16 November 2009

Is Gambling OK? Don't Bet on It

by Phil Johnson

I posted this series of articles on the original Pulpit blog several years ago and it generated a lot of discussion. Somehow in the many URL-changes and format redesigns over there, these articles went missing from the Pulpit archives, so I am recreating the series here at PyroManiacs. Be advised: If you are someone who loves gambling and are convinced there's no principle of Scripture that forbids it, you might want to wait until the series is complete before posting an angry note of disagreement. No pun intended, but I'll bet I'm going to anticipate and answer most of your arguments before the series is over.

Here is a list of all the posts in the series:
  1. Is Gambling OK? Don't Bet on It
  2. Gambling: Some Definitions and Distinctions
  3. Answering a couple of objections
  4. Oh, and one more thing . . .
  5. Gambling vs. Faithful Stewardship
  6. Does 'Mutual Consent' Eliminate the Evil in Gambling?
  7. A good question
  8. The Sin of Putting God to the Test
  9. Gambling: The Moral Antithesis of Charity

     While we're on the subject, see this.



s it a sin to gamble? There's not an easy or instantly-obvious prooftext answer to that question. If you are looking for a "Thus saith the Lord: Thou shalt not gamble," you won't find it anywhere. Nothing expressly forbids gambling anywhere in Scripture.

Does that automatically put gambling into the realm of adiaphora, or indifferent matters? I don't think so. I would argue that gambling is a sin, full stop.

A Sin? Are you Serious? Why Would Anyone Believe that in this Enlightened Age?

Here are three reasons that instantly come to mind:



  1. The absence of a single commandment or proof-text against gambling ultimately proves nothing.There are lots of things that are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible that we would probably agree are clearly sinful.
         There isn't anything in Scripture that forbids arson, for example. But we know arson is wrong because it violates other biblical principles. It's a violation of the commandment in Leviticus 19:18: "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
         As a matter of fact, even thinking about burning down your neighbor's property violates Zechariah 8:17: "Let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour . . . [for] these are things that I hate, saith the Lord." So I don't think anyone would seriously argue that arson is OK, just because it isn't named in the Bible as a sin. Ditto with recreational drug use, graffiti-vandalism, and a host of other societal evils.
  2. Gambling is inconsistent with biblical virtue. It is fueled by—and it fuels—covetousness, greed, and materialism. It is associated with crime, vice and corruption, so that wherever gambling exists, crime rates rise. And it is contrary to the biblical work ethic, because it is an attempt to gain wealth without working for it.
  3. Our possessions are not our own to squander. They are given to us as a stewardship, and we will be accountable to God for how we use them. To put God-given resources at risk is to fail in the faithfulness required of stewards.

I once gave that answer to a college student who asked me about gambling in a public Q&A session in GraceLife. He stayed at the microphone while I gave my answer, and I could see he was not satisfied with it. When I finished, he asked if he could respond.

"By all means," I told him. "If that doesn't answer your question, ask a follow-up, and I'll expand on my answer.

Can't You Make a Better Case Than That?

"Well," he said, "I still don't think you have shown that gambling is a sin. Let me reply to your arguments one by one.



"First," he said, "take the example of arson. It is wrong to burn down your neighbor's field or his house only when there is no mutual consent. But suppose he wanted your help burning his field because he wanted to clear the land. Then it would not be a sin for you to set fire to his property.

"As a matter of fact," he continued, "My neighbors had an abandoned building they were going to demolish for a new commercial development. So they allowed some fire department trainees to set fire to the building and practice putting it out. It wasn't a sin for the rookie fireman to set fire to that house, because the owner had given his consent.

"And gambling is always by mutual consent," he said. So it cannot be wrong done against your neighbor, because you have his concurrence before the game of chance begins."

He wasn't finished.

"Second," he said, "gambling isn't necessarily motivated only by covetousness and greed. I like to gamble for recreation and sheer entertainment."

Looking at me, he asked, "What is your favorite form of entertainment?"

"I like to take my sons to a baseball game," I said.

"Fine," he answered. "If you take your family to a baseball game, by the time you bought tickets, paid for parking, and got some food or drinks, you would probably have spent $100 to $150. All that money to watch an athletic contest! You get nothing tangible for your money except maybe a Coke and a large pretzel. The whole game is over in two and a half hours, and you go back home, with nothing to show for the money you spent. It is just entertainment; sheer recreation.

"Now, the form of recreation I prefer is gambling. I can take the same $100 and go to a casino, where I might spend the entire evening playing Blackjack. I get all the Cokes and pretzels I want for free. And if I have a good night, I can play for four or five hours with my $100—twice as long as you spent at your two-and-a-half-hour ball game.

"Furthermore," he said, "I might win, and then I will go home with even more money than I came with. But I don't do it because of greed. I do it because that is what I enjoy, just like you enjoy baseball."

I started to respond, but he held up a finger to signal that he wasn't through yet.

"Now," he said, "Let's talk about the stewardship issue. You went to an athletic event and have nothing permanent to show for the money you spent. I might have more money coming out than I had going into the casino.

"But even if I lose," he said, "I am a disciplined loser, and I always set a specific amount I am willing to lose—never more than about 100 dollars. And if I lose that much, I quit and walk away. That is still less money than you spent on your baseball outing, and it usually buys me several hours of exciting entertainment. Sometimes I even win, so I can even make money through my form of entertainment. Now I ask you, which is better stewardship?"

I took a deep breath and pondered the best way to reply.

But before I could answer, he continued. "There are risks involved in gambling," he said. "But the farmer who spends money to buy seed and plant a field also takes a huge gamble every year. If the weather destroys his crop, he will lose far more than I ever risk. Risk is a normal part of all our lives."

And then he asked me, "Do you have any of your retirement savings in mutual funds?" As a matter of fact, I do, so I acknowledged that fact.

"Well," he said, "you are taking a risk with that money. You yourself are gambling that the market will rise. What if it goes down? You will lose money. So you are gambling that it will go up. Meanwhile, you have put your savings at risk. How in the world can you tell me you think gambling is sinful? You aren't even practicing what you preach. If it is wrong to gamble, it is wrong for you to put your retirement savings in the stock market. And if it is unwise stewardship for me to gamble at cards, then it is also bad stewardship for you to invest money in mutual funds.

"And finally," he said, "My enjoyment of gambling has got nothing to do with my work ethic. In addition to my student class load, I work a full time job during the week and make good money. For me to spend $100 on Friday night at the casino is no more a reflection on my work ethic than for you to spend $150 on Friday evening at a baseball game.

"Gambling is just entertainment for me, and unless you are prepared to argue that all forms of entertainment are sinful, give me better arguments to show that gambling violates the Bible's moral standards, or show me where the Bible says gambling is a sin, I am going to keep visiting the casino."

That's a pretty thorough off-the-cuff reply to my off the-cuff answer to his original question, isn't it? It was obvious that he had spent a great deal of time thinking through these issues. He had heard the standard arguments, and he believed he could answer them all.

Well, OK. Let's Think This Through More Carefully . . .

By then, unfortunately, we were running short on time, and I only had enough time left to give him a quick reply.

I told him first of all that I still believe a sinister principle underlies all gambling, and it is this: for every winner, there are losers. And the winners' gains come at the losers' expense. There is no other way to gain money through gambling. When you win, you are taking that which belongs to another. The winners' profit always comes directly from the losers' pocket. There's something more sinister about that than merely winning an athletic competition, which involves no material loss for the loser.

In other words, gambling is the moral equivalent of stealing. His argument about mutual consent between the players didn't seem to make it OK, because in real life many gambling losses lead to ruin for the loser. Prior consent doesn't eliminate the evil in that.

I also told him I did not completely buy his rationale that gambling might be just a form of pure entertainment—something better by which to pass the time than watching television. While the argument has some appeal at first glance, I pointed out that if there is an immoral principle that underlies all gambling—if gambling per se violates any clear principle of Scripture—then it is wrong on any grounds. To say that you gamble only for entertainment is not really a good defense against the argument that gambling is rooted in greed and covetousness.

For example, what if someone tried to claim it was OK to fornicate because he was doing it only as a form of entertainment? My point was this: if it's wrong to gamble on matters of biblical principle, then it is wrong to gamble in any circumstance, and it is wrong to gamble in any amount. If there are principles that make gambling a sinful activity, then it is wrong to gamble for "entertainment," and it is wrong whether you are gambling 50 cents or gambling your whole paycheck.

I regretted that we had to end our Q&A session at that point. He went away unsatisfied with my reply, and so did I.

