25 November 2009

The Sin of Putting God to the Test

by Phil Johnson

ere's a third characteristic of gambling. Remember, Gambling involves 1) Something valuable that is placed at risk; 2) Something belonging to someone else that is staked as a prize; and:

3. Gambling involves an element of chance that supposedly determines the outcome. This is a practical denial of the doctrine of divine providence.

God is sovereign over our prosperity. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, "It is [the Lord] that giveth thee power to get wealth."

Hope in sheer fortune is misplaced hope. Faith in "Good Luck" is misplaced faith. It is a kind of idolatry. We are not supposed to hope in such things.

In fact, there is no such thing as sheer, random chance. God is sovereign over all the details of life. The Bible says He even determines every roll of the dice: "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD" (Proverbs 16:33, NKJV).

There is nothing random in gambling. There is no such thing as Lady Luck, or the goddess of fortune, or Chance as a determinative force. God is sovereign even over the roll of the dice; He is the one who sovereignly determines everything that appears to be random.

That is why in the Old Testament, many decisions were made by drawing lots. And even early in the book of Acts, a replacement for Judas was chosen by lots. That was one way people had of getting guidance from God before canon of Scripture was complete and the Spirit given. (I don't believe it's a legitimate way for you and me to determine the will of God, but that is a totally different matter.)

The drawing of lots in such cases was not "gambling," because there was no transfer of any assets from the loser to the winner.

Someone will surely ask, "If God is the one who determines the roll of the dice, then what's wrong with trusting the Lord for the outcome of a gambling contest? Why not put my money on the spin of a roulette wheel and trust God for the ball to fall in the right place?"

Think about that question seriously. If that were a legitmate means of gaining wealth at all—if such an attitude were a true and warranted expression of authentic "faith" in any real sense—it would actually be better to bet your whole livelihood, your church's assets, and everything you could possibly get your hands on, on a single roll of the dice. Why squander an opportunity to make the most of an act of faith?

But we all know that's a ridiculous question, on the face of it. In fact, the question is not functionally different from the one with which Satan tempted Jesus: "Why don't you jump off the pinnacle of the Temple? You know the Bible says, "He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up."

Remember Jesus' answer? Matthew 4:7: "Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." That's a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:16: "Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God."

Although we know God determines everything, including every roll of the dice, we are strictly forbidden to put Him to the test.

And furthermore, you cannot pretend to "trust" God for something He has not promised. To speak of trusting God in such circumstances is to twist the meaning of faith. God has never promised to allow you to prosper at a game of chance, so to think that He will is not to "trust" Him, but to presume on Him, and that is sin.

In fact, I don't believe God would ever reward someone by letting that person prosper in an evil activity. When God permits someone to prosper in an evil pursuit, it is actually a prelude to judgment. So if you are a Christian who gambles and you have been winning, that might not be a good thing at all.

Betting on chance events when you know God is the One who determines the outcome is no better than jumping off a building because He has promised to provide you with angelic protection against calamity. To bet money on some kind of game is the moral equivalent of asking God to preserve you when you deliberately put your hand in the fire. Both are ways of putting the Lord your God to the test. And that is a sin. It's also one more reason why gambling is wrong in principle.

Phil's signature

60 comments:

Sir Brass said...

By no means am I disagreeing with you here, but I KNOW exactly what some others WILL bring up:

What about games such as poker where a skilled player is not playing by chance really, but by well known manipulating of probability and statistics. Your post here covers things such as slots, roulette, etc., but does it cover poker and it's variants?

Btw, I do NOT gamble. I typically lose, and thus the only time I do 'bet', it's with poker chips not backed by my money (ie., I don't play with or for money, thus making the game something of a non-issue here). Even were I to know I'd have better shots at winning, I'd feel uneasy (though tempted) about it anyway for many of the reasons you've put forward.

However, I do feel it right to examine all of your arguments here, so I hope you don't mind me asking some devil's advocate questions like I have here :).

Johnny Dialectic said...

I agree with this post as it relates to large scale gambling, but not to small stakes games. There are a number of avenues of response here. One could look at the issue of "hard determinism", but that is a theological thicket well beyond the scope of this series. Or the comparison of the biblical casting of lots in the case of God's will with modern gaming.

But the simplest avenue is to accept (for argument's sake) the determinism underlying the post. Given that, small stakes games are not a denial of God's sovereignty even if you do think God controls the dice. If I'm not using the game to "make a living" but only as another of many options open to leisure activity, I can lose or win and, either way, believe that God made that determination. I am not denying his sovereignty.

