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Gambling: The Moral Antithesis of Charity

Thursday, June 23, 2011 | Comments (38)

To review one more time, these are the characteristics that define "gambling":

  1. Something valuable is placed at risk
  2. Something belonging to someone else is staked as a prize
  3. An element of chance supposedly determines the outcome

And finally—

4. In all gambling, wealth is either lost or changes hands; no new wealth or other benefit is created. Gambling violates every biblical principle of economics.

In an earlier post I cited Ephesians 4:28: "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth."

There's far more in that commandment than merely a prohibition against stealing. It also suggests that the proper way to earn wealth is by some form of work. It furthermore reminds us that a wonderful use of surplus wealth is charity towards the poor. Gambling subverts all those principles.

Gambling is economic fraud. It produces nothing. It adds nothing to the larger economy. When you invest money in the stock market, that money goes to work in the economy. It is not like a gambling stake, which just sits there in the jackpot, waiting to be won by one of the players.

Whatever taxes and commissions are skimmed from government-regulated lotteries and actually put back into the economy are more than offset by the losses of people who purchase tickets and do not win. Statistics show clearly that the most profoundly negative economic effects of gambling are felt in the sectors of society where the poverty level is already high. So gambling's worst impact hurts the very same segments of society where charity would have done the most good.

The corollary of this is that the apparent prosperity of casinos in places like Las Vegas is gained at the direct expense of other communities, industries, and individuals. Gambling is always a zero-sum game.

Gambling simply transfers money from the hands of many to the hands of the few through frivolous means fraught with questionable motives—just the opposite of all sound economic principles.

The Bible does spell out some clear principles regarding economics and the exchange of money, goods, and services.

Of course, property and possessions were normally passed on within one's own family (or to one's legal heirs) by inheritance.

Beyond that, however, there are three legitimate means of exchanging wealth and transferring property to others. One is through labor, where money is earned by effort expended (Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12; Luke 10:7). Another is through commerce (including buying, selling, and otherwise investing—Matthew 25:14-29). The third is through giving—including gifts of charity (Luke 19:8; Ephesians 4:28).

Gambling has none of the elements that make those enterprises good. It involves no work. It contributes nothing of value to the economy. And it is the moral antithesis of charity.

Speaking of gambling's macro effects on the economy, much more could be said about the evil that surrounds the gambling industry. It breeds crime and corruption; it undermines character; it does not promote godliness; it violates private industry; it undermines the good of society; it exploits the poor; and it promotes false values.

Furthermore, when government sanctions and even participates in sponsoring gambling, it departs from (and even works against) the God-ordained role of government, which is to seek the public welfare by punishing crime, keeping order, and defending against foreign attacks. State-sanctioned gambling makes the government the oppressor of the poor and the promoter of activities that spawn all kinds of corruption and evil.

Again, every argument I have made suggests that gambling is wrong in principle.

As Christians, we are commanded to be content with what we have, and to trust God as our Provider. We are forbidden to covet what belongs to our neighbor, and we are commanded to love that neighbor as ourselves. We are commanded to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We are commanded to shun that which is evil—abstaining from every form of evil.

That's why, although I have acknowledged that penny-ante games are often trivial (and by no means any major concern of mine), my counsel to believers who ask about the issue would be this: it's naive and potentially dangerous to toy with any kind of gambling as a form of "recreation." If gambling is indeed wrong in principle (as I believe the weight of all the biblical arguments demonstrates) then it is surely wise to avoid the practice no matter the amount or the frequency.

In closing, let me say . . .

Some readers asked me to address the question of whether raffles, door prizes, and carnival-style contests as fund-raising devices are morally equivalent to gambling. My short answer is that it depends on the circumstances. The definition of gambling I gave at the outset is my best answer to that. If the raffle prize is a donated item given to charity and not a "stake" paid for by entry fees, it wouldn't be gambling by most legal definitions.

I'm not fond of such gimmicks for fund-raising anyway—especially for churches and Christian organizations. But I would not suggest that it's always a "sin" to participate in them, especially if the bulk of the funds collected really do go to some legitimate charity. Such cases, however, wouldn't fit likely my definition of gambling, so the point is really moot, I think.

I'll leave the intricate dissection of countless hypothetical cases and counter-examples to people who love that sort of casuistry.

Speaking of which, I've gotten some messages from a few people who have claimed my biblical arguments prove nothing about whether gambling per se is wrong, because (in the words of one correspondent): "You don't know people's hearts, so you can't prove that everyone who gambles is really coveting his neighbor's possessions."

