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Thursday, June 16, 2011 | Comments (17)

A reader sent me this excellent question:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Johnson
Executive Director


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#1  Posted by Amber Metcalf  |  Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 12:05 PM

I understand and agree with the point of view (position). I do have a question, though. What about when the 'contest' involves winning prize money? For example, players have to pay an entry fee to participate, and the winner gets the proceeds in addition to a title. And does your position change based on whether the contest is physical, such as a golf or tennis match, versus something like chess or poker? Many people feel that if skill, whether physical of mental, is involved then it isn't gambling if you win money. What do you say?

#2  Posted by Richard Roderick  |  Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 9:21 PM

Trying to find a WAY that the contest isn't gambling is always the goal it seems.

The World Poker Tour (WPT) has created a sense that it can be like other contests. Let's say that the WPT is not gambling but instead is simply a contest where spectators pay to watch and participants earn their way(vs. buy in). The winner would get more of the money raised in ticket sales. I believe this would kill the WPT. Eliminating what makes it gambling (trying to win the belongings of other people through a game of chance) and it will die. The foundation of the WPT is the gambling industry. Without it, the WPT is nothing.

Eliminate gambling, and Vegas will disappear because the "entertainment" is not in the slot machines, poker, or other games, it is in the winning of the money. And there in lies the sin. Wanting something without earning it. At least in my humble opinion.

#4  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Friday, June 17, 2011 at 6:36 AM

Umm, when Adam and Eve had to work in the fallen world, they did'nt earn anything but worked until they return to the ground. Like we are but dust. Just a thought.

#5  Posted by Darla Wormuth  |  Friday, June 17, 2011 at 8:08 AM

Out of shear ignorance I am asking this question, "How is the stock market not a form of gambling?"

Thank you.

#6  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Friday, June 17, 2011 at 10:30 AM

"what you win is something to which you have no legitimate entitlement. Therefore, I have suggested it's tantamount to stealing."

I am loving this whole series. The discussion is great, and I agree with you on almost every point, except this one.

As someone who has, in the past, on occassion played some penny-ante poker, I had full awareness that my change might very well go home with someone else. The very act of putting the money in the pot gave the winner of the pot a legitimate claim on my money. Whether playing for dollars, pennys or doritos ... at no time have I ever remotely felt that my losses were stolen, illegitimately taken, or unfairly aquaired by the winner. I knowingly placed something at stake and lost it. My participation in the game was an agreement to surrender possession of the item/$ being wagered.

There are so many other reasons why gambling can be labelled anything from extremely unwise to destructively evil. I'm sorry, but "stealing" is not one of them.

#7  Posted by Greg Gallant  |  Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:44 AM


If all gambling were a cut and dry case of stealing, as you have tantamountly defined it, there wouldn’t arise so many objections. And please, let’s refrain from strong accusations about a person’s spiritual maturity because they ask questions or defend positions, these are needless straw man arguments that misrepresent the positions of others.

In this particular post alone you have already pointed to the problem, which you are even able to apply to gaming of all sorts. It’s a heart motive.

“Mutual consent” and “stealing” are exclusive terms and this is where the entire argument falls apart. I’ve seen the rationalizing and attempts to redefine terms, but subjective interpretations and definitions cannot alleviate the ambiguity.

As one commenter stated , the argument for stealing is “just one part of the pie”, but if this particular piece of the puzzle does not fit you are left with just that, an incomplete puzzle.

#9  Posted by Tom Jourdan  |  Friday, June 17, 2011 at 7:28 PM

Darla #5 - Great question! There has been lots of discussion on this question over the past several blogs. I assume you are just getting in now on this discussion. If that's true it has been most wonderful. Go back and read Phil's blogs from the beginning when the issue of gambling was started and you will discover the answer! May the Lord bless you and open His wisdom to you and I and all His seeking children. In Him, Tom Jourdan

#10  Posted by John Park  |  Friday, June 17, 2011 at 8:46 PM

@ 7 Greg

I completely agree. I mentioned before that you could make the case that gambling leads to many sins therefore you should not gamble, but to say that gambling is a sin is much different.

First, there are so many forms of gambling, so it makes the question so much harder. Why must it only be money on the line that makes it evil?

I think that the argument for mutual consent is at best a controversial opinion b/c deep down we all know there is a huge difference from someone stealing from us and two people agreeing to bet $5 on a sports game or game of poker. Mutual consent, almost by definition, excludes stealing. If I say "you can have the $5 from my wallet" and you take it that is not sin. If I say "you can have the $5 from my wallet if you beat me in poker" how is this situation different.

Again, we have to also really define what gambling is as many people have mentioned, the definition offered here relates to so many things that is why it is so hard to separate it from the stock market. It is precisely b/c these things are so similar that we are cutting hairs to point out they are different. Penny ante poker games hardly cause any coveting of any type here or any of the other sins mentioned. Again this has to be differentiated from taking your life savings to the roulette table.