God is sovereign over our prosperity

So the argument is based on the presumption that we are dealing with how God determines to "prosper us." But winning or losing a small game affects my prosperity not at all, any more than going to a movie does. (Remember, we are no longer arguing here about stewardship, coveting or theft. This argument is solely about the "denial of sovereignty" issue). I can play a small stakes game, then, without "putting God to the test."

There is nothing random in gambling.

I can accept that and still play a game for fun and a small stake.

Think about that question seriously. If that were a legitmate means of gaining wealth at all...

Okay, here I agree. If one is gambling as a means to "gain wealth", then it is a foolish and perhaps sinful denial of God's Providence.

To bet money on some kind of game is the moral equivalent of asking God to preserve you when you deliberately put your hand in the fire.

Only if such game is a matter of "preservation."

solagratia said...

JD,

If you play for money, you're playing to "gain wealth". That's what makes it fun and interesting, remember?

Daryl said...

Solagratia,

Ther you go, pulling the cats ears...

May I suggest that we drop the penny ante games from the present discussion, and leave that to our application?
That seems to be where the ongoing, thread-expanding arguments always head.

As soon as the money gets to a level where is affects us or anyone else at the table (for those who will argue that million dollar stakes are worthless to Bill Gates), then it's an issue.

Argue it there.

Phil presents a good argument here, who will prosper us and by what means?
God, by hard work or the generosity of others.

Johnny Dialectic said...

If you play for money, you're playing to "gain wealth".

Re-read Phil's post, and my response, carefully. Note the emphasis on "prosperity" and "preservation." Otherwise, you'll end up having to say that spending money for a movie is "squandering wealth."

As soon as the money gets to a level where is affects us or anyone else at the table (for those who will argue that million dollar stakes are worthless to Bill Gates), then it's an issue.

Agreed. My whole point. I'm willing to drop the small stakes argument now, unless someone wants to try to make the case that such is a "denial" of God's sovereignty, or some other offense against it.

donsands said...

"To bet money on some kind of game is the moral equivalent of asking God to preserve you when you deliberately put your hand in the fire."

I predicted Sunday that the Ravens would beat the Colts: 24-23. I was really thinking the Ravens were going to pull the upset of the year. But, the Colts won 17-15.

God of course is sovereign in all this, and I knew that before the game, but I longed for the Ravens to win, and even told others they would win.

Was I testing God you think? Should we as Christians think ahead like this?

Thanks again for a well written post. Good thoughts, that made me think.

solagratia said...

Pastor Phil is arguing to establish an objective standard for right and wrong as it applies gambling. I am inclined to his argument simply because if I affirm what you argue for, which is a subjective 'if the money is at a certain level for me then its wrong' kind of argument, then I have no basis to say that casino gambling (or other oppressive forms of organized gaming) is morally wrong. If Pastor Phil gives where you want him to, he's given away the objective farm, so to speak.

I'm not "pulling the cat's ear". I'm pointing out that the objective standard Pastor Phil is establishing goes too far in your mind but makes sense in mine as I think about its consistent application. I don't like where consistent application of the subjective argument leads.

JD, regarding the 'squandering wealth at a movie': I don't think biblical principles can be applied to establish an objective standard that governs that situation and so I would affirm that a subjective "squandering" looks different for me than it does for a Real Estate Magnate.

Ben Hedrick
Lou. Ky

Andrew D said...

donsands,
Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
James 4:15

Other than that, no I do not believe you were testing God based on what you said.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Knowledge of God's sovereignty is a great help to the Christian gambler. After all, if God wants to prosper me through the lottery, there is no need to buy more than one ticket...

[/humor]

stratagem said...

Phil

First off, I totally agree that gambling is a very sad endeavor and probably an outright sin.

Question: Do you think Christians are putting God to the test when they tell an unbeliever something like "ask God to show you that He is real, and He will." ? I've heard of people doing that a number of times, but when I was preparing a study of Luke Ch. 3 recently, it occurred to me that this type of "test" might be the same as putting God to the test: We are advising that person to basically dare God to reveal himself, or else.

Am I out to lunch in thinking this?

donsands said...

Andrew, do you suppose it is the Lord's will for the team who won to win?

Or does the Lord care about a football game?

His sovereignty is a difficult thing for my finite mind.

"In fact, there is no such thing as sheer, random chance. God is sovereign over all the details of life." -Phil

And I agree 100% with this truth. But it's still difficult for my mind to grasp. Yet I declare it in my heart by faith.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and joyous Day in His grace and sovereign love.