Well, it certainly seems obvious that the gambler is trying to win his neighbor's possessions, and I honestly can't think of many righteous motives for doing that. But the argument about reading another person's heart is true in exactly the same sense that I can't prove every man who fills his spare time looking at pornography on the internet is sinfully lusting. I still tell men they should not do that under any circumstances. In any case, the guy who gets caught doing it is probably going to have a hard sell convincing his own wife it was all so innocent. In a case like that, I'm happy to let the man answer to God and his own wife.

Similarly, to those who are so keen to justify penny-ante and "recreational" gambling, I'm quite happy to leave the issue between you, your conscience, and the Lord, who judges righteously. Don't feel obliged to try to convince me that what you're doing isn't tainted with covetousness or presumption or any of the other bad motives I have associated with the act of gambling.

To be perfectly clear: the evil motives are what I say is sin, not the gaming aspects of gambling. I'm not trying to establish a legalistic rule on issues where the Bible doesn't spell out a rule. I'm trying to give a little pastoral counsel and shed some biblical light on the complex of evils that surround gambling, so that you can give a fuller answer to the question of whether gambling is OK than the bare (and foolish) assertion that since there's no proof text that says gambling's "sin," Christians shouldn't say anything against it.

On the contrary, it is a plague on our culture (and every culture where it has been legalized) and Christians should not be silent or neutral about it.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Phil Johnson
Executive Director


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#1  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 5:47 AM

AMEN! Very clear, thorough and sound teaching; it is no small wonder you have been entrusted with God's precious Word; John MacArthur, as well. Rightly dividing the Word of truth takes skill, patience, long hours of study, and ultimately the humility to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

No wonder so many people come to this site for sound teaching and instruction. All the men here do a wonderful job in rightly dividing the Word of truth. It is a true encouragement to all of us who absolutely love and cherish God's Word.

We "encourage" all of you, so you will continue to bless, and "encourage" us.

#2  Posted by Diana Yochem  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 7:15 AM

Thank you. This has been very helpful to me as a young christian on how to respond to others when asked about why I don't go to the boat or get in the pool for the Kentucky Derby.

As for my stock market based investments and IRA's, I am happy to keep them.

I very much appreciate the pastoral council on this subject.

God Bless.

#3  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 7:19 AM

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#4  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 7:35 AM

In the town I live in there used to be 2 locally-owned Christian bookstores. Then, a few years ago, a third national chain came in. Eventually, the two local stores closed. The third remains...

So, no new wealth was created. In fact, 2 businesses were destroyed. The owners of those stores were then stolen from, and the national chain Christian bookstore "committed a sin"...sound right Phil?

#5  Posted by Trent Whalin  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 8:27 AM

Great post!

"Gambling: The Moral Antithesis of Charity" Never thought of it this way

#6  Posted by John Rasmussen  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 8:52 AM

Okay, I have a question... I don't think it would count, because it doesn't exactly involve chance, but around where I live, Bass fishing tournaments are a big thing. Some of them work where people pay an entrance fee, say $50, and then when the tournament is over, the winner gets the majority of the fees paid. It doesn't seem like gambling, but could that be considered gambling?

#7  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 9:06 AM

I find it quite alarming how some people here are quick to condemn people for gambling, but point out rather quickly "I have no problem with the stock market" To me that would be just as addictive and risky and also it would not be trusting the Lord for their every need.(Philippians 4:19)I mean how can one justify playing the market? It is taking part of someones else's property and profiting by,selling,buying or trading what is not entirely theirs.(quite possibly to that person's or that companies detriment).The stock market has proven that also can lead one into coveting, murder, greed, stealing and immoral behavior. It has destroyed families, caused countless suicides and ruined people's life earnings and savings. Does Martha Stewart, Enron,The Stock Market crash of 1929, or Madoff sound familiar? But all this is overlooked because it would effect to many cushy, affluent Christians who have millions invested or it gives the Christian the potential to become affluent. Why do people play the market? To make money and to make more money. Same reason people gamble. To make money. Some sins that are clearly labled sin in the Bible, others are overlooked because it corresponds to them and their way of life and has been labeled tolerables sins. A sin, any sin deserves the lake of fire. Not just what pious Christians deem abominable to the Lord. i.e., gluttony,gossip,drinking and so on. You can't ignore the people's comparisons of other topics like the stock market to gambling because many have given biblical support for their comparisons and have used those to defend their viewpoint on this subject.

#8  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 10:46 AM

"although I have acknowledged that penny-ante games are often trivial (and by no means any major concern of mine), my counsel to believers who ask about the issue would be this: it's naive and potentially dangerous to toy with any kind of gambling as a form of "recreation." If gambling is indeed wrong in principle (as I believe the weight of all the biblical arguments demonstrates) then it is surely wise to avoid the practice no matter the amount or the frequency."