While I still felt all my arguments were biblically sound, I didn't feel I had done enough to highlight the real heart of the matter. And that prompted me to give more thought to the issue of gambling so that I would be better prepared to give an answer if the question ever came up again.

Since then, I have thought through the issues more carefully than ever. I've considered the arguments further. I've taken an even closer look at the biblical data. And I hasten to say that I am even more convinced than ever that gambling is a sinful activity. It is not a valid form of entertainment, and it is not a harmless matter of indifference. It violates a number of biblical principles and therefore ought to be avoided in all its forms.

Hold on; I'm Not Finished Yet

A blog is a great medium for exploring such a questions in careful detail. So in a couple of follow-up posts, I plan to give you a series of biblical arguments showing in further detail exactly why I still believe gambling is a sin.

Stay tuned for more . . .

Phil's signature

151 comments:

A Jam C said...

You have a good memory... it seemed like you gave every detail of his answer. I wanted to break stuff while I was reading the other guy's answer. Deep down, the motivation is selfishness. He may not agree with that, but anyone would be a fool if they didn't go into a gambling situation with the hope of making money. That's called greed.

Andy Dollahite said...

I'm very interested to see how this continues. My instinct is to agree with Phil's argument, but it will be great to see the finer points as they are made available.

A Jam C - Would it not be possible for someone to play Texas Hold'em with their buddies for an evening, having no desire to make any money on their nickel/dime/quarter game, but only to enjoy the time with the guys? They're spending five dollars to hang out for the night, not make money. Phil's point that the gambling would still be wrong could hold true, but the person engaged in a gambling activity is doing so for reasons wholly separate than making money.

Ian Matthews said...

I think there are two arguments that not so much justify ganbling, but question the way that weastern society is built.

One - Investment. Whether we like it or not, the Stock Market is based on gambling - on looking at form, tips, trends etc to take a chance with money on stocks. Okay 0 this isn't really like black jack or roulette (which are pure chance) but it is a little bit like Poker, and it is a lot like gambling on horse racing. Is that a moral way to invest money?

Two - Winners and Losers. As Phil said, there are always losers in gambling, and he is assuming that is a moral argument against gambling. Free market capitalism is also based on the principle of winners and losers. Two companies may compete for market share - if one wins and the other loses is that ok? Why is it different to consenting gamblers?

Frank Turk said...

A major difference between playing cards with your brahs and playing basketball is that you usually don't take money from you friends in order to play ball with them -- and it's still competative and fun.

The funny thing about a night with the boys to play cards for money is that you could play cards without the money. The chips don't cost anything, and winner could take bragging rights or could take home the coveted iron monkey trophy or whatever.

This series of posts is going to put a lot of people's nose out of joint. My main pragmatic argument would be to watch the world series of Poker from start to finish and ask yourself: has poker made better men out of these losers? So why do I think it's making a better man out of me?

That said, moral reasoning should not be pragmatic. Can't wait to read more of this, Phil.

Frank Turk said...

As to a referendum on 'the west' and 'capitalism', that's completely ludicrous. I'm thinking of the parable of the 10 talents right now and I'm wondering why Jesus plainly endorsed investment of resources toward profit if, in fact, 'capitalism' equals 'gambling'. The fact of history is that capitalism has ground the economic resources of the planet thousands of times over -- without creating a massive gully of losers.

The equivocation here, of course, is between 'risk' and 'gambling'. It may be a risk to loan someone money to buy a house, and for them to pay it back a little at a time -- but that risk is how almost all the homes in the US were built and funded. And that's capitalism.

The only thing playing cards (or slot machines!) ever built was a casino.

Ian Matthews said...

Frank

I didn't say that Capitalism = gambling. Firstly, I said that Investment in the stock market is similar certain types of gambling (the example I used was Horse Racing which is not just luck). Both are speculating capital, based on knowledge, experience and form, for the hope of return. And, at least here in the UK, it has built communities, good livings and an entire culture. So - is horse racing, which is entirely built upon the bookmakers income, wrong? If it is, how is it different to stock market investment? Especially short selling, hedge funds etc.

Secondly - I queried the reasoning that the fact that there are losers made gambling wrong. I pointed out that the same argument could be made of free market capitalism. If one is ok and teh other wrong, with the same results, why is that?

On the talents issue - I agree. Investment is a good thing - but should it be in stocks and shares or something more community based?

donsands said...

Gambling is a vice for sure.

I know people who love it. And yet there are those who get together to play poker, or play football pools, or even fantasy football, who are not caught up in the money part of gambling.

I don't gamble myself, but if someone gave me a Lottery ticket I would accept it.

Those are my thoughts.

Looking forward to your follow up.

Bill R. said...

Phil, good post. I am definitely interested in the follow-ups. We have had gambling in St. Louis for a while now and bankruptcy is on the rise as well as suicide and crime. There were several referendums to allow the casinos to move in, and now that they are here, they claim that jobs will be lost if it goes away.

As to the stock market being equivalent to gambling, I think that I agree and don't agree. Yes, there are elements of it and that fortunes can be lost or made, but the basic principle is interest paid on loaned money. A public sale is made to borrow money for a business. If they do well, they pay back from their profits in the form of dividends.

There are other more sinister means of market activity however, which involve high risk investments, cheating, etc. So, agree & disagree at the same time.

Johnny Dialectic said...

I like to play backgammon. It's a game that makes no sense unless there is some money on the line, even pennies, which is what I usually play for. So I may end up losing 5 cents. Or winning a quarter. I never play outside those parameters. I play maybe once a week and have fun. If it costs me a nickel to have fun and relax a little, I'm okay with that. It's a lot cheaper than a movie these days. It certainly doesn't seem like the "moral equivalent of stealing" to walk away with a quarter that someone else is happy to depart with for the pleasure of playing the game. This seems like a Romans 14 issue, but I'm open to correction and look forward to the discussion.

wordsmith said...

"Mutual consent" seems to be the favorite excuse for those who wish to wink at sin, as if that is the moral principal around which the universe is built. It ranks right up there with "it doesn't harm anyone" as a faux moral standard.

Arson-for-insurance scams involve "mutual consent," but that hardly makes it right. Ditto with the other "consenting adult" scenarios that frequently crop up, like any number of sexual sins.

Joanna said...

How appropriate that we get a scammer in this thread to demonstrate the absurd amounts of greed present in our culture

threegirldad said...

Here's the audio, for anyone interested.

DJP said...

So, Wordsmith: when you have people over and lay out an array of food, some take little, some take more, but it doesn't matter — it's all just plain greed and theft?

threegirldad said...

That's an audio of a follow-up talk, not this transcript -- in which Phil happens to address Ian Matthews' objections (and others).

Sorry for the confusion.

DJP said...

So everyone understands Joanna's comment: some spammer inserted a comment pointing to his scam. It was weird, too; I didn't see the usual email that we admins get on all comments, so I didn't know what she was talking about.

It's gone without a trace now - except for these two comments.

David Rudd said...

Phil,

I'm wondering if you will, in future posts, clarify what you mean by "gambling". That would likely be helpful in removing the comparisons to the stock market/capitalism, but would also help us as readers to know if you are including in your definition the nickel games and penny games which have been mentioned already...

Thanks.

Chad V. said...

Well, I'm afraid that if a person says he can't see the difference between investing in the market or going to a ball game and gambling at the casino then you wont be able to get far with him. I don't think your answer was lacking Phil. It should have been more than enough. I think this person knows that gambling is sinful and that's why he's spent so much time rationalizing it. He's clearly spent a lot of time thinking about it.

But there will always be those whose glory is their shame.

Andrew Jones said...

I bet this will be a well- read series, phil. A verse that comes to mind is about godliness with contentment being great gain. Anything which creates discontentment and greed for more is not healthy. That might be gambling but it might also be retail therapy at the local mall.

DJP said...

I bet this will be a well- read series, phil

Giving odds on that?

(ba-dum bum)

wordsmith said...

DJP,

I was just pointing out that "mutual consent" is not a sufficient condition for morality, contrary to popular opinion.

In particular, apologists for gambling, fornication, and homosexuality seem to think they've got all their bases covered if their wicked activities involve only "consenting adults."

Ian Matthews said...

Chad. My point was not whether gambling is sinful, but if there is a moral difference between certain forms of gambling (not chance games but hedged odds games - gambling on sports events, horses etc) and certain investments activities - short selling, futures, hedge funds etc. It was more that if Phil is right (and I don't necessarily diagree), shoudl it apply to these activities too.