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Great post again. I've never really understood the 'casting lots' in a non-gambling context.

Andrew D said...

Stratagem,
I think that is putting the Lord to the test because it is not founded on a promise given to us in the Bible.

It would be better to say "you already know in your heart that God is real because you are made in His image" (and then take them to Romans ch 1).

Jugulum said...

Is it putting God to the test to find out what he does? Or only to presume on promises that he hasn't made?

Craig and Heather said...

Several previous comments have prompted me to think "What about the verse in Matthew 4--where Jesus said we are not to tempt God?"

Thanks for bringing that one into play.

Your explanation of "casting lots" as a way to completely be hands-off in allowing God to make a decision is the way I had understood those passages in Scripture.



Sir Brass said What about games such as poker where a skilled player is not playing by chance really, but by well known manipulating of probability and statistics.

Dear Mr. Devil's Advocate,
Unless a person is cheating (a sin) when playing poker, he is still relying on "the luck of the draw" as much as any ability of his own to manipulate probability.

Being able to convincingly "bluff" is also a big part of the game.


While some might consider the ability to maintain a good "poker face" to be simply a beneficial exercise in self-control (perhaps it is, when playing for worthless "chips" ), but I'm not sure that argument works when one is practicing deception in order to win a "pot" of money......

I dunno.

I'm still stuck on gambling for money as an outlet/encouragement for covetousness.

I have a hard enough time swallowing my pride when I lose at "regular" board games and don't need to tempt myself further with games that offer a wider range of sins to be harnessed and guarded against.

Heather

Denis said...

Is it putting God to the test to find out what he does? Or only to presume on promises that he hasn't made?

Just thinking out loud here ... but "test" has a pass/fail connotation to it. It seems to convey the idea that I am going to judge God based on his performance on the test.

This seems different than simply acting like what he says is true ... resting and finding peace in his promises.

In other words, I shouldn't be waiting to find out if God really is going to work good through my tribulations (testing God) but in my tribulations I should trust that God will work good through them (resting in God).

CR said...

Strategm,

The whole concept of trying to test the Lord is to try to manipulate God. I don't know that the example you gave is testing God or not. It's more of a statement out of ignorance since the Lord has already revealed Himself to people. He does this in two ways: in nature and inwardly in the conscience. People who are not regenerated repress this knowledge of Him.

What we can say to people is what God says: If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and repent, you will be saved. We'll have to explain to them who the biblical Jesus is that they must believe in, and what it means to repent (most Christians really can't explain repentance) but that is certainly not testing.

I don't know that in your example they are trying to test God. They earnestly want people to believe in the Lord Jesus and so does the Lord and probably just aren't expressing it accurately. You're not testing the Lord if you're proclaiming something or doing something He has clearly revealed in His redemptive plan.

Sir Aaron said...

Mark B. Hanson:

I had a Pastor who said the same thing. Why would you buy more than one lotto ticket?

stratagem said...

CR,
Thank you. Here's where I was coming from based on the thought I've given this since the weekend:

I don't know if they are trying to test God, either. But are they actually telling someone else, an unbeliever, to test God? "God, if you are real, then show me or do such-and-such" seems to put God in a position of either doing what's requested, or being regarded as not being real by that person.

The shame and perhaps the sin of it would be that this person doesn't observe God performing on demand, and concludes that He isn't real, based on claiming a promise that is not in the Word.

That's as far as I've gotten - very confusing!

Craig and Heather said...

CR said:(most Christians really can't explain repentance)

That was me until God finally brought me to my knees in frustration over whether I had truly repented in the Biblical sense. When I was ready to ask Him, the answer was so shockingly simple, it is amazing that we can so easily miss it.

Repentance:

~Agreement with God that He is God and I'm not. (the reverse of Adam's attitude in the Garden)

~Humble acknowledgment that the natural state of my very existence is an offense to His nature. (Lord have mercy on me, a sinner)

~Acceptance of His offer of salvation through Christ who has not only paid the price for my sins but lived the perfectly obedient life that I am incapable of living.

~And thankfully asking for the Father's loving hand of corrective discipline to constantly direct me and refine my faith in the Lord. (He has specifically stated that He chastens every one He accepts as a son)

Perseverance is simply living the continued attitude of repentance that eventually produces the wholesome fruit of obedience to God's direction.

It isn't complicated, yet is the hardest thing in the world because we tend to pridefully think that we either don't need to change or that we can be good enough by somehow creating religious frameworks by which we must earn God's approval.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Unbelievers are testing God by simply denying His existence/authority in their lives. The things they do are merely an outward manifestation of that underlying heart attitude.

