still apply -- and I think that in this case it does apply. The danger in this case comes from presuming that the "losing" brothers will accept happily and over the long term an arrangement which took their property without any reason; their consent could well have been forced by the family pressure. It's certain that they got nothing in return.

-Wm

Eric Thomas Anderson said...

Ok, I just read like six of your posts on gambling, and I am still confused. I don't understand how gambling is a sin.

Here's my situation, I play poker with about 10 Christian guys roughly once a month. It is $20 to get in, max bet is $1.

I am not good at poker what so ever, I just want to spend time with the guys, and they enjoy playing poker. Every time I go I lose $20 bucks.

I don't care if I lose $20 bucks because I am investing time (and money) on relationships with my friends. I have no delusions that I am going to win anything, (and never have.) I don't want their money, I just want to hang out.

Is this gambling (or am I paying to have friends)? Because I certainly don't believe that this is greed on my part at least. I fully agree that greed is sin. I would even say that not practicing stewardship over the funds that God has provide to you is sin.

Just help me understand how losing $20 that I budgeted, and really don't care if I lose is a sin.

Andrew D said...

wtanksley

A stake must have value to the one wagering it. The value must be in the possession of the one putting it at risk.

Saying that the house has value to all of them is a non answer, because none of has sole ownership.

So what you have is no single individual wagering anything of value to himself. No stake=not gambling, right?

Saying that they value their "ownership rights" is not relevant. They aren't wagering their ownership rights by drawing straws. Just the opposite They are exercising (claiming and clinging to) their ownership voting rights by making a decision as to whether to draw straws.

And the "gain from the randomness" is justly obtained. The principle you put forth is not derived from the Scripture. It appears to be completely derived from your personal feelings.

Also it is not clear when you say that "the principle should apply" what you mean by that. Does it delineate right/wrong?

canonglenn said...

Your posts on gambling are most helpful. I am a pastor and the lady who cuts my hair, her best friend is now addicted to gambling at the casinos in Biloxi, MS. My stylist has asked for a bible study on gambling, you guys have already done the work. Could you do me a favor? I need these articles in .pdf. Could you provide that for me? I am sure that others would benefit as well.

Susan said...

Pyros playing at Caesar's Palace? Pun intended?? :)

wtanksley said...

A stake must have value to the one wagering it. The value must be in the possession of the one putting it at risk.

Yes.

Saying that the house has value to all of them is a non answer, because none of has sole ownership.

Completely irrelevant. Distributed ownership has economic value! In addition, the possession of a share is precisely what gives each brother the right to participate in deciding how to assign the house, as you admit below; that right is itself worth something (if one of the brothers already had a dwelling they didn't want to give up, they could sell their share to another).

One of the brothers could sell his part to someone else, or indeed could deed it in his will. Or one of the brothers could lose his part of the house while gambling :-)! (If we suppose that this in fact happened, we'd have a situation where one of the partial owners has a monetary stake rather than simply a value stake.)

So what you have is no single individual wagering anything of value to himself. No stake=not gambling, right?

The entire house is at stake because each of the brother's ownerships is at stake.

If you'd accept this you'd see some other solutions to the problem. For example, the brothers could individually negotiate to buy each other out; or could negotiate a monthly rent to be paid by the dweller and split evenly among all (which would mean that they wouldn't be giving up their ownership); or some might want to sell out while others might want to stay in.

For that matter, if the matter remains doubtful even after making the decision outcome more balanced (for example, suppose two brothers bid the exact same amount), they could still draw straws, and as a result of following this principle there would be far less reason for any of the brothers to resent the result. (See below: it's a principle of wisdom, not a sin.)

Saying that they value their "ownership rights" is not relevant.

Of course it's relevant -- as you argued above, if they didn't value their ownership rights there wouldn't be anything at stake. (But then there wouldn't be any decision to make either.)

They aren't wagering their ownership rights by drawing straws.

What on earth ARE they giving up to the winner if NOT their ownership rights? If they didn't give up their ownership, any one of them could act as landlord to kick the winner out at any time and for no reason.

Just the opposite They are exercising (claiming and clinging to) their ownership voting rights by making a decision as to whether to draw straws.

Anyone can make this same argument with gambling. Frankly, it's blatant hair-splitting. Oh, I have a new word for it -- they're exercising their freedom of choice! (That was sarcasm.)

The reason that it's hair-splitting is that it's true (yes, the reason they're legally allowed to make the decision is that they have those ownership rights); but it totally ignores the substance of the decision being made (to GIVE UP the ownership rights!).

(continued...)

wtanksley said...

(yow. Continued.)

And the "gain from the randomness" is justly obtained.

So I guess you're just going to SAY that? Not back it up or anything? If that's true, then Pyro is completely wrong to claim that gambling winnings are theft "because ... It is the taking of that [...] to which you have no right." If a random draw CAN give you the right to take the item, then you have the right to take gambling winnings.

Think about it this way: You're in a position of an advisor for people you don't know. "Sure, go ahead! What could possibly go wrong?" Well, anyone could tell you: any of the losing brothers could get cold feet and realize how much they gave up for NOTHING in return.

In the old days, the same problem might be settled either by appealing to law (the property goes with the birthright in order to carry on the father's business) or by divine intervention (go to the priest and have him consult the Urim and Thummim). The matter would be settled, because both interventions have universally accepted authority (at the time), and no court would allow any brother to question it. The Urim and Thummim are, of course, a random choice, so there's a parallel there; but we lack any hint that this was actually divinely sanctioned rather than simply divinely accepted and used, and it's irrelevant because our society no longer accepts that mode of decision.

The principle you put forth is not derived from the Scripture. It appears to be completely derived from your personal feelings.

An excellent objection! Thank you. You're absolutely right to say that I didn't back it up from scripture. But II Thess 3 commands, as a principle, that people work to earn their living. The Creation story shows that even God worked to bring about good things. The Curse says that our bread will be earned by hard work. Proverbs has too many injunctions on the subject to list (if you still doubt, I'm willing to try to build a list). More remotely, Paul says that part of undoing the evil of theft is to work with your hands in order to give to others (he could be giving a punishment, but that's not the feeling I get; I think that's simply the logical and practical opposite of theft).

Also it is not clear when you say that "the principle should apply" what you mean by that. Does it delineate right/wrong?

No, because God didn't include it in the law. What it does indicate is wisdom or foolishness. If the brothers draw straws because they KNOW that all of them will accept the outcome -- i.e. they're very close, visit each other all the time, and completely trust the winner to sponsor all the others -- they're not being unwise even though they're taking that risk. If they're a little more remote, or one of them doesn't completely trust one of the others (and perhaps might not be willing to SAY that!), it could end in disaster. The trouble is that even if the brothers are certain NOW (and how can they know that -- or how can you the adviser know that) we don't know what will happen in the future.

Again, the fact that this is a principle makes it a matter for wisdom. Yes, you can sin by going against a principle; but you can also sin by following one. To mangle a Solzhenitsyn quote: "The line separating good and evil passes not through [principles, nor through actions, nor through willingness to endure risk] either - but right through every human heart - and through all human hearts."

As a Baptist, I'm disappointed to see the Reformed getting this point so wrong. We're supposed to be the ones who wrongly think that card playing, dancing, and going to the theater are sins; you're supposed to be wiser than us in this respect.

-Wm

Phil Johnson said...

ThatBadDog: "Of course, the computer that you are sitting at uses a random number generator for crucial operations, so you may want to think carefully about this idea and its applications, lest you be required by conscience to abandon all of your consumer electronics."

In a thread fairly flowing with ignorant comments, that has to be the champion. Congratulations.