I'll give that audio a listen though.

DJP said...

Wordsmith: with the point that, if Scripture identifies a behavior as inherently and unconditionally sinful, mutual consent changes nothing, I am in full agreement.

RichardS said...

I found the analogy between spending 100.00 at a casino and a ball game rather compelling. In the modern culture it is just assumed that to label something as "entertainment" means that it is fine. Perhaps it is not. What did Jesus do when He wanted to relax and get away for an evening or an entire night? He went and prayed. Perhaps we think we need entertainment because our culture no longer knows what it means to be ravished with God Himself.

Gambling does seem to be driven by unbiblical principles, but those same principles may also have a broader application. Does watching the world series of Poker make a better person? Well, does watching the world series of Baseball or the Super Bowl make a better person? Do we really watch those events out of love for God and to the glory of His name? The can of worms that Phil has raised has a very broad crawling pattern.

Chad V. said...

Ian

I was referring to the person in Phil's post.

Turretinfan said...

As soon as I read this, "The absence of a single commandment or proof-text against gambling ultimately proves nothing.There are lots of things that are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible that we would probably agree are clearly sinful," I thought the next example would be "drinking alcohol" or "using Tobacco," but "arson" was a much better choice.

-TurretinFan

Ian Matthews said...

Chad

Gotcha - my apologies

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I wonder if some people think it's a gamble to become a Christian.

Chad V. said...

Ian

No worries.

SandMan said...

I am looking forward to hearing the rest on this. I have to admit that the $100 entertainment argument has always been where I've landed on the issue. (Though for me it is usually more like $25). Took the wife on a cruise years ago and found that between the gluttony in the dining room, the smut in the live "shows," and the immodesty top deck, pool side... being at sea four days became tedious. We decided to take $20 each and try our "luck" in the casino. (At least everyone was fully clothed). Mine was gone in about 10 minutes, but my wife had some kind of ESP (joking) at the roulette wheel that day and left with $140. Can't say any of that makes any point except to say that if it had been wine, no one was drunk...and to our knowledge no weaker brother stumbled. I've always thought of the two in the same category. Next you'll tell me wine is not in the Romans 14 argument and that I am a double-dummy. With humility, I await the rest of the story...

TM said...

How about buying a raffle ticket at the fair?

Technically, there's only two winners: the guy with the winning raffle ticket, and the organization selling the tix. Everyone else is a loser. In fact, the whole thing (like casinos) is predicated on people losing.

And it's not really good stewardship, even for $5.

How about filling out those cards for a free vacation? Is that gambling?

I tend to agree with Phil and am looking forward to this series. But I find drawing the lines between what is gambling, and what isn't, a bit blurry sometimes.

Blessings
Tom

wordsmith said...

DJP: with the point that, if Scripture identifies a behavior as inherently and unconditionally sinful, mutual consent changes nothing, I am in full agreement.

Aw Dan,

Do you really think that Scripture would not be the underlying basis/assumption for my previous remarks? "You don't know me vewy well." :)

Guess I'll have to quit wearing camouflage :0

gmftech said...

I am toast. I just bet hubby 5 bucks this AM that the economy would be worse off than it is now in 18 months.

That being said, my grandfather supported us when I was little by playing poker once a week. He brought all his winnings home, gave them to my grandmother and kept his kitty to stake himself for the next week.

Sometimes guys, it's just a job.

SandMan said...

gfmtech,

No offense to grandpa, but THAT is a job? I feel silly setting the alarm, packing a lunch, and driving to work EVERY day. Joking of course, but the obvious question I have to ask is, what would happen if he lost one week? Or you know, like almost all the time... it is gambling after all.

~Mark said...

Man, just when I was on the way to buy a lotto ticket! :D

stratagem said...

Good subject to explore. On the specific issue of whetehr investing is a form of gambling, here is something I wrote on that subject back in the mid-1990s that addresses this issue:

http://invest-faq.com/fiveminute/chapter1.html

stratagem said...

I think one of the best overall indicators (not proofs) of the sinfulness of gambling is the overt sinfulness that always surrounds it and is attracted to it.
"Where there's smoke, there's fire."

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

The timing of this series is excellent considering that 21-year old Joe Cada won $8.55 million in the World Series of Poker last week.

Can Christians play tournament poker?

gmftech said...

Yes Sandman that WAS HIS JOB, after he retired from the railroad. I never heard a word about winning or losing. As a small child I only knew that we had food, shelter and clothes.

No offense.

bassicallymike said...

I hear the "playing the stock market is gambling" routinely. My usual reply is, I ran six marathons (before kneee surgery)so I spent plenty of time running the roads and in all those miles I couldn't tell you how many discarded lotto tickets and scratch offs I saw laying on the side of the road. I never once saw a stock certificate on the ground.

To try to equate the all or nothing of gambling to investing in the stock market is logically indefensible.

Paul D said...

I think C.S. Lewis cautioned against speaking much about vices that aren't your own. Which is how gambling is with me - just unattractive.

However, when baseball and retirement accounts are brought into the question it gets personal. So, I'll follow along - I'm sure the overarching rationale will hurt me one way or another.

NoLongerBlind said...

Johnny Dialectic wrote: I like to play backgammon. It's a game that makes no sense unless there is some money on the line

Johnny, I've enjoyed playing Backgammon since my college days back in the late '70s; I've never played it for money.

I taught my 14 YO son to play - again, without money involved - and we enjoy playing each other on a regular basis. He even beats me once in a while! (Actually, it's gotten to the point where it's more than once in a while!)

I guess it's a matter of what you're used to, as to whether the game makes any sense without the gambling aspect......

Karen said...

The issue of gambling's "sinfulness" never really came up in my mind... I guess I always lumped it in the same category with smoking and drinking: not necessarily outright sin, but no redeeming qualities and plenty of intelligent reasons to avoid them.

Can't Christians realize that just because some things are "lawful," that doesn't make them profitable? And what better way to avoid slavery to these things than by not getting involved in them at all.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series!

Johnny Dialectic said...

NoLonger: But if it's not played for money, any player can keep playing, even when way behind, in the hopes that luck will out. There is tremendous strategy in knowing when to double using the doubling cube, to prevent that.

IOW, it's just not the same game if something, even pennies, is not at stake. I don't fault you for playing it your way. The question is, is playing it my way sinful? I am not yet convinced, but as I say, I'm open.

Ryan Mann said...

It seems to me that any "principle" brought up against gambling breaks down at some point and renders one inconsistent.
1. It is risking God's money. (So are the stock market, retirement plans, business endeavors, church-planting)
2. It is associated with explicitly sinful things (so are electric guitars, sports, males, and businesses).
3. It is selfish and feeds off of the "loser" (so do most salaries in corporate jobs, promotions, etc.)

I don't gamble, probably never will, and personally think its rather lame. But, despite my personal dislike for it, I don't see it explicitly condemned in Scripture or any of the principles given here.

Jugulum said...

Phil,

I'm very much looking forward to this series. I like that you began by quoting the college student's well-stated critique. It was an effective way to whet our appetites--you gave me a high expectation to find a serious, deep, thorough defense.

(This is interesting for me--I take the view that gambling in small amounts for entertainment doesn't violate any Biblical principles.)


I want to comment on the "gambling/retirement fund/stock market" comparison. You didn't land the point yet, but you laid the groundwork. I assume you'll specifically talk about it later--but I want to point it out now because (1) I want to thank you (I hadn't considered it before), and (2) I want to point it out for Ian Matthews' sake, since he's talking about investment.

You said this:
"the winners' gains come at the losers' expense. There is no other way to gain money through gambling. When you win, you are taking that which belongs to another. The winners' profit always comes directly from the losers' pocket."

That's the difference between gambling and investment. Both involve risk and reward--but investment is about putting money to work. Investment is providing capital, providing resources for businesses to operate and create products & services.

Gambling is a zero-sum game, redistributing wealth. Investment is about attempting to create wealth.

(Frank already said something like this...but it can't hurt to say it another way. And he didn't point out that you already laid the groundwork.)


But, I don't see a difference between gambling and investment as far as work ethic goes. If someone wants to use the "laziness/work-ethic" argument against gambling, they still need to either condemn investment, or articulate the distinction.

Bobby Grow said...

Phil,

I wholeheartedly agree with you. I wrote a paper and argued for it in my sem. "Reading in Ethics" class (yrs ago now); and came to the same conclusion as you.

What your interlocuter failed to do was provide a definition of gambling (or at least a good one). Gambling is defined as chance in any standard dictionary; your questioner defined it as entertainment on par with watching baseball, he simply engaged in a category mistake (an equivocation).