"To be perfectly clear: the evil motives are what I say is sin, not the gaming aspects of gambling. I'm not trying to establish a legalistic rule on issues where the Bible doesn't spell out a rule. I'm trying to give a little pastoral counsel and shed some biblical light on the complex of evils that surround gambling, so that you can give a fuller answer to the question of whether gambling is OK than the bare (and foolish) assertion that since there's no proof text that says gambling's "sin," Christians shouldn't say anything against it.

On the contrary, it is a plague on our culture (and every culture where it has been legalized) and Christians should not be silent or neutral about it."

If this were an in-person address, I'd give you a standing O.

While there may be many philosophical struggles going on with many of the readers here, including me, this has been an immensely insightful and educational series. Some of what you said, I'd split some hairs with you, and I'm not entirely convinced of some of your logic or definitions, but over all ... good stuff.

Thank you for doing it.

#9  Posted by Barbara Laurie  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 3:54 PM

@#1 Mary, You wrote what was on my mind, and well said. Thank you!

@#4 Mark S. I think Phil answered you already:

"I'll leave the intricate dissection of countless hypothetical cases and counter-examples to people who love that sort of casuistry."

And to Mr. Johnson: thank you sir for your time in serving the sheep of His pasture, we'd all end up in a ditch without good shepherds. I respect and love my Pastor, and yet I am also grateful for this resource as well. Insightful teaching. God Bless you all. TC

#10  Posted by Aaron Wahl  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 6:51 PM

#4

That's a very short sighted view. Did the national chain provide more jobs then the other 2 businesses combined? Did the national chain provide cheaper books? Did the national chain supply a wider selection? If any of these 3 questions are answered yes then there could be a case that yes more wealth was created.

#7

There is a difference between 'playing the market' and simply investing in companies. I do not say this as a shot against you or your intelligence, but its a typical answer for those who do not fully understand the stock market. Yes it can be abused but at its basic level it is buying ownership of a company. If your logic is true then no christian can own any business of any kind.

Phil has already addressed this but I will say it for him again. Gambling is risky but Risk is not Gambling. Everything you do is risky. Ever drove a car? Flew a plane? Bought a house?

When I buy stock in a company, I am purchasing ownership. My money is used by the company to do many things. They may pay off some of their debt to increase profitability (which creates jobs and wealth). They may build a new factory or store (which creates jobs and wealth). That is basically what buying stock in a company is. NOW OF COURSE PEOPLE ABUSE IT. Yes people play the market trying to get rich overnight. But we aren't necessarily talking about abuses, we are talking about if this is wrong or evil in and of its self. If I can't buy ownership in a company, then no christian may own a business.

And is there something wrong with making money? There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. In fact, many righteous people in the Bible were amazingly wealthy (Abraham, Job, David). We actually should strive to build wealth because you can't reach the poor without it. In fact, wouldn't you know that the wealthiest countries in the world have the least amount of poor people (materially, not necessarily spiritually).

Phil has said this many times already but its the point that many seem to keep missing. Gambling collects money from a bunch of people and transfers it to the winner. No wealth is created in the act of gambling. Investment in stock, however, takes money from one, gives it to a company, the company uses the money to grow itself which creates jobs and wealth, and then improves the value of the stock. Every person involved (when the company is successful) gains! That's the point! Gambling transfers wealth from all to one. Stock investment provides benefits for all!

I know there are millions of hypothetical situations that people will use to disprove me but I cannot begin to answer them all in this post. I hope you can see the difference between gambling and stock market. Yes the stock market can be abused, but abuse does not make something bad in and of itself.

#11  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Friday, June 24, 2011at 8:49 PM

Once again, gambling is not desireable conduct. Perhaps it can be sinful. But one thing that it SIMPLY IS NOT is theft...despite the claims of Phil Johnson.

His claim #2 is that in gambling "something belonging to someone else is staked as a prize". I truly don't see how Phil can make this claim with a straight face! Did someone come and rip a $1 bill out of my pocket and purchase a lottery ticket with it? Was a gambler tied and thrown in a car and driven to a casino and forced to place bets? Do not all gambling "games" require some form of ante??? Once the wager is placed all claim to the ante is removed! The person can not get the money back...Therefore, this claim about gambling is simply silly.

I really wonder why Phil is making the claim, and going to extreme lengths, to claim gambling is theft...What is his motivation? A gambler can certainly be driven by greed and lust. If that is the case than gambling is sin. Why all of these mechinations to claim it is theft? Can someone explain that????? Perhaps I missed something in the earlier blogs that spelled out why gambling is theft.