We need to be careful about sin b/c it is the biggest problem in this life. Just as so many things in this world are not being called sin and it is causing trouble, we should take pause to call out something sin when we do not know. The far easier argument, if you want people to not gamble, is to say gambling can lead to so many sins. This should be easy and would be easier to biblically defend.

#11  Posted by Darrel Robertson  |  Friday, June 17, 2011 at 9:08 PM

Personaly I think there needs to be a clairfacation on what COVET, and To STEAL mean.

To take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, esp. secretly or by force.

To Covet...To envy what your neighbor has so much, that it leads you to Jealousy to were you steal it, or take it by unlawful means.

It is not a sin to want to be successful in business and make a good living, but when you become obsessed with those things, it can become coveting. When they become the most important thing in your life, and you will do whatever it takes to get it, coveting has become idolatry, something that Colossians 3:5 warns us about.

Now when you Gamble and Gamble wisely YO DO NOT SIN!!!...a slot machine can not sin...sin comes from the heart the one pulling the lever can choose whether to sin or not. If you devise a way illigaly to take money from the sin!

Or when x number of people want to play any kind of game of chance, and when they put their money in the is no longer their money, they have given it over to a nutreal source to be paied out at a later date...where in heavens name is this now called stealing WHEN THEY HAVE GIVEN PERMISSION TO GIVE THEIR MONEY UP TO WHOM-EVER WINS???.

Now there are Rules that pretain to how one is suppose to Gamble with certian Games, and if one breaks thoes rules...he sins...why because out of greed, wanting to win and covet the winnings so bad that he or she trys to cheat ....this is a SIN but playing the game within the rules set....NO SIN....this is not rocket sceince people.

People say Gambling makes you sin if you get mad and cuss....WRONG if you pulled the slot machine wheel 3 times and got mad and cussed because you didnt win it was because of ANGER that comes fron the heart....You 99% of the time would of cussed at home if the lawn mower didnt start after 3 pulls of the cord, so did the lawn mower make you sin?...Gambling is not the sin...ANGER IS! and anger come from the heart of who ever is playing the game.

People whether they are Christians or not if playing Games of chance and play by rules set before them , who play respectfully, wisely and show no anger,jealously,or Greed have not commited one sin....period

And thoes who play games of chance that has more than 2 playing on a "pot" that has been agreed-upon PUT FORTH BY THE PLAYERS THEMSELVES

winner take such word as stealing should be used , unless one devised a unlawful act against the rules of winning.

these are the seven deadliest sins folks








Gambling by itself dont have any of the above....they are carried in the human heart and are not manafested in just the Gambling hall.

And there are thoes that dont have any of the above when playing games of chance.

#12  Posted by Darla Wormuth  |  Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 6:10 AM

@ Tom, Thank you. I'll go back and read the beginning.

Happy Father's Day !!!

#13  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 12:41 PM

#11 Darrel

Try to apply your logic to cancan dance.

We are living to glorify God. Christ is our image.

#14  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Just being puzzled. Gambling incudes those things you mention, Darrel. We may be tempted to gamble but if we allowed it to engulf us then these sins you mention plays a part. Hmm. No such thing a godly gambling. ... Best to avoid chance. Chance seperates us from God.

#15  Posted by Darrel Robertson  |  Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 6:14 PM

Beloved please understand If you do not feel right about Gambling, I totally respect your decession, If I took a Brother with me to Vegas and I ask him if he wanted to pull a few slot machines handles or any other devices and he told me "I would like to but they make me upset if I DONT WIN, OR "I get so wrapped up in thoes things I cant break away before I am broke"...I will just throw my arm around him and say "then lets go over to the Bellagio and take a look at the Bakery which has a 12 waterfall that is pure chocolate then we can go over to Harras and see their car collection, then tomarrow we will run out the the Nascar track and take a spin in a real Nascar"...I will not do anything to make my brother stumble before his Lord, if his conscience is telling him not to.

You see beloved this thing about the "Apperance of evil" is in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 is taken so far out of context, and this is the main bases many consider Gambling a sin, lets take a look and see what it really means.... This verse is explained by many folks to mean that if some act "appears" to be evil then we must abstain from it. Of course, the person explaining the passage gets to determine what "appears" evil and what doesn't. If they don't like going to the movie theater then you can't go either, it "appears" to be evil. If they don't like playing cards then you can't play either -- it "appears" to be evil. If they don't like vanilla ice cream then you can't eat it either, it "appears" to be evil.

In the Thessalonians passage quotes, Paul is talking about prophetic utterances in the previous verses (19-21). “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” What is to be tested? The content (the message) of every prophetic utterance. What is good is to be held on to; what is evil is to be rejected. The passage is not saying never do something which looks like sin to another.

So in laymens terms Paul is saying In the text Paul is telling them to allow prophetic revelations of the Spirit, test the utterances, keep what is good and abstain from those that appear bad. It is that simple...Remember beloved that He and his disciples picked grain on the Sabbath, and they did not ceremoniously wash their hands before eating. Both of those "appeared" evil.