I wonder why Solomon's way of arguing in many of the Proverbs is a good way to argue for many Christians (I ask rhetorically). It seems that Prudence doesn't mean much anymore; esp. for Christians who are looking for all the loopholes, and even for those who aren't.

I look forward to the rest of this series!

donsands said...

how about casting lots. Is that like gambling?
I suppose it has nothing to do with winning though. Except when the soldiers cast lots for the Lord's clothes.

Bobby Grow said...

Woops, I meant to say:

I wonder why Solomon's way of arguing in many of the Proverbs is'nt a good way to argue . . .

As far as comparing stocks to gambling; I can see how folks want to make that comparison, but it is false in the end. Stocks involve risk, but by definition, it is not based upon chance. Which goes to my point on the interlocuter's bad definition above. If we wanted to use a reductio here; we might as well say that any employment involves risk (because our employer could go belly-up and not be able to pay us, etc.), and thus it is gambling. But that would only be true if risk and gambling were the same thing; but they aren't. Gambling, by def., is based on chance. Stocks and any other employment is based on "calculated risk" or objective parameters determined by the a defined market-place. Gambling and Stock trading/employment are simply in to different categories, definitionally.

Jugulum said...

Bobby,

Eh? The student said that he gambles for entertainment; he didn't define it as entertainment.

Jugulum said...

Bobby,

How is a horse race more based on "chance" than the stock market is? Or betting on sports? Those aren't calculated risks based on objective parameters? And the stock market isn't influenced by "chance" like the weather, odds of finding precious metals/oil in exploratory mining, etc?

I see the real distinction in "The stock market is about putting money to work"--but I can't trace out your "chance" suggestion as a valid distinction.

Frank Turk said...

Yep. That’s what I expected.

| I didn't say that Capitalism = gambling.

Well, you did. You said, ”Whether we like it or not, the Stock Market is based on gambling - on looking at form, tips, trends etc to take a chance with money on stocks.” Your post-statement qualifications compare the stock market to gambling, period.

The problem with you statement is that if I took $1000 in 1970, and put it into a fund which was invested in only the S&P500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average (an action which takes ZERO research and skill), there would have been no way to match the return in Horseracing. No handicapper in the history of the world has ever made that kind of money. The stock market has, in the last 40 years, out-paced inflation by almost 6 to 1. There are no Poker players, handicappers, slot players or other lounge lizards who can say the same.

| Firstly, I said that Investment in the
...
| Horse Racing which is not just luck).

See above. There’s no luck involved in the stock market, either.

| Both are speculating capital, based on
...
| hedge funds etc.

Yeah, let’s get a few things straight. The first is your equivocation on the word “speculating”. Most investment vehicles are –not- speculating – that is, offering massive potential upside against very significant risk. Most offer a moderate return (usually well ahead of inflation). So given that assets held in the stock market long-term almost always increase in value, equating that with “speculation” is not very serious or informed.

The second is your assertion that “horseracing has built communities”. It has built a tourist attraction, no doubt – but I think you better research your data set. I’ll be willing to give you some of the facts of the matter:
 Most of the people in those communities are not employed by the race track
 Most of the jobs there are seasonal, based on the racing season
 Most of the businesses there are other forms of recreation
 The most common visitor to the track does not spend any money in that community except on wagering; the track unquestionably makes more money than any other enterprise inside the city limits.

The third is your assumption that this is a good thing. I’ll have more to say about the effects of gambling in a later installment.

| Secondly - I queried the reasoning that
...
| other wrong, with the same results,
| why is that?

It’s wrong for at least three reasons. The first is that the comparison is simply a category error; the Bible tells us investment in trade is frankly a godly and productive thing, but squandering money on pleasure or excessive luxury is not. The second is that the problem is not just “winning” and “losing”: it is counting on the failure of others in order to make money with no effort. For example, the Bible is clear in its proscription of “usury” – that is: loaning money at a rate which does not allow the receiver of the loan an opportunity to make a fair return. (Ex 22 and Lev 25 if you aren’t read up on it). Third (and not least, and not last either – but for the sake of not droning on), is the rote pragmatism of the equation. If X number of people are put to a good end, it’s good for them, right? But this does not express the moral case at all because we are not pragmatists: we are Christian with a Real and Living God whose character defines morality.

| On the talents issue - I agree.
...
| more community based?

Most “community-based” endeavors fail – because the risk component is balanced on a too-small micro-economic environment. The ironic flip side is that because macro-investment spreads risks out to more actual marketplaces, the risk is mitigated and more communities receive the benefit of the endeavor.

You simply cannot equate gambling and investment. They are the opposite of each other.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Suppose a fellow likes bass fishing. And this bass fisherman pays an entry fee to enter a bass fishing tournament. And if he finishes in the money or even wins, he'll have recouped his entry fee. He gambles that his skill in locating the fishing spots where he can catch bass is better than others and he hopes that his skill and his luck will enable him to win the bass fishing tournament. As he does this, he enjoys the competition and regards it as entertaining.

Is the bass fisherman committing sin?

By the same line of logic (and as I asked earlier), can Christians play tournament poker?

Tom Chantry said...

You've got to love the comment thread at Pyro.

Phil's post (which I happened to like, by the way) in a nutshell: I think gambling is bad, and if you stay tuned I'll tell you in other posts why that is. Oh, and by the way, the argument doesn't work so well when it's rushed (here's an example), so give me time to develop it.

50 comments and counting. Because, what? We're determined to get our comments in before we actually hear his points?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Oops. I forgot to add in my immediately preceding comment that the bass fisherman entering the bass tournament is a Bible-believing Christian.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I wonder if some people think it's a gamble to become a Christian."

Anyone ever heard of Pascal's Wager?

DJP said...

Bet most of 'em have.

Bobby Grow said...

Jugulum,

He may well have said 'for' entertainment; okay so he didn't define it. So it's chance.

The difference between the stock market and casino, is marginal; I'll give you that, but there is a legitimate distinction. Marketplace was the key distinguishing mark in my previous comment. One is based on stewardship principles; and the other on selfish principles. The former is the marketplace, the latter is the casino (or horse track). One is shaped by the desire to earn money to live and sustain life (market place); the other is shaped by greed and self gratification (horse track) --- by definition. You may disagree, but then I wonder if you hold to 'Just War' theory or not . . . hmmm (in other words, you may be on a slippery slope here, Jugulum).

I would imagine that this is how Phil will go about developing this; we'll see.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Tom Chantry: "We're determined to get our comments in before we actually hear his points?"

No. But I am curious whether his future points will address the question of whether Christians can play tournament poker (ala the tournament bass fisherman) without it being considered a sin.

Jugulum said...

Phil,

I'm curious--are you going to talk about fund-raising raffles?

Daryl said...

"Oops. I forgot to add in my immediately preceding comment that the bass fisherman entering the bass tournament is a Bible-believing Christian."

Which, of course, has exactly zero bearing on the rightness or wrongness of an action.

Not saying anything about bass tourney's BTW, just saying bad is bad, good is good no matther whose doing it.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Daryl: "Which, of course, has exactly zero bearing on the rightness or wrongness of an action."

Generally, folks hold Christians to a different standard than non-Christians.

Agree or disagree?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

DJP: "Bet most of 'em have."

Then it's likely that some people think (or have thought) it's a gamble to become a Christian.

Some people took the gamble. Others didn't.

Phil said...

Truth..
You have falsely equated a productive competition with gambling. In the fishing case it's a competition whereby men procure resources. You might have a friendly competition at work who can do the most (JOB X) in a given time would be a closer parallel.
In the poker case you come away with nothing if you are the loser, it is a zero sum game. That you enjoy your zero sum game or not is irrelevant, the Romans enjoyed the Colosseum.

Linda T said...

No matter how you dice it,the
simple answer: Whoever gambles, breaks ALL the commandments.

SandMan said...

LindaT-- not sure if you're serious. Adultery?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "You have falsely equated a productive competition with gambling. In the fishing case it's a competition whereby men procure resources."

I have equated tournament bass fishing with tournament poker.

I'm not sure, but I am of the understanding that in tournament bass fishing they return the bass fish back into the water after the competition is done.

If so, then I'm unclear about whether they're procuring resources.

DJP said...

Whoever gambles, breaks ALL the commandments.

A statement like that deserves some sort of prize.






I don't mean a good prize.

NoLongerBlind said...

Just surmisin' here, but, perhaps Linda T is speaking with reference to James 2:10: "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it."