I am totally incredulous. This topic has been going for a few weeks and this point has never been fully addressed, much to the thread's shame.

#12  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Friday, June 24, 2011at 9:40 PM

I submit this with much trepidation. I respect gty, John MacArthur, Phil Johnson,and all you readers.

In the thread “Does ‘Mutual Consent’ Eliminate the Evil in Gambling?” Phil Johnson stated

“Gambling is stealing by mutual consent. But it is still stealing. It is the taking of that which belongs to your neighbor and to which you have no right. It is not like a gift, which is given willingly and gratuitously. It is a loss he sustains to his hurt, even though he gives his consent to the contest before the die is cast. Gambling is therefore morally tantamount to stealing. As such, it is a violation of every biblical principle regarding the gaining and sharing of our possessions.”

In the rest of the blog Phil goes on to argue against gambling in principle. OK. The problem is his argument assumes I accept gambling is stealing because he provides a definition that gambling is winning what others loose. While it is true that the “stake”, which he defines, is the money all gamblers entered, it is NOT true that the gambler has a claim to the money AFTER he/she enters the “game”. Only the winner has a claim to the stake. Hence, gambling is not theft ( I assume the “games” are legal here and are not rigged when I say there is no theft). In my opinion Phil, who usually argues cogently, simply doesn’t make the case very well .

If I were to enter a wager, say buy a state lottery ticket, I am surrendering the cost of the ticket for a chance to win the prize. I assume Phil’s complaint is IF I lose, which is a distinct possibility, I have gained nothing for my money but pain. The winner gains all of these wagers (minus taxes and overhead), which is the sum of everyone else’s pain. In a purchase of normal goods, or even a raffle for charity and the like, I receive something positive like the knowledge of supporting a good cause or the goods I purchased. But, Phil forgets to realize a gambler got recreation out of the purchase…they received a “thrill” for the cost of the ante. That is what most gamblers are truly buying. The fun of it. (Now, you may disagree to it being fun, that is not the point. To the gambler it is.) Is this any different than a movie ticket? I purchase the recreation value. Maybe I enjoy the movie, maybe I don’t. Some people think paying $10 for a movie ticket (probably more in CA) is robbery:-)

This is the best I can think of to support Phil’s “theft” position. Someone who has a clearer head than I can fill me in on why gambling is theft.

***Continue on next post

#13  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Friday, June 24, 2011at 9:40 PM

***Continued from previous post

To clarify, I am NOT justifying gambling. I think it usually is sin. I simply think the cause of it being sin is greed and lust.

I fear the true problem Phil has is the “chance” nature of it. Dice rolling, or card order, etc, is “putting God to the test” since God controls the outcomes. But what about playing a game like Monopoly or any other board game? Are you “using God” to have fun…We can really take this to some really weird places if we want to…I mean if throwing dice is inherently tempting the Lord (Matthew 4:7 and Deut 6:16), which Phil seems to argue in the previous blog on not tempting the Lord, then isn’t ANY dice throwing a sin? I am not being sarcastic or facetious here. I think Phil is really tip-toeing near a serious minefield here.

#14  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Saturday, June 25, 2011at 1:16 PM

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#15  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Saturday, June 25, 2011at 2:08 PM

Dan (#14)

So, God told Phil that gambling is theft? I thought didn't speak anymore today? The canon is fulfilled.

#16  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Saturday, June 25, 2011at 2:49 PM

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#17  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Saturday, June 25, 2011at 2:58 PM

I have spent quite a bit of time today looking over the gty website reading all I can on gambling. John MacArthur did a two-part sermon series on "Gambling: The Seductive Fantasy". It is pretty good as is usual for John. In the second sermon in that series he mentions gambling is theft, but he doesn't develop WHY it is theft. John asserts it. Perhaps this is where Phil Johnson got his list of problems with gambling. Later, an article was posted called "Five Reasons Gambling is Wrong". It states the 5 reasons as:

1.Because it denies the reality of God’s sovereignty (by affirming the existence of luck or chance)

2.Because it is built on irresponsible stewardship (tempting people to throw away their money)

3.Because it erodes a biblical work ethic (by demeaning and displacing hard work as the proper means for one’s livelihood)

4.Because it is driven by the sin of covetousness (tempting people to give in to their greed)

5.Because it is built on the exploitation of others (often taking advantage of poor people who think they can gain instant wealth)

These 5 I can agree with, basically. (I do have small problems with #1-do modern gamblers worship "luck" or "chance"? Does John deny the idea of probability? It is a useful tool. But that leads in a different direction that I don't want to go in now.) I note that John changed number 5 from his sermon series to this article. It was gambling is theft. In this list it is gambling is exploitation of the poor. I can agree with that, especially the formal, organized gambling (lottery, casinos, etc).