Believers have, at times, tested God (Moses when he tried to convince God he wasn't the right guy for the job--Abraham when he asked God how he could know that God would keep His promise about a physical heir and a promise of a country to call his own, etc)

Definitely, the relationship (and purpose for the testing) makes a difference.


H

Stefan said...
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Stefan said...

Donsands:

The outcome of 99.9% of sporting contests probably do not really matter in the grand, cosmic, eschatological scheme of things.

But every win or loss, every moment of overtime or penalty time, every time someone gets sick from eating too much of the wrong thing—all of these have an impact, however immeasurably small, on someone's life: and all of these things add up, like the so-called "butterfly effect."

You stay behind at a game or a friend's house 1 extra minute to watch the last-second freethrow, and so drive home on a dark, rainy night 1 minute late, meaning in God's providential care, someone safely crossed the street when you should have been there 1 minute earlier, and without your even knowing it, that person was spared from an accident.

The best example of how even a routine high school football game can make a huge impact on people's lives in the here and now—preventing a horrible tragedy from claiming many more lives than it did—may be the improbable field goal that Johnny MacArthur Jr. scored against Canyon High in October 2007: Phil blogged about it here.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:29-30)

...I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'" (Isaiah 46:9b-10)

Daryl said...

Solagratia,

You misunderstand. I've made the same case on these threads. I agree with Phil.

The cat's-ear-pulling comment had to do with your little shot at Johnny D. He's made that argument continually and has been disagreed with. (FWIW. It's not clear to me that he's right or wrong.)

But not on this thread (at least not at the time of our mutual comments).

I'm just sayin'.

Stefan said...

Sorry, minor correction: I think he just goes by the name "Johnny MacArthur." I was conflating his name with that of his grandfather, Phil's pastor.

Mike Riccardi said...

JD,

You might have answered this on a past thread, but I'm wondering when 'small stakes' crosses over into the realm of 'not small stakes'. What's the threshold? In other words, at what amount does my gambling become a sin?

~Mark said...

I am really enjoying this series. I knew and agreed with a lot of it beforehand, but you've helped put into words the practical issues.

Thank you!

CR said...

Strategm - I see now what you're saying. I agree.

Heather - Pretty good, Heather. We can see demonstrated in Scriptures that to repent means to "think again" about who God is and who we are (because we start off with wrong thoughts about God and us) and to change our attitude. Finally, at the end of repentance comes change in conduct and behavior. For the longest time, I put change in conduct and behavior at the beginning of repentance when it really belongs at the end of repentance.

L said...

In our ladies' study of Ephesians this past week, we looked at the meaning of "trickery" in Ephesians 4:14: "As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming" (NASB). The original word, "kybeia," is defined as "1. dice playing 2. metaph. the deception of men, because dice players sometimes cheated and defrauded their fellow players."

I know that doesn't directly say that all gambling is condemned, but I thought it was interesting. If it is not applicable here at all, my apologies!

Craig and Heather said...

CR: For the longest time, I put change in conduct and behavior at the beginning of repentance when it really belongs at the end of repentance.

Yes, that is where I was going wrong, too....I was stuck with my focus on measuring what *I* was doing. It was really depressing because the more I learned about God's standards of good/evil, the reality of how far I am from perfection just became more and more obvious.

Not fun.

Heather

Stefan said...

L:

Thanks for that!

I'd been searching for English words or phrases related to casting dies in the ESV (since my uninformed impression from reading Asterix comics as a youngster was that dice-throwing was a common Roman pastime), but hadn't found anything.

It turns out that kybeia (Strong's G2940) only occurs once in the New Testament, in the verse you mentioned; it doesn't come up in the Septuagint, either.

Here is Strong's definition for it (courtesy of e-Sword):

κυβεία
kubeia
koo-bi'-ah
From κύβος kubos (a "cube", that is, die for playing); gambling, that is, (figuratively) artifice or fraud: - sleight.

Stefan said...

Ah yes: Asterix comics and Julius Caesar's famous phrase upon crossing the Rubicon on his way to conquer Rome:

Alea jacta est: "The die is cast."

Stefan said...

And more (from Wikipedia):

By the first century AD alea refers to the early form of backgammon that was played in Caesar's time. Augustus (Octavian) mentions winning this game in a letter. Dice were commonly known in Roman times and generally known as cubus. It has thus been suggested that another probable translation of the phrase would be "the (backgammon) game has begun".

Stefan said...
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Stefan said...