Not sayin' I agree with the application, but, maybe that's where she's coming from......

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I have equated tournament bass fishing with tournament poker.

Well, since some folks mentioned it earlier, let me also add tournament backgammon to the list of tournament bass fishing and tournament poker.

A Christian pays his/her entry fee to these tournaments and hopes that his/her skill and luck will enable them to do well in these tournaments. Is this okay and does it fall under Christian liberty? One of those "it is permissible, but perhaps not beneficial" type of activities that provide responsible freedom and latitude to the Christian tournament participant?

On a related note: Is it possible to be a Pharisee or Fundamentalist about the issue of gambling? If so, when does a Christian cross over into the territory of becoming a judgmental Pharisee about the topic of gambling?

Bobby Grow said...

Truth said:

. . . If so, when does a Christian cross over into the territory of becoming a judgmental Pharisee about the topic of gambling?

When they believe that if someone gambles they aren't "saved;" by virtue of their behavior.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Thanks Bobby for confirming that it is possible for someone to become a judgmental Pharisee about the topic of gambling.

Phil said...

Truth...
That you throw the fish back is immaterial. The fact remains one is inherently a productive act used for a secondary enjoyment, the other is a destructive act. There is still a difference.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Phil,

I don't see it necessarily shaping up in the way that you frame it.

Tournament poker and tournament backgammon need not be any more "destructive" (what do you mean exactly by "destructive" anyways?) than tournament bass fishing.

We may have to end up agreeing to disagree.

I'm leaning more towards "it is permissible, but perhaps not beneficial" type of activities (with regards to tournaments) and that this provides responsible freedom and latitude to the Christian tournament participant.

I'd also be concerned about folks adopting a judgmental Pharisee attitude or judgmental fundamentalist attitude about this issue of gambling(ala drinking and dancing prohibitions by some fundamentalist churches).

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I'd also be concerned about folks adopting a judgmental Pharisee attitude or judgmental fundamentalist attitude about this issue of gambling(ala drinking and dancing prohibitions by some fundamentalist churches)."

I'd like to refine that to

"I'd also be concerned about folks adopting a judgmental Pharisee attitude or judgmental fundamentalist attitude about this issue of tournament play(ala drinking and dancing prohibitions by some fundamentalist churches).

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I'd like to add tournament golf and tournament bowling (in both of these endeavors people do place wagers in non-tournament competitions) to the list of tournament bass fishing, tournament poker, and tournament backgammon.

Varying degrees of skill and luck are involved in these tournaments. What's at risk, what folks could lose, is their entry fee into the tournament.

Looks like an issue of Christian liberty. And if it's responsible Christian liberty, then isn't denying a Christian that liberty an example of fundamentalism or pharasaism?

John said...

"But you who forsake the Lord,
who forget y my holy mountain,
who set a table for Fortune
and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny,
I will destine you to the sword,
and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter,
because, when I called, you did not answer;
when I spoke, you did not listen,
but you did what was evil in my eyes
and chose what I did not delight in." (Isaiah 65:11-12, ESV)

Gambling, in at least the sense of trusting "luck", is idolatry.

As one who has bowed down to this idol in the past, let me encourage all of you with words from the Apostle John:

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21, ESV)

Ron said...

Just to add some clarity to the stock market portion of this discussion from a former trader; although there's little investing in the market anymore,the majority(60%-80%) of the price action is influenced by program trades (computer generated trades). Over the past several years this program trading had become such a significant portion of daily volume that the NYSE reformulated how these trades were to be reported as to not reveal just how massive they were, and a few months ago discontinued reporting them at all. FWIW, the majority of Goldman Sach's income is derived from this program trading activity and not investment banking.
So the public still assumes it's investing? It;s not what Joe Public thinks it is. Does that make a difference is the discussion?
Search NYSE program trading and it's history.

Zaphon said...

As this post came out, I read an article in the Sun in my town about a former crime family boss - Michael Franzese- who now counsels people about the dangers of gambling addiction. This guy tells how people's lives were ruined by gambling. He is invited even by church groups to give talks.

Wiki reports his wife lead him to be born again and leave crime. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Franzese

SandMan said...

I don't think that anyone here would step up to the bat to extol the virtues of gambling addiction anymore than they would write a treatise on the benefits of drunkenness. But, the statement was made that gambling (all of it) is a sin. I was once dumped by a girl in college because I was unwilling to state unequivocally that having an alcoholic beverage is sin clearly condemned in the Bible. My insistence that drunkenness is sinful and that I did not drink at all was not enough to dissuade her departure. I spent too much time in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Separatist group to be anything less than wary when someone states that the Bible clearly states something when it is not THAT clear. (Yes I recognize I am rambling now, and that this comment is in the high 70's so it has little hope of being read by almost anyone).

SandMan said...

For the record, I won on that deal because God brought my wife along sometime later... no comparison. Providence.

Also, she was weirded out because I was starting to think those Calvinist guys were on to something.

Game. Set. Match.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I read your post, Sandman.

She had a fundamentalist approach towards drinking.

I'm likewise concerned about a fundamentalist approach to tournament play.

SandMan said...

Thanks TUAD. Did not mean to imply that you are almost no none. :p

David_and_Goliath said...

Phil said: "if it's wrong to gamble on matters of biblical principle, then it is wrong to gamble in any

circumstance, and it is wrong to gamble in any amount."
This is definitely true. We should be willing to submit to the Word of God on what it teaches. I hope you

clarify what the definition of gambling is and what it is not though.

I affirm that:
-Taking from others is wrong (without their permission or by coercion).
-Seeking to get rich quick is wrong.
-Increase in wealth through hard work is Biblical.
-Christians need to provide for the needs of their family and others.
-Christians will love others and put others needs as more important than themselves.
-Christians should do everything for the glory of God.


I reject that:
-A desire to make money equates to greediness.
-Taking educated risks equates to being a bad steward.
-It is wrong to spend a reasonable amount of money for the entertainment of playing poker with friends/family

(even though some will lose their entertainment money) because spending a reasonable amount of money for

entertainment with friends/family is not wrong (and everyone who spends money loses their money).
-That there is a such a thing as "chance". Playing poker does not equate to belief in "chance" or that God's not

sovereign over things like the outcome of the roll of die.
-Playing cards (w/ cash involved as a means for authentic game play) necessarily even counts as "gambling".

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

David and Goliath,

A good request. I expect a definitional clarification will be forthcoming since that is what Phil intimated.

I should like to see if his expanded definition of gambling defines entry-fee tournament play as gambling.

Out of curiosity, do the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox regard gambling as sin?

Do they regard entry-fee tournament play as sin?

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I will be reading along with the expectation, Phil, that the odds will be in your favor on this subject. I know I agree with you.

God bless,
Mary

Coram Deo said...

I can't believe it!

85 comments and counting on the subject of gambling and Christian ethics and no one has mentioned all the church sanctioned BINGO games.

I feel like I just found a quarter walking through the Wal-Mart parking lot! Uh oh, is it stealing if I keep it?

How about some Pyro-Bingo?

It rhymes you know!

In Christ,
CD

The Doulos said...

OK, so here's an interesting scenario that happened to me several years ago. An acquaintance in my church, who had been struggling financially for a long time, said he needed a new pickup truck to start his new lawn care business. And the Catholic church down the street just happened to be selling raffle tickets for - a new pickup truck. So this guy had bought a ticket, and was asking me to pray that he would win the raffle.

So what would you tell the guy, as a fellow believer?

The Doulos said...

Coram Deo:

Bingo!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Coram Deo: "85 comments and counting on the subject of gambling and Christian ethics and no one has mentioned all the church sanctioned BINGO games."

Somewhat indirectly.

Jugulum: "Phil,

I'm curious--are you going to talk about fund-raising raffles?"

Me: "Out of curiosity, do the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox regard gambling as sin?"

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Phil: "if it's wrong to gamble on matters of biblical principle, then it is wrong to gamble in any circumstance, and it is wrong to gamble in any amount."

compared and contrasted with

Jugulum: "This is interesting for me--I take the view that gambling in small amounts for entertainment doesn't violate any Biblical principles."

Jugulum said...

TUaD,

You posted those two sentences without comment. Do you think they stand in opposition at all?

Ron R. said...

The kid asking the original question has his argument flawed right from the beginning. When he states,

"First," he said, "take the example of arson. It is wrong to burn down your neighbor's field or his house only when there is no mutual consent. But suppose he wanted your help burning his field because he wanted to clear the land. Then it would not be a sin for you to set fire to his property.