Still, most of these 5 don't really apply to so-called penny-ante games, which Phil Johnson focuses on. A few guys meeting every now and then to play penny poker are not being covetous by a rational definition. I suspect the enticement here is fellowship and the thrill of VICTORY more than the money. Once again a few pennies doesn't harm stewardship much. If you argue it does, what about that "unnecessary" $1.50 bottle of water you bought, or the Snickers bar???? A small stakes poker game doesn't destroy the work ethic (unless it leads to more gambling...). Exploitation?? Of friends that came to a game? So, once again, the only claim on sin for a small-stakes game is "theft". But that needs a more solid foundation than a mere assertion.

#18  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Saturday, June 25, 2011at 3:15 PM

#15 Mark

Yes Gods words is authoritative. But as Jesus showed with his lust/adultery lesson, we are dealing with more than just the letter that kills, but heart and motives.

What about "take every thought captive under obedience to Christ?"

Is this only for more mature Christians? Do we not have the Spirit living in us, to let us know the Truth?

#19  Posted by Aaron Wahl  |  Saturday, June 25, 2011at 3:51 PM

#11 #12 #13 #15 #17 Mark A Smith

Mark if you didn't come in here guns blazing and actually thoroughly read what Phil has written, you might find that you agree on most of what has been said. If I may quote Phil in this article.

"That's why, although I have acknowledged that penny-ante games are often trivial (and by no means any major concern of mine), my counsel to believers who ask about the issue would be this: it's naive and potentially dangerous to toy with any kind of gambling as a form of "recreation." If gambling is indeed wrong in principle (as I believe the weight of all the biblical arguments demonstrates) then it is surely wise to avoid the practice no matter the amount or the frequency."

You say Phil focuses on penny-ante games but he is concerned about the principles of gambling, not every hypothetical situation. Here Phil says that penny-ante games are not a major concern of his. I beg you to read things thoroughly before you whip out the machine guns.

What I have seen most from these gambling posts is that Phil is laying out what gambling is in principle. He is not fighting every single possible situation that might be considered gambling.

Also, if you read what Phil has written, he doesn't say 'Gambling is a sin, Thus Saith the Lord'. He says things like 'in principle' or 'it would be wise'.

I would just like to add an argument from experience. Not that experience determines truth or that my experience applies to everyone, but i find it to be very revealing. I work with 150 other people at my job. Almost every single one of them is in some sort of lottery pool. They pitch in 5 bucks and one guy buys all the tickets. They don't do it for entertainment. They do it to win so that they can retire from their 'crappy' job. This is just one instance out of a million different types of gambling so I do not impose it on everyone or everything. The point is that they don't do it for entertainment. They do it so they can win, get rich overnight, and quit their job.

My final thought, Mark, is just that you don't come in guns blazing. Be gracious and patient. The point of these threads is not to be legalistic but to invite discussion about an issue like gambling which isn't 100% clear in scripture.

#20  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Saturday, June 25, 2011at 4:26 PM

Great comment, Aaron. Gunsmoke impairs vision.

#21  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Saturday, June 25, 2011at 4:32 PM

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#23  Posted by Brian Griffiths  |  Saturday, June 25, 2011at 6:24 PM

Thanks for posting this series on gambling. I've never been a gambler, but I play in a friendly fantasy football league with friends. There's a relatively small amount of money at stake. I've never been that concerned about winning the money. I just enjoy the "competition" and it gives me more to watch when my team isn't playing. I've never considered it a spiritual issue, but after reading your arguments, I don't know if I want to continue in it.