...Except, ironically, it wasn't a gamble in the grand scheme of things (though Caesar couldn't know that), since his rise to power was crucial to the formation of the Roman Empire, which led to the Roman conquest of the Promised Land, which led to the historical preconditions into which Jesus Christ came into the world, and contributed to the manner in which Our Lord and Saviour died: upon the Cross—which in addition to being the fulfillment of so many Old Testament prophecies, was also specifically required for Deuteronomy 21:23 to be fulfilled ("...for a hanged man is cursed by God...."), since He in His sinlessness "redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13).

What seems random and happenstance to us was decreed before the foundation of the world by the Lord God in His eternal counsel.

What that says about buying a Scratch-and-Win ticket today, I won't venture to speculate.

stratagem said...

The Mennonites (at least some of them) still choose who is to be the Pastor, by casting lots and other types of divination.

Craig and Heather said...

Stefan, I'm laughing because we have some friends who have Asterix comics and when we visit, my son will read and memorize chunks of the text so he can relive the story over the next few days.

Heather

Craig and Heather said...

Considering the apparently indefinite nature (at least for some) of the "sin of gambling", I'm wondering more and more whether it is something that Christians ought to draw a hard line on.

I'm not saying that I think it isn't a sin, but so often in the comments, one or another poster will say "Okay, I agree that xxxxxxx form of gambling is a sin......but what about YYYYYYY?"



The case has been made that many motivations for gambling (and some of the results of gambling) are sinful. I can agree with that and hope that any believer would be willing to ask God to reveal true motives so that he may act accordingly.

But an application of principle is not the same thing as a direct quote from Scripture that says "Gambling in any form is a sin"--and then goes on to describe precisely what that sin looks like.

What I'm trying to say is that I wonder, if, in trying to prove a point about gambling being a sin, there are more problems created than solved.

If I create a "no gambling" rule for myself, then I am obligated to examine according to that rule every activity that *might* be seen as gambling by not only myself but by others who know about my rule.

Making one rule often requires that a subset of lesser rules be created--and then a list of potential exceptions--and eventually, I'm ten steps removed from just asking God directly what to do in any given situation.

The ongoing discussion here proves that forsaking gambling as a sinful behavior isn't as cut and dried for some as it might be for others.

So I'm asking:

Concerning an activity (as opposed to a motivating attitude) that is not clearly spelled out in scripture as sin --- Is it not appropriate for the convinced parties to just set out their perspectives, cite their reasons or proof texts and then step aside, pray and allow the Spirit to work in the "other" guy's heart--and encourage that guy to also ask God what is true?

Surely, God is perfectly capable of showing a true child of His an area that needs to be cleaned up (if in fact it needs to be done) when that child is willing to ask Him for direction?

Heather

donsands said...

"The best example of how even a routine high school football game can make a huge impact on people's lives in the here and now—preventing a horrible tragedy" -Stefan

I remember that. That was incredible. Loved it.

But, what about when disaster does hit?
I remember hearing of a family that left church, and their van got swept away in a flood, the mother and father escaped, but all the children drown.

The parents have since given much glory to the Lord, but what an incredible tragedy.

More difficult to say this was God's sovereign will, though it surely is.

Have a blessed and joyous Thanksgiving brother.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jugulum: "Is it putting God to the test to find out what he does? Or only to presume on promises that he hasn't made?"

I don't know, but I'd like to know.

Jugulum,

You wrote this in one of the earlier posts of this gambling series:

"I take the view that gambling in small amounts for entertainment doesn't violate any Biblical principles."

Have you changed your mind as a result of Phil Johnson's posts?

Phil Johnson said...

Heather: "But an application of principle is not the same thing as a direct quote from Scripture that says "Gambling in any form is a sin"--and then goes on to describe precisely what that sin looks like."

That's demonstrably wrong, and it's one of the points I'm making in this series. Scripture holds us not merely to the letter of the law but to the underlying moral significance of the commandments as well. That was one of Jesus' central points in the Sermon on the Mount. The seventh commandment explicitly teaches that adultery is wrong. The underlying principle teaches that lustful fantasies are sinful as well. Any principle set forth in God's Word--if it's a valid principle, correctly understood and applied--is just as binding as an explicit command.

I began this series by pointing out that no direct command of Scripture forbids arson. Would any clear-thinking individual argue that it's legalistic to say arson is sinful (as opposed to being merely "unwise")?

What explicit statement of Scripture rules out the recreational use of weed in Amsterdam (or large doses of cough syrup in Bakersfield) to get high? But wouldn't you agree that "be not drunk with wine" establishes a principle that applies to such activities?