The answer is no. It is not a sin because it isn't arson in the first place. Websters defines arson like this,

The crime of maliciously, voluntarily, and willfully setting fire to the building, buildings, or other property of another or of burning one's own property for an improper purpose, as to collect insurance.
There is no malice in helping your neighbor.

So the argument is flawed right from the beginning, and his wrestling with words does nothing to add to that. I too will be watching the rest of this series.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Jugulum,

That's why I said "compare and contrast". I chose an "irenic" choice of terms instead of saying that they "stand in opposition" to one another.

Jugulum said...

TUaD,

:) OK. I asked because I see no conflict between the two; they fit together perfectly.

Phil's completely right about that. If gambling violates biblical principles, then it violates it even in small amounts for entertainment.

But violation of biblical principles can also come from the amount or purpose of an activity. Sometimes the activity itself is a problem; sometimes the amount or purpose of a benign activity is a problem. (Eating or drinking to excess violates biblical principles.)


Even if gambling is completely neutral, I would still argue that gambling in large amounts or in order to earn a living is not.

For example--suppose that poor stewardship was the only problem here. Gambling large amounts is clearly poor stewardship; spending $5 on 3 hours of gambling-as-entertainment isn't. (You need another biblical principle to argue that all gambling is wrong. And that's where Phil is going.)

David_and_Goliath said...

Is Texas Holdem' a Sin? Here's a look at gambling and especially small stakes Texas Hold'em.

On my website, I have John MacArthur’s statements (from his sermon transcripts) on Gambling listed out and summarize (and my comments in parentheses). This is too long to fit in this reply, but please respond to me here at Pyro.

www.delightinthelord.com

After reading the arguments I'd like to see the critiques and thoughts on my responses.

Above all it is most important that we submit to the Word of God.

~Mark said...

Tournament Bass fishing compared to gambling?

Really?

That would explain all the damage done to society by fishing.

Andrew said...

How about fundraising raffles that are conducted by (otherwise worthy) charities?

Do the same principles apply?

How about entering a "free" sweepstakes that requires me to expend a 44cent postage stamp to play?

Paula said...

Tom Chantry: "We're determined to get our comments in before we actually hear his points?"

No. But I am curious whether his future points will address the question of whether Christians can play tournament poker (ala the tournament bass fisherman) without it being considered a sin.


I'm taking wagers on what Phil's future points will be. Drop me an e-mail with your predictions and deposit $10 in my Paypal account to enter.

Sir Aaron said...

Phil Johnson: I look forward to hearing your points. This is one of those issues where I have often thought something to be sinful, but could not adequately express my position in words. I hope tha you can give us some good pointers here.

Sir Aaron said...

Tuad and Sandman:

The points you have raised concern me as well. Before I accept that something is, in and of itself, sinful, I want to be clearly convinced from Scripture. And somebody better not try to string together random verses to get there.

I'm not convinced that because "chance" is involved (and I don't believe in chance) that it is evil or that tournament play is necessarily evil. Likewise, I'm concerned about the spirit behind many forms betting, gambling, etc. Clearly it draws, for the most part, people who participate in clear violation of scripture (for example to get rich quick). When I'm in Vegas, I intentionally avoid gambling because it seems designed to get me to part with my money in a rather sureptitious manner. You can argue that's good
marketing like you might find cleverly hidden in movie
advertisments to get you to buy popcorn. But it seems deeper and darker than that to me.

Btw, the girl at the conveneince store near my office where I buy my daily Coke always chastises me for chuckling at the people buying lotto tickets. Same people everyday. And never the rich ones.

Sir Aaron said...

Frank:

how do we decide what is too much spent for entertainment or luxury? This is a question I've been wrestling with for years.

Chad V. said...

Actually, the bible does mention gambling 4 times. Matt 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, and John 19:24. The only instance gambling is mentioned in the bible it's not put in a very good light.

If one is inclined to be in favor of gambling then that's something to ponder.

Chad V. said...

I think one should also ponder Prov. 20:23 Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good.

CR said...

I was perusing some of the comments and noticed things on luxury, entertainment, ball games and I think it's important to define what gambling is. I'm not saying I agree that Scripture teaches that it is a sin, but it's good to start off with definitions.

Gambling is a zero sum game where it takes money from a loser and gives it to the winner. The net change in total wealth is zero. The wealth is just shifted to another person. Gambling is not the only zero sum game, options and future contracts are also zero sum games. (None of these are like the stock market because wealth is created in the stock market.) So, I just thought I would mention that.

philness said...

I am a believer and have participated in various fishing tournaments and club tournaments for money. Even though some of the stakes (entry fee's) are insignificant between consenting participants at the end of the day we anglers have thrown our hard earned money away into a system that did not create any new wealth or productive goods and services into our economy. Not to mention robbing from others and their families. Fish caught in tournaments are used only for their weight to determine a winner and then released back into the water at a mortality rate that is actually detrimental to the sport of fishing and our water ways thus negatively affecting the fishing industry and our economy.

If I were as brilliant as some of you I could figure out how to organize a system where all money's won in fishing tournaments went towards a powerful buying club to make fishing more affordable and fish catching more attainable whom would otherwise continue banging away on their pc indoors robbing our Lord His due praise, neglecting His great outdoors. But hey, it takes a village. And I got you covered there.

Meanwhile and where I've been and where I'm at now on this issue is to continue resisting money tournaments and fish in a club whose tournament stakes do however exist but are used back into the club for its members and various community events in hopes to promote a more God honoring sport.

Is tournament fishing gambling? You betcha. Was I sinning by participating in tournament fishing? You betcha, in more ways than one. Will I eventually come to at a place where I would even drop club tournament fishing? Yes. Why is that? Because I'm not smart enough to rationalize it.

RichardS said...

In response to comments by Linda earlier and then comments to her about gambling breaking all the commands. If gambling is sin and violates a commandment of God, it does break all the commandments, even adultery. The 7th command, in its application to the soul, is broken when a person is not faithful to God and all sin is unfaithfulness to God. One very clear place where this is seen is in Hosea. Surely we can see where a man that covets is committing spiritual adultery by desiring things more than he loves and desires God. If someone really things that gambling is sin, then there is no need to water down the nature of true sin. To break one commandment is to break them all in some way.

Frank Turk said...

Sir Aaron --

I'll let you know when I have stopped wrestling with that question. I have a suspicion that it would be a number lower than I spend today.

Chad V. said...

RichardS

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

Benjamin Nitu said...

Gambling is a sin only if you win :)

On a more serious note, this post was much needed. Thanks!

Darby Livingston said...

The great depression wasn't exacerbated by the collapse of Vinnie the bookie. It was the fall of the stock market that had my grandparents boiling chicken bones for broth so they could sell the meat. If we're going to try to prove that any transfer of money based on chance (i.e. gambling) is wrong, let's at least be consistent. I see something very Pharisaical in wanting to place the stock market out of reach while condemning the other types of gambling as sinful. Maybe the people on here have never watched someone addicted to the markets shift money around online. It's got all the rush of the roulette table and can cause just as much strife at the dinner table when the losses pile up.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I enjoy and appreciate Philness's and Darby Livingston's comments above. They are good comments.

I also think that David and Goliath's arguments in his post/link about Texas Hold-Em are also worthy of examination.

And when I have time, I'll respond to Jugulum's last comment.

Pax.

David_and_Goliath said...

Thanks Truth Unites (Pax), the link you mention about my response to MacArthur's view on gambling and my thoughts in regards to Texas Holdem are at:
Is Texas Holdem a Sin?

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Jugulum said...

Hmm... Khubbard, that gives me an interesting thought.

What's the flipside of all those? What does it look like when we remove the unbiblical dimensions? When we restore these categories so that they're not twisted by our fallen, rebellious natures?

It's an exercise that can help bring into focus what's going on in each situation. What's being twisted? Where does the twisting happen?


The Christian - Longs for Jesus Christ

The Christian Eater - Eats enough, receives tasty food with thanksgiving, cooks for other's enjoyment
The Christian Spouse - Serves and sacrificially loves his/her spouse, receives and gives the joy of emotional and physical intimacy with thanksgiving
[etc.]

What would the unfallen alternative be for gambling? Gaming? Fantasy football? Playing spades? Playing poker? (There have been those who say that all card games are like gambling.) Is there a sanctified place for friendly competition?

Is the problem only longing for wealth? Is it also the attempt to acquire wealth without productive work? Does that apply to all competition with prizes?

Rob said...