#24  Posted by Darrel Robertson  |  Sunday, June 26, 2011at 9:39 AM

I have taken a good look at al these post and I think it has, in most part been a insightful discussion, I stopped from joining in because I DIDNT WANT TO sound like I was against Phil, BECAUSE being he is a pastor, elder and I will not go against his counseling on this subject, I served as a elder, decon for many years and I have seen these leaders come under the most harsh attacks by thoes that they are sent to protect, with a spiritual covering. I have seen them break down and cry over false accusations, that dont just affect them , but also their families...being a Pastor can be down right brutal and one of the most unthankful jobs there is. It has been said that the 3 most unthankful jobs in the USA is a PASTOR just right under the Presidency of the United States. Now Jesus said folling him will NOT be like living on easy street if called up-on, many times when we take our Lords place inlife we will be miss treated just like he was. Ya see in the Bible, it says that Jesus ate and drank with the tax collectors and sinners. This outraged many people of his day. The Pharisees called him a drunk, and were angry with who he associated with. I think often we see this as a relief, that Jesus was very gracious and inclusive to people of all backgrounds and ways of living. We see him with the prostitute and alcoholics of the day and you might as well add GAMBLERS there. Perhaps these people just made some bad decisions in life, or perhaps they are really just victims of the system. However, the Bible also said that he ate with tax collectors....No matter how much people may hate the IRS, it doesn’t fit into the same category of the tax collectors of that day. The Jewish tax collectors were traitors who worked for the Romans to help oppress the conquered people of the Empire. In fact, they didn’t just collect taxes for Rome they collected much more than what was required so that they personally could live in luxury. So, they were not only traitors they were thieves; the worse kind of thieves- the rich stealing from the poor. So now can we see what STEALING is all about this is where I dissagree with Phil, Stealing is taking against ones will, or NOT knowing that you did it, lieing,or by deceteful means...AND WHEN 2 OR more AGREE to place their money in a Neutra POT to be given over to the winner...IT IS NOT STEALING every court of law in the land will back you up on that. it is no different thaN if one of thoes same people had a couch of value, many Are not but that is another story all together, that he or she placed in their drive way and said "FREE TAKE" you drive by and notice it has some value you can use it in your extra room where the kids or grandkids can come over and romp on it and it fits in to your decore, so you TAKE IT....same thing. this is the main point I dissagree with Phil, but its a dissagreement no more!!..more I am out of space...

#25  Posted by Darrel Robertson  |  Sunday, June 26, 2011at 10:07 AM

Part 2...

I think All Christians need to realize that when disagreements occur, we do not "make points" with God simply by "proving the other person wrong...Phil is just doing his job as a leader over the saints. and if I got into a heated discussion in here with Phil of for anyone to in that mater, about GAMBLING I or we would be goin against the very one who God has sent to watch over our souls and to me that would be a sin, I think Phil is a big boy enough to take thoes who dissagree with his points, but would be hurt if I or anyone

else were trying to make him look foolish to make a point in our favor...which would not make him look foolish at all and the fool would be the one looking back at us in the mirror.

I have whitness to a few in the Casinos in Vegas and when they take note of what you are saying it is genuine, for they wonder if you are a Christian, why are you Gambling I TELL THEM you can Gamble without being sinfull in a way that gets their attention, you see when Jesus said "I WILL MAKE YOU FISHERS OF MEN"...you have to go to where the fish are, now.. NO.. I am not going to Vegas to whitness as my #1 consern but when you do place the name of Jesus on ones heart there they feel less intimated, and feel more free to talk one on one with you because you are on their turff so to speak Just like in our LORDS day Yet there he was Going into the worse neighborhoods and eating with the social outcasts. Teaching in fields and hillsides. To the religious leaders of the day, Jesus looked like a freak. He didn't want the same things they did. He wasn't concerned with the same things they were. He wasn't trying to make some show for the people, disfiguring his face and whaling on the street corner. He wasn't there making sure he got his portion of the temple tax or offering.

Jesus wasn't concerned with any of those things. His only concern was to be there for anyone who would welcome Him. Even in times of pure physical exhaustion, when he wanted to rest, he would look out and see the crowds and he would teach, He would comfort, and He would love.

Today, we are the face of Jesus. We are the ones now called to eat and drink with prostitutes, tax collectors and "sinners". We are the ones Jesus has sent to tell the good news. We are the ones who need to be moved with compassion to teach, to comfort, to love. We are also the ones who must serve without judgment, without prejudice and without expectation that people will change to be like us but will be changed as God desires....and yes you can do this in Vegas...there are over 500 different places of worship in Vegas, 95% are "CHRISTIAN" in content but we can choose to be thoes who cast stones, or choose to be thoes that cast love and many of these Churches see that Vegas is going through a very tough time of people out of work, and are doing everything they can to make life less harsh, putting their human prejudice aside.

#26  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Sunday, June 26, 2011at 12:53 PM

Hello Aaron, Dan and Tommy.

First, guns weren't blazin' as you say. I have been reading the 9 blogs posted on gambling as each came out. I am a professor teaching a college class this summer, so I couldn't respond much earlier. I did Friday and Saturday.

Second, I have been responding selectively on this blog since it started...I am not a newbie.

Third, my point is to say Phil is completely wrong about ONE THING and ONE THING ONLY with respect to gambling...the claim that it is theft. Maybe to you that is trivial, but to me it is critical to be accurate. ALL OF MY POSTS FOCUS ON THAT.

Fourth, none of the 3 posts that address mine SAY ANYTHING about my claim about gambling = theft...Any response????????