What kind of hermeneutic do you think Paul was using in 1 Corinthians 9:9 and 1 Timothy 5:18 when he quoted Deuteronomy 25:4 as an argument for paying hard-working pastors adequate compensation? Hint: 1 Corinthians 9:10-11 answers that question.

It's a total fallacy to think that it's automatically "legalism" to call anything sin that's not explicitly forbidden by name in Scripture.

CR said...

Heather: Concerning an activity (as opposed to a motivating attitude) that is not clearly spelled out in scripture as sin --- Is it not appropriate for the convinced parties to just set out their perspectives, cite their reasons or proof texts and then step aside, pray and allow the Spirit to work in the "other" guy's heart--and encourage that guy to also ask God what is true?

I don't think so, Heather. Here's why. Clearly there are activities that are not clearly spelled out in Scriptures but are within the intended meaning of what the biblical writer is trying to convey. For example, looking at internet pornography. That is not an activity that is clearly laid out in Scripture - why- because Algore had not invented the internet yet. But if we could ask Jesus today, when he gave His exception clause of pornea (sexual immorality) for allowing divorce, does internet pornography fall into pornea, would that be in His intended meaning. In other words, if we could ask Jesus right now and say, "When you said that, does that include, internet pornography?" Jesus would answer, "well, I didn't mention internet pornography because it had not been invented yet, but that is exactly the kind of thing I meant." Another example is when Paul says do not be drunk with wine. Obviously, what would be included with that is do not be drunk with gin and tonic, Roman coke or any other alcoholic beverage. So, the author is not conveying mere principal but activities and clearly certain activities are within the intended meaning.

So, I don't think you could make the absolute statement that you did.

Now, I don't think, and some may disagree with me, that the same thing can be said of gambling (which was around in ancient times). For example, I don't think you could look at any passage of Scripture which forbids a certain activity and say, ah hah, well, clearly gambling is well within that meaning of what the author is trying to convey.

I think what Phil is trying to do is lay some pretty important principles and conclude based on those principles, gambling is a sin. So, I think we could apply your scenario in the case of gambling. That’s my opinion.

CR said...

Sorry, meant to say rum and coke. The Roman coke thing comes from childhood. My mother was Portuguese with a thick accent and she use to say Roman coke and I didn't know it was rum and coke until someone told me at college. I guess it's still with me.

Jim Pemberton said...

Regarding "small stakes" and where the line of demarcation is between small stakes and large stakes, the widow's offering comes to mind. Of what significance was her offering? "Small stakes" is relative. And if it seems to be small stakes to us, of what purpose is it to God who gives as a significant amount to another what we would consider "small stakes"?

If it is true that we must be faithful in the small things to be trustworthy with the large things, then none of us is truly trustworthy for we tend to ignore the small things and only focus on the large things as though there were some element of greater importance to them. If there were then what importance could God place on us where we are weak and fallen? We have no place to dismiss anything as "small" where it is a provision of God at all. That's not to say that we should unproductively focus on the small things where our focus should be on the larger things, but that we cannot denigrate details as being small enough to waste with deliberate disregard.

Stefan said...

Don:

Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

Being saved certainly doesn't spare us from horrible tragedy. I sometimes thinks the Lord allows challenges into the lives of believers that make our lives more difficult—but only, we pray, for a season.

Knowing that God is sovereign and in control is greatly reassuring in such situations, but can also be distressing. ("Lord God, help us! Why did You allow this to happen? Where is Your will in this?").

David shows this to us plainly in his psalms! He is the very model of walking in God's ways, and eloquently meditating on the ways of God. Yet there is such distress and grief and vexation in so many of his psalms.

And if we're ministering to someone else, we definitely shouldn't theologize away their real grief. We should cry with them, pray with them, and share with them, while reminding them and ourselves that God is in control.

The Lord is testing my wife and me right now, and yet He is blessing us in the midst of it. I broke down in tears in church last Sunday, for the first time since I came to saving faith in Christ. That I could go up and have someone pray for me (in the same way that I do for others most of the time) was a huge comfort.

To bring this all back on topic, I just don't know why we need to make a big fuss about gambling. I fritter away my idle time in other ways, and while they give our lives some momentary pleasure and escape—and I'm all for that—in the end they're just empty nothingness, compared to keeping our eyes on Jesus.

Craig and Heather said...

Phil said: It's a total fallacy to think that it's automatically "legalism" to call anything sin that's not explicitly forbidden by name in Scripture.