I'd like to hear the rest of this message, especially as I consider my tanking 401k to be a very disappointing gamble this year...

I'm wondering if this is a sign that I have been gambling money that I should have otherwise invested elsewhere? (Christian businesses, perhaps?)

stratagem said...

I am confused by the comparisons on here about the stock market and gambling. (Especially since, ironically, the invention of common stocks was prompted by Biblical prohibitions on loaning money).

If I create a company to manufacture tomahawks and you invest in owning that company, would you say that is gambling, or is it instead investing? Now, if you sell the shares you bought from me to someone else (i.e, a stock market), suddenly that is gambling? It really makes no sense that this is gambling.

Frank Turk said...

I'm just curious: do the people who think the stock market is "gambling" have any money in banks? And have you read Matthew 25? Because I think you don't really understand what you're saying when you equate investment in the stock market to a horse race or a roullette wheel.

Think of it this way: If I invest all my money in Floppo Corp and you invest all your money in its chief competitor Boffo Corp, is there any direct corellation between your making money and my losing money? That is: if Boffo Corp makes a ton of money in Q4, is it necessarily true that Floppo Corp will lose a ton of money? The right answer is "no". The plain and obvious real-life example is Oil Companies -- their fortunes rise and fall together as an industry, and not as a manner of one cutting the other's throat. There is no necessity of losers in the stock market in order for their to be winners.

In fact, the exact opposite is true: what necessitates long-term gain in the stock market is the long-term productivity and profit of the companies in question.

However, in the example of the Great Depression, what did not happen is that someone rolled off of Wall Street with a giant bag of money and they hid it for 10 years until FDR needed it to fund the war effort. What happened was that people paid unwise prices for a lot of over-inflated stocks, and eventually it caught up to them -- and the prices collapsed.

However, at the card table, or the roullette wheel, or the race track, when those playing lose, their money doesn't vanish. The money goes to the house. The house always makes money -- even if one person only spends one dollar and wins the largest jackpot the house has ever paid out. So many other people have lost everything they brought to the table, the house doesn't care if one guy is a winner -- it inspires other fools to come and lose their money at the table.

But there is only one root motive for the entire system: covetousness. The lure of winning big money on a run of luck so that the house and the other players have to pay you.

Because we know for a fact that covetousness is a sin, we have to reject that which causes us to covet.

Sir Aaron said...

Rob:

If you're 401K has tanked this year, you need some serious investment advice. Your 401K should be up for the year as a whole.

Darby: No serious economist considers the stock market crash to be the sole factor for the Great Depression. In fact, many economists see it as one of the lesser contributing causes.

Frank:Good points. I'd add that the stock market can be abused like anything else. What caused the stock market crash in 1929 was a series of factors, one of which was that banks lent $9 of $10 for those who purchased stocks on margin. When the market crashed, the banks called in the margins and guess what? People couldn't pay and the banks went under (and because the banks weren't insured, people lost their savings). So to add to your point, people can gamble using the stock market, but that is not the intention of the market. The intention is for companies to obtain capital and investors to purchase parts of companies with a long term plan for profitability and growth.

Sir Aaron said...

CR:

I think a definition would be helpful too. I don't like lumping competitions into pure gambling because competition is a game that is designed to pit two or more players against each other. Add prizes, whether cash or not, is designed to keep the players serious and, in many cases, to build up the prestige of an event to draw in more serious competition. In gambling, the house always wins. There is some shift in income, but inevitably the house gets it all. And, in fact, the games are rigged so that the house is designed to win. Professional gamblers, those who make their living off casinos as somebody mentioned here, essentially use certain elements of the game to tip the odds in your favor. For example, card counting in BlackJack. If you can count cards and are using a single deck, you'll put the odds in your favor a lot. Which is why they started using six deck shoes.

Darby Livingston said...

Frank,

Your posts, as well as comments, are always well thought out and articulate, and that is much appreciated. I will try hard to match your effort.

My concern is that when we start extrapolating sins from a conglomerate of "biblical principles" because the Bible doesn't expressly forbid something, we run the same risk the Pharisees ran into. I'm not saying that risk isn't at times necessary and right, I'm just saying when we do it, we have to try very hard to be consistent. And that's where our natural blinders are going to excuse certain things while condemning others.

I do not gamble in the sense of this post, and I've always taught along the lines of this post. The arguments of Phil's "opponent" on this issue are pretty standard ones, and I've used similar rebuttals as Phil. But some of the principles, like covetousness, making money without earning it, taking advantage of others, and cultural decline, that we must fall back on to forbid all gambling could also be applied to markets.

In other words, I think the issue between the markets and garden variety gambling is one of extent rather than essence and therein is the danger. It's easy to call out the simple housewife who scratches off lottery tickets in the 7/11 parking lot. It's tougher to call out the deacon who sits on his computer at night "speculating" on where new wheat might end up. But the heart is the same. Are we prepared to call out the heart behind all speculation or just the "seedy" ones? That's my concern.

Darby Livingston said...

Sir Aaron,

And that's why I said "exacerbated" the depression rather than caused the depression.

trogdor said...

"But some of the principles, like covetousness, making money without earning it, taking advantage of others, and cultural decline, that we must fall back on to forbid all gambling could also be applied to markets."

They could at times apply to marketing.

As the old saying goes, potential abuse does not negate proper use. The fact that one could potentially misuse capital/markets does not make them inherently sinful, any more than perversion makes proper marital relations sinful.

If, however, it can be shown that gambling necessarily entails those sins, then it is inherently sinful. We shall see how this series plays out, but I suspect that's at least one direction he's taking it.

trogdor said...

And by 'marketing', of course I mean markets. We already know that marketing is inherently evil.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jugulum:

"TUaD,

:) OK.
"

Were you trying to set a trap for me? Heh.

"But violation of biblical principles can also come from the amount or purpose of an activity. ... Eating or drinking to excess violates biblical principles."

If you read my earlier comments, you'll note that I said as much. I.e., a revelatory point for some, but not for me.

"For example--suppose that poor stewardship was the only problem here. Gambling large amounts is clearly poor stewardship; spending $5 on 3 hours of gambling-as-entertainment isn't."

Your mistake is thinking that money is the only thing that we're to be stewards of.

Is a Christian spending $5 on 3 hours of gambling at penny slots an example of biblical stewardship?

"You need another biblical principle to argue that all gambling is wrong. And that's where Phil is going."

PJ: "And I hasten to say that I am even more convinced than ever that gambling is a sinful activity. It is not a valid form of entertainment, and it is not a harmless matter of indifference. It violates a number of biblical principles and therefore ought to be avoided in all its forms."

Jugulum, PJ has already said it violates a number of biblical principles so it's trivially obvious to say that that's where Phil is going. I.e., It's obvious that Phil is going to use one or more additional biblical principles to try and establish his sweeping assertion. He already said he was.

At any rate, I think your example of Christians gambling at "low" amounts for recreation and entertainment (such as gambling at penny slots in a casino) is more problematic than Christians paying an entry fee and playing in a tournament such as golf, bowling, poker, backgammon, or bass fishing.

Darby Livingston said...

"If, however, it can be shown that gambling necessarily entails those sins, then it is inherently sinful."

Is a "50/50" drawing to pay for someone's medical bills inherently sinful in itself? Or is it an "investment" in someone's medical bills with the hope of a dividend. And then what do we say about the folks we see who win such a 50/50 and give the proceeds back into the medical bill fund? Did they gamble? They obviously weren't coveting. Did they steal all the other participants' money and give it to someone else? These are the kinds of peripheral things that come up in this discussion.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Darby Livingston: "Maybe the people on here have never watched someone addicted to the markets shift money around online. It's got all the rush of the roulette table and can cause just as much strife at the dinner table when the losses pile up."

I think many day traders might fit this profile.

Q1: Can a Christian be a day trader?

Q2: Can a Christian work in casino? How about those Christians working in Las Vegas or elsewhere as card dealers, croupiers, money changers, etc...?

Jugulum said...

TUaD,

No, not trying to set a trap; I honestly wasn't sure whether or not you thought the two quotes you posted were in any disagreement.

It's getting hard to keep track, so here they are again. You had said:
--------
Phil: "if it's wrong to gamble on matters of biblical principle, then it is wrong to gamble in any circumstance, and it is wrong to gamble in any amount."

compared and contrasted with

Jugulum: "This is interesting for me--I take the view that gambling in small amounts for entertainment doesn't violate any Biblical principles."
--------

Because you see a disagreement there, I was explaining to you why those two sentences are completely compatible. I wasn't attempting to say anything "revelatory", and I agree that my comment about where Phil's going was "trivially obvious". (That's why I double-checked. It really surprised me that you saw some disagreement, and these "trivially obvious, non-revelatory" points are where the agreement lies.)