#27  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Sunday, June 26, 2011at 5:28 PM

Comment deleted by user.
#28  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Sunday, June 26, 2011at 5:34 PM

Comment deleted by user.
#29  Posted by Brian Griffiths  |  Sunday, June 26, 2011at 7:15 PM

Mark,

In "Does 'Mutual Consent' Eliminate the Evil in Gambling", Phil stated:

"Gambling is stealing by mutual consent. But it is still stealing. It is the taking of that which belongs to your neighbor and to which you have no right. It is not like a gift, which is given willingly and gratuitously. It is a loss he sustains to his hurt, even though he gives his consent to the contest before the die is cast."

I think the key there is "it is a loss he sustains to his hurt". What about the many people who have gambling addictions, of which there are many? You can not say that these people are giving up their money with a clear mind, even though it is not theft in the legal sense And what about casinos? They're taking money while providing little more than the opportunity to gamble. And the government on top of that is taking taxes, not on money earned or spent, but on money risked.

And you are right, the gambler does not have a stake to the money once he has put it in the pot. If he did, it wouldn't be theft. Also, it is not like purchasing a movie ticket. The movie theater provides a venue and shows the movie. The movie theater also has to pay for the rights to show the film, so you are also paying the people who made the movie. There is a service and product being provided. You might have an argument if only half the people who purchased tickets got to actually see the movie. The fact that you may not like it does not make it gambling.

I do not want to come across disrespectful. I do think, however, that you're being antagonistic without providing very much reason for why you believe gambling is not theft. I don't want to speak for John's (did you mean Phil's?) idea of probability, but Proverbs 16:33 says: "The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD."

#30  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Monday, June 27, 2011at 12:12 AM

Darrel and Mark, I don't know if you are acting by reaction or conviction.

I have no problem with Phil calling it theft. It is.

Yes you can strive about words, but then I could point to how God use likewise words.

Please look at Isaiah 10:2 and Mark 12:40, about robbing and devour widows’ houses. Would you strive about the use of those words too? Or the serious lesson they are teaching us?

#34  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Monday, June 27, 2011at 7:37 AM

Darrel (#24,25)-

I appreciate your concern about appearing to oppose Phil. I agree. That has made my comments difficult. I made them as extensive as I could because I felt like I needed to justify opposing a ministry leader.

I agree gambling CAN BE theft, especially the organized variety, but I don't think it BY DEFINITION is. Gambling is made to appear attractive. That is advertising. If that is theft, then lots of things are....

I realize opposing Phil (and apparently John's views) is not really welcomed here. So I will drop it.

#35  Posted by Luke Fulliton  |  Monday, June 27, 2011at 1:35 PM

Hello Phil,

Thank you very much. I can tell you have listened and considered the opposing points brought against some of your statements. I would like to thank you for being very clear in your last paragraph. And although I would probably split hairs with you on some other statements made in your article, I appreciate the points you made in the last paragraph. I appreciate and thank you for your pastoral counsel and for shedding some biblical light on the matter of gambling. I have taken to heart many of your points and will remember the wisdom in what you have said. I agree with you that the gaming aspect of gambling is not sin. I believe you might not have met so much opposition if you had began your first blog with the last paragraph of your last blog. Nevertheless, I am grateful for your insight into the motives of the heart.

Take care of yourself Phil. It has been nice conversing with you. I don't know if we will ever meet on this side of glory, but if not, then I'll see you on the other side. :)

Luke

#36  Posted by Tim Eriksen  |  Tuesday, June 28, 2011at 1:28 PM

Here is my problem with your arguments Phil.

You clearly state all gambling is wrong and then have gone on to argue that gambling always includes certain elements to prove your point. Yet at the end you back off and state:

"Similarly, to those who are so keen to justify penny-ante and "recreational" gambling, I'm quite happy to leave the issue between you, your conscience, and the Lord, who judges righteously. Don't feel obliged to try to convince me that what you're doing isn't tainted with covetousness or presumption or any of the other bad motives I have associated with the act of gambling."

I hope you realize that some feel compelled to defend themselves when you tell them what they are doing (e.g.penny ante poker) is always sin. I also don't understand how after arguing that it is sin you so easily dismiss it as unimportant as long as it is on a small level. That does not seem consistent.

The rationale of your argument (gambling always has these elements present thus it is wrong) will lead those who disagree to prove one exception becuase it makes the argument fall. Most here are not picking at your argument in order to make all gambling acceptable, rather to show that you are creating an absolute when you shouldn't.

You also continued to say:

"To be perfectly clear: the evil motives are what I say is sin, not the gaming aspects of gambling. I'm not trying to establish a legalistic rule on issues where the Bible doesn't spell out a rule."