Well, I've been wrong before. But actually, I agree with your statement here. Please note that I didn't say you were being legalistic. If anyone here is likely to be a legalist, it is me and I'm not interested in pointing fingers.

I simply meant that an application of principle is not exactly the same thing as turning to a specific, direct command. As you said, it relates to a heart condition rather than being a simple behavioral adjustment.

I also made an observation about where rules can take us when we just adopt them but don't remember to ask the Lord personally for insight into what should be done about certain individual situations. It is a true statement as I have done it myself.



Not everyone will instantly see what you are saying about gambling being sinful. There has been a lot of back and forth here concerning "What about this...?" and "I don't covet when I gamble" etc.

I can't read anyone else's heart, so I don't know what the true motives are-even when there is significant evidence as to what are the most common motivations.

Scripture holds us not merely to the letter of the law but to the underlying moral significance of the commandments as well. That was one of Jesus' central points in the Sermon on the Mount.

I absolutely agree with this and it is something I had in mind when I was writing. We are to individually examine our own heart motives before the Lord in light of Scripture. As we receive correction on a heart level, it ought to affect our actions, yes?

Honestly, Phil, I wasn't suggesting that it is a bad thing to try to show others how scripture can apply to "fuzzy" areas of our lives!

I think it is great that you are writing this series and am not trying to argue against the validity of explaining why gambling can (perhaps in all instances) be sinful. I totally agree that it can be horrendously destructive and certainly can involve idolatry, covetousness, poor stewardship, stealing, etc. We live in a small town and there is a casino in the main hotel/restaurant that does a pretty brisk business. It disgusts me to see the advertisements for it around town because they are centered completely around greed and chasing after "the good life".

I'm not at all trying to say that it is pointless to make your case.


CR:
I appreciate your response. I was thinking out loud and must not have been as clear with my question as I thought.

I'll try again.





What I was wondering is whether there is a danger here (not even so much with Phil's posts, but more-so amongst some of the commenters) of (perhaps unintentionally) slipping into a pattern of intellectually trying to convince skeptical readers of something that is, at it's core, a heart issue that only God can adequately address?

I know I've had times when a smarter someone tried to explain something that I was not open to hearing at the time. I was even offended when they would suggest that I might be doing something wrong...
Yet, when I had experienced a particularly rough spiritual patch, and was willing to listen to the Lord's instruction in my heart, I ended up being much harder on myself over the faults than anyone else had ever been.

God did not fail to straighten me out--it just didn't happen during the initial point of contacting the truth.

Does that make more sense?

Maybe I need to just go back to doing my laundry :oS

Heather

Craig and Heather said...

I broke down in tears in church last Sunday, for the first time since I came to saving faith in Christ. That I could go up and have someone pray for me (in the same way that I do for others most of the time) was a huge comfort.

That's awesome, Stefan!

I think the Lord is waking up a lot of people these days. James tells us that hardship is designed to test and strengthen our faith, and we are to be thankful for it.

God is a loving Father who disciplines His children so that we will learn to trust in His care rather than in our own abilities. It isn't always fun when it's happening, but the fellowship with Him becomes such a sweet thing when we learn to rest in Him.

Will be praying for you and your wife.

heather

Phil Johnson said...

Jim Pemberton:

Well said. It's nice to hear an occasional note of wisdom.

Sir Aaron said...

Phil:

Exodus 22:6? ;)

donsands said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Stefan.

Lord bless you and your family.

Stefan said...

Heather: Thanks.

In the last 24 hours, He has started to answer our most urgent prayer requests, too, and in unexpected ways. To God alone be all the praise.

Jim Pemberton:

I second Phil's comment.

Stefan said...

Dan: Thank you, too.

And blessings to you and your family as well, and to everyone who reads (and runs!) this blog, your families, friends, neighbours, and co-workers, and your church families.

Let's be salt and light to a lost and fallen world.

philness said...

To expound upon Jim Pemberton's demarcation between small and large stakes I think of the seamless progression of God's administrations from 10 commandments to the law of Christ which we are all under currently.
Call it dispensations if you must but if on this side of the cross where all of the laws including its principles are absorbed in Christ Jesus there shouldn't be the need to locate demarcations and disunion said laws and principles. Perhaps doing so is the other side of the coin of legalism. And the folly in flipping this coin any amount of times create the biggest disconnect in progressing to become like Him.

one busy mom said...

This has been a very eye openning series..not that I gamble or am even interested in it.