When you quoted me, I was saying that this series looks like it will be well-argued. Before now, I haven't seen any biblical principles that gambling itself violates--I have only seen principles that are violated by gambling in large amounts, or addictively, or in order to make a "living". So, I'm interested to see Phil's argument that it is "wrong to gamble on matters of biblical principle". (Because if it is, then it's wrong even in small amounts for entertainment--like he said!)

That's all I was saying. If you misunderstood, fine, leave it. But if you think that has any conflict with Phil's quote, then I have no idea where you're coming.

(By the way, I agree with your point about stewardship of time. I picked "3 hours" randomly, as clearly inexpensive entertainment. Your point was valid, but irrelevant--unless you think all entertainment is bad stewardship of time. Plug in however much entertainment time is appropriate.)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jugulum: "This is interesting for me--I take the view that gambling in small amounts for entertainment doesn't violate any Biblical principles."

compare and contrast with

Jugulum: "So, I'm interested to see Phil's argument that it is "wrong to gamble on matters of biblical principle". (Because if it is, then it's wrong even in small amounts for entertainment--like he said!)"

So *IF* Phil is able to establish his argument (hopefully to your satisfaction), will you then retract your earlier statement of "I take the view that gambling in small amounts for entertainment doesn't violate any Biblical principles"?

Jugulum said...

Now you understand.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

So you would retract (under those circumstances).

Okay!

Glad we got that straightened out.

Whether you ultimately retract or not, I'll be interested in observing the process.

FYI, your particular line of argumentation is of limited interest to me. But to be fair, my line of argumentation about the "okayness" of tournament play might be of limited interest to you.

Furthermore, I still retain "Pascal's Wager" as a valid example of Christians who gamble on eternal matters. I would like to see Phil address that one in his future posts too.

Contra Tom Chantry, I think it eminently useful to signal ahead of time to Phil about all the various issues and sub-issues surrounding the topic of "Gambling and Christians".

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"FYI, your particular line of argumentation is of limited interest to me."

I actually mean to say that your particular line of argumentation seems (to me) to have a low probability of being a winning argument. And consequently, one that I wouldn't adopt.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

One more thing.

For those who defend investing/playing the market as not being gambling, would it be okay with you to have a bi-vocational pastor who day-trades to help make a living?

Frank Turk said...

TUAD:

Yes it would -- but "day-trading" is not investing. When we're all ready to end the equivocations, we can have a discussion about this subject like adults.

Frank Turk said...

Darby --

I think that God does not condemn being wealthy, nor does God condemn shrewd investing.

God condemns avarice, envy, sloth and injustice.

So for example, God extols the virtues of Abraham and Joseph, and condemns the moral laxity of the other sons of Jacob, the covetousness of Ahab, the example of the sluggard in Proverbs, and the lying of Ananias and Sopphira.

Your view that somehow earning money by financing the efforts of others is simply morally near-sighted, and simply does not account for the broad cloth of Scripture and all the men who were exceedingly wealthy because they were shrewd and good managers of wealth. Paul says he had learned how to have plenty, and how to have nothing -- how to abound and how to be abased. Neither state made him more or less holy.

The question is not whether you are rich or poor, and to make it something like that is not very helpful either to rich people or those who are not as rich.

Sir Aaron said...

Are we prepared to call out the heart behind all speculation or just the "seedy" ones? That's my concern.

Yes,at least I would be willing to do so.

The other thing I don't understand. If a Christian were to play the lottery, why would they buy multiple tickets? If God wanted them to win, wouldn't one ticket suffice?

Darby Livingston said...

Frank,

For the life of me I can't figure out why you apparently bypassed everything I actually wrote and brought up the issue of being rich or poor that I never brought up. And then on the basis of that, you called me morally near-sighted. I gave specific examples of comparison between the covetousness of gambling and the covetousness of what you write off as "shrewd investing" and good management of wealth. You're acting as though there is no comparison and that is simply wrong. I never said it was wrong to be rich. I said it was wrong to covet in all forms.

You're normally so thoughtful in your responses, so this one has caught me off-guard. As off-base and defensive-sounding as your response was, I wonder if you happen to be one of those "shrewd investors" with something to lose.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"For those who defend investing/playing the market as not being gambling, would it be okay with you to have a bi-vocational pastor who day-trades to help make a living?"

Frank Turk: "Yes it would -- but "day-trading" is not investing."

Heh. So you're okay with a day-trading bi-vocational pastor, eh?

Then I would just love to hear a day-trading bi-vocational pastor deliver a sermon titled "Is Gambling OK? Don't Bet on It."

Larry said...

Very good post. I'll be interested to follow it as you expound more. Here's something I've not seen discussed, however.

IF we are going to bind the consciences of all Christians with regard to gambling (in other words, its a sin at all times for all people in all circumstances), then we must also forbid a Christian from from facilitating this behavior in any way as well.

Every professing Christian who earns his or her living working in a Casino, Casino restaurant, hotel, etc. should repent, quit their job and find legitimate employment elsewhere. Just as we would not condone a Christian working as a waitress in a strip club we should not condone it in a casino either.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Larry,

I mentioned it earlier at the comment at 2:01 pm on Nov. 17th.

"Q2: Can a Christian work in casino? How about those Christians working in Las Vegas or elsewhere as card dealers, croupiers, money changers, etc...?"

Larry, I too would also like to see Phil address this question as well.

ACESFULL said...

Very interesting blog, and I appreciate the spirit of the discussion - most of the time this subject has come up there have been very closed minds all the way around. Let's throw this out there for your consideration (and I'll admit to not having read every blog so if it has come up before, I apologize): Poker, by definition, is NOT gambling. I am an attorney representing poker players in their quest to make poker legal in South Carolina. A majority of states have adopted what is called the "Dominant Factor" test to determine if an activity is gambling or not. That is, if the dominant factor in an activity is CHANCE - as is EVERY game in a casino where the house will win over time - then the activity is gambling. If the dominant factor in an activity is SKILL - as has been proven in the game of poker - it is NOT gambling. We proved this to a judge's satisfaction with the testimony of professional poker player and commentator Mike Sexton and an expert in probability and statistics from the University of Colorado. The judge found that the evidence was "overwhelming" that poker is predominantly a game of skill. An appellate judge ruled that if presented with the issue, the Supreme Court of South Carolina would adopt the Dominant Factor test, and therefore, by definition, Poker is not gambling. The Attorney General has taken exception to this ruling and the case has now been appealed to the SC Supremes. So my argument would be to carve out Poker from the discussion on gambling, and confine the debate on gambling to every other game in the casino where the house will always...in time...win.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Thanks for your comment ACESFULL. You bring a useful perspective to the discussion. Like this one:

"Poker, by definition, is NOT gambling."

I'd like to see your definition compared and contrasted (clashed?) with Phil Johnson's definitions of gambling.

Gabriel Rodriguez said...

Hi, I live in Reno Nevada. I would like to just say that you need to come and see what gambling does to people in a city that was founded on gambling.

I've seen families devastated by it. It doesn't matter how much these casinos try to help the "community", in the end it destroys lives.

Our church tries to understand that there will be those who might be able to gamble but they are few who don't get ruined from it. We try to be as gracious as we can but we see the end result and it's never good.

Tyler said...

Touche' to acesfull. I'm a pastor and no longer play poker at casinos (for fun with friends and recreation), but poker should be excluded from this conversation. I've had great fellowship around a $5.00 poker tourney with friends. However, to argue that I should play w/o money or for bragging rights just doesn't work if you've ever played poker. People will go "All in" in a circumstance which would normally not be a smart or wise play b/c "who cares, it's just a plastic chip." It defeats the dynamics of the game to play for free.

Back to me no longer playing at Casinos. I do this not b/c I believe it's a sin for me to play. I don't b/c of Christians. I don't b/c my brothers and sisters in Christ become so heated that I would be associated with that environment. I still play home games with friends b/c I love the game.

Am I less of a pastor b/c I like poker Phil?

Darby Livingston said...

"I'd like to see your definition compared and contrasted (clashed?) with Phil Johnson's definitions of gambling."

Johnson has referred to the law: "That's what the law says, not merely how I "feel" about the question."

So if the law of the land eventually agrees that poker is a game of skill rather than gambling, maybe it will be alright. Or not.

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