I would argue that is exactly what you did. By arguing that certain elements are always present in gambling you have deemed all gambling as sinful and have thereby established a rule. Thus the small penny ante poker player or someone who bets $10 at a horse track with only entertainment in mind is going to object when they feel their behavior is not sinful and you have said it was by your definitions.

Your argument would be stronger if instead of stating that all gambling is wrong you argued that all behavior motivated by greed or covetousness is wrong. This would include most gambling, get-rich quick schemes, highly speculative penny stock or option investing, buying a car you cannot afford to impress others, etc. Presenting the biblical principle and then applying it would mean that the individual would have to look at their motives instead of a hard and fast rule that all gambling is wrong; however, I believe it would line up with Scripture better than your argument did.

I don't say this just to argue. I say this as an elder in a church. I could not tell someone that penny ante poker or betting a couple of dollars at a race track is always wrong but I can say to them to examine their heart and see if they are acting out of greed, which is always wrong.

#37  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Tuesday, June 28, 2011at 2:51 PM

#36 Tim

You make it sound as sin is a minor issue, and that Phil (and John MacArther for that sake) have not presented some very strong arguments from the Bible.

There is a real problem with freedom - some can't handle it, but misuse the grace of God. Yes we are free - free to love God and each other.

Please look at Ephesians, where this is explained by Paul as a walk by love. But please notice the warnings also!!!

Ephesians 5:1-21

Walk in Love

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

#38  Posted by Tim Eriksen  |  Tuesday, June 28, 2011at 3:32 PM

Rudy:

I apologize if you got from my post that I think sin is a minor issue.

On the contrary Rudy. I felt that is what Phil did in this post. He laid out an argument that all gambling was wrong and then said small amounts are just between you, your conscience and the Lord. If it is wrong then it is wrong. I read that as him backtracking.

The reason for the backtracking is that the argument was poorly constructed. In his post is Gambling Okay - Don't Bet on It, Phil said:

"...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...

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."

Those are Phil's words. I will try it to say it in a different way. Phil's argument is

a)all gambling involves covetousness

b)covetousness is a sin

Therefore c) all gambling is sinful.

When an argument is constructed this way all that it takes for it to fall apart is one example where statement a) is not true. I think there are some. That is not nit-pciking it is pointing out a flawed (or fallacious) argument. Phil's argument is right nearly all the time, but not all the time.

What is the better argument is that covetousness is a sin and all actions motivated by it are sinful. When you look at gambling most of what takes place is motivated by lust for quick money and is thus sinful. Obviously other principles such as not violating your conscience and maintaining proper stewardship of what God has entrusted to us, to just name a few,factor in as well.

I can particpate in penny-ante poker, a poker tournament, a workplace Super Bowl squares game, fantasy league football, or bet a few dollars at a horse track on a Saturday afternoon and not be sinning. It doesn't mean that all gambling is okay. Nor that everyone can do as I.

Tim

#39  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Tuesday, June 28, 2011at 4:14 PM

#38 Tim

I can't see WHY putting money on risk in gambling in any way is Godhonoring. WHY do people gamble? Ever seen a Jesusloving looser? Praising your Lord when you take his money?

That answers the questions for me.

#40  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, June 28, 2011at 5:39 PM

Sorry I delete my comments. I just gave up trying.

Me too, Rudi, I agree with that.

I don't think Jesus would be all happy about if I do vending machines in a way that cheats my dad and steal few bucks for myself. Just a honest thought. hmm.

Good post???

#41  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Wednesday, June 29, 2011at 10:40 AM

Through this entire gambling discussion, I have seen a lot of passionate (or at least that's how they come across in text) comments that tend to fall back on the 'stealing' aspect of gambling. My observation, and sorry for not citing posts, is that many of the argument has been in areas where cultural uses of the word "steal" or "theft" is used, not an actual clear cut definition.

CS Lewis makes a great argument for how a word can become useless when the definition becomes vague. He used the word "gentleman" going from a label for the noble class to being associated with values and principles the ideal nobleman should possess (values and principles no one can agree on). The definition becomes vague and abstract; the word becomes less usefull as an accurate description.

I think we have done the same thing here with stealing, including the definition that Phil gave. When we use vague words or apply more abstract meanings and ideas to them, we leave too much for interpretation and quickly side into the "quarrelsome arguments' the bible warns us to avoid.

That's my 50 cents worth anyway. I've greatly enjoyed all the insight and perspectives put forth here, even the ones I disagree with. And I look forward to seeing future comments on blogs from the regulars here.

#42  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Wednesday, June 29, 2011at 1:01 PM

#41 Marc Lambert

how a word can become useless when the definition becomes vague

Yes Marc, once the word "Christian" meant like Christ.

Now it can mean anything, it seems.