But throughout this, it's hit me that I have probably been defining sin way too narrowly. I've tended to have a large list of things that are 'bad ideas' or just plain foolish (like gambling) - but a much smaller list of actual sins.

I'm beginning to suspect I'ld better go back and make sure I know what actually defines sin. I seriously fear that some of what God sees as sin I've never even thought of that way.

So...uh...thanks. I now know that I know a whole lot less than I thought I did. I suppose that's progress...?!

CR said...

one busy mom: I'm beginning to suspect I'ld better go back and make sure I know what actually defines sin.

The essence of sin is ungodliness - a refusal in any way, shape or form to live entirely and only for God's glory; to not love the Lord with our whole heart, mind and soul and to not desire God and to regard Him as the supreme object of our lives - all the time, every single day. Thank God He gave us His Son.

CR said...

Heather: God did not fail to straighten me out--it just didn't happen during the initial point of contacting the truth.

I'm not sure I understand your question about the intellectual and everything being a heart issue, but your above statement is absolutely true for every person whether they want to admit it or not. When Jesus healed one of the blind He asked him what he saw and the blind said that he saw people but they look like trees. Jesus then immediately completely healed him.

When we first come to the Lord we all start out with bad morality - we see God, man and the world with a totally new outlook, but it still looks blurry and people look like trees.

Glenn said...

I'm not endorsing gambling - but how does it udnermine divine providence? Doesn't that depend on what the gambler believes about the outcome?

If I were to gamble, I would believe that God brings the outcome about. If there's an issue in me gambling (I don't), it would be to do with divine providence, surely.

Gumby said...

I think you rolled snake eyes on this article.... I am reading thru I Kings right now- the "splendor of Solomon" (Mt. 5). Haven't read about any casinos yet, just the amazing providence of the almighty towards His people.

Gumby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig and Heather said...

CR said I'm not sure I understand your question about the intellectual and everything being a heart issue, but your above statement is absolutely true for every person whether they want to admit it or not.

No worries. I confuse myself most of the time. Being a total "right brainer" doesn't help me to relate my thoughts on a logical level, either.

You got my main point and that is where the winding path was taking me anyway.

When we first come to the Lord we all start out with bad morality - we see God, man and the world with a totally new outlook, but it still looks blurry and people look like trees.

Interesting you should mention this as I was thinking about it just a couple days ago.

Yes, every one of us starts out with incredibly blurry vision. Like newbborn babies who literally cannot focus on things that are more than a couple feet away.

And, like babies, believers all mature at different rates.

Some of us (me) spend years not being able to see things that others snap into perspective almost instantly. We need regular interaction with other believers and constant direction/correction from the Lord in order to know what we ought to be doing at any given moment.

Sadly, I often ignore my constant need and forget to ask God what He wants me to be doing with my time, finances, children, etc.

I'm learning, though :)

Heather

wtanksley said...

This series started out so strong, and then just hit a continuous series of false notes.

In this case, the main point is simply a strawman: you assume that participating in gambling of any kind requires you to believe that God is not sovereign. Yet the Bible in Proverbs 16:33 speaks of God's sovereignty in explicit terms of a game of chance: the casting of lots. The Bible doesn't shrink from declaring the sovereignty of God not merely OVER the lot, but THROUGH the lot.

The drawing of lots in such cases was not "gambling," because there was no transfer of any assets from the loser to the winner.

I suppose you're going to say that "such cases" include only the cases in which property decisions were not being made. Yet it's clear that in fact, most of the time, property decisions WERE being made. This started with the division of the land of Israel by lot (in Jos 19, especially 19:51, as commanded in Num 26:55) -- the tribes were assigned their portions by lot. Jonah was condemned to death by the casting of lots -- and the LORD intended him to be condemned. Proverbs 18:18 doesn't say that only non-property disputes are settled by the lot, and property disputes were identified elsewhere as being a major source of judicial action. Psa 16:5 praises God for "maintaining my lot" -- but the word used here is the Hebrew for "lot", not the English idiom, suggesting that God maintains the psalmist's property by favorably speaking through the casting of lots; and the next verse continues that the boundary lines fall in the right places because the Lord places them so, still through the casting of lots. Indeed, the Hebrew term "lot" is used as a term for the land owned by each tribe, and thereafter for the land owned by each family, precisely because they were assigned by lot.

Can you identify a Biblical, historical scholar who disagrees with this -- who believes that the ancient Hebrews did NOT use lots to decide boundary debates?

I think you're making a good point, and taking a stand against an evil that needs to be opposed. But it should be opposed with valid arguments, not with strawmen that convince only the people who don't need to be convinced.