Furthermore, Jesus ate with the tax-collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners.

He also drank wine. In fact, this looked so evil to some of his time that they charged him with being a drunkard (an alcoholic) in Matthew 11:19:

You can not stay away from the apperance of evil...its impossiable!!

The Greek wors transalates to "FORM" of evil meanning the very act.

So then if you Gamble and do it in a way that I stated above...NO SIN!

I WILL FINISH THIS ON THE NEXT page I am running out of room....SORRY

#16  Posted by Darrel Robertson  |  Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 6:58 PM

.............Apperance of evil 2.....

I think thoes that attend GTY have one of the best Bible Expositors on this planet and I am sure he will back this up. But If we were suppost to stay away from the very apperance of evil, we couldnt shop the supermarkets because of selling bear and wine, driving a black car to some looks like a "MOB CAR" I could not go to work because many where I work cuss and tell dirty jokes. The Pharisees were stunned that Jesus’ disciples did not perform the Jewish hand washing ritual before they ate. They hammered on the disciples and on Jesus for not obeying the oral commandments. Jesus did not say, “Sorry, boys. I didn’t mean to cause offense. It won’t happen again.” Instead, he very boldly pointed out that these religious leaders had exchanged the laws of God for their own self-made rules.

IfI or any of you are indeed wrong, it is wrong because the Bible says so. When we attempt to avoid everything that even LOOKS like evil, we are throwing that standard out the window. We are no longer concerned with being obedient to Scripture…our focus is on what other people think. Living based on the opinions of others either leads to legalistic living or liberal living…it never results in biblical living. When this is our goal we no longer have a solid foundation of right and wrong. We settle for a standard of right and wrong that is relative to the views of those around us.

Christian freedom amd liberty rubs many the wrong way,Some of you you might disagree with your fellow Christian who likes to dance, smoke cigars, has tattoos, enjoy a glass of wine or a beer for dinner, have piercings,Gambles or even drive a nice car (and “yes” I’ve heard this verse quoted in regards to the type of car one drives!) but you’ll not find God saying in this verse to avoid such liberties because they have the appearance of evil. The verse isn’t saying that...Many times the "religious nut" is the hardest to crack!

When many play College football games, They dont have a lure to swear, to cheat, to covet, greed dont impose its ugly head on us, I am not lazy I have been on the same Job for 41 years married for 40, have 2 sons in the ministry in one form or another..I just play because I have not one check by the Holy Spirit NOT to spin a slot machine....I smoke a fine cigar twice a year, have a glass of wine , mainly because I sleep well afterwards.

Your actions and life choices are either EVIL or they are not. even if others think it “looks bad!” You and I may be misunderstood by the legalists but we be in good company – Jesus looked bad to the religious people of His day also..

I have had a great time in this discussion....even if I have made some enemies....which I JUST WANTED TO STATE MY SIDE ..and thank you GTY...for your Tolerance of me on this issue....Lord Bless

#17  Posted by Steven Xue  |  Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 9:30 PM

A lot of you have suggested there is a big difference between gambling and investing the stock market. You guys remember how I mentioned in a previous blog regarding gambling, how this friend of mine compared the stock market to the Kentucky Derby. The other day when I was at home watching TV I thought about my friend's analogy and agreed with him.

If you think about it, anybody who goes to the Kentucky Derby (or anywhere there is horse racing) doesn’t just simply bet on a horse arbitrary. They do their research into the horses’ racing history, as well as who trained it, what breed it is and even on the jockey. My dad used to tell me that he used to go to the track every week to see if he could win some money. He told me how a lot of research had to be done before placing his bets, but despite all his efforts he would often lose. I’ve actually looked into it and I agree (there is so much research involved it is like betting on the stock market). Compared to most conventional methods of gambling, horse racing can be considered a game of skill.

When it comes to the stock market there isn’t much of a difference. In the stock market you have to do a lot of research into the various companies that are listed. You have to check how profitable the companies really are, how well they have gone in the past, if there is potential for to make more money and what differs them from their competitors. You also have to hire a broker to give you advice and make transactions, and sometimes you also have to take out insurance in case the market slumps. Despite all this effort, it isn’t a sure thing for you to get a return on your investment and you are just as likely to lose money rather than make a profit.

Also some of you have suggested the difference between gambling and the stock market is that the stock market benefits people broadly, while gambling only benefits the winner. I generally agree with that statement. But horse racing also benefits people broadly. From what I have heard, most of the revenue race tracks make is from people placing their bets. This money goes back into the company as capital. They can then use that money to pay their employees, pay to maintain their stables, as well as upgrading their facilities and increasing the market value of the track.

And unlike most methods of gambling, there are various winners in these competitions. It isn’t about one person winner everything. It’s about some people putting their money on a certain horse and depending on the odds of that horse winning (as well as how much money they bet), a lot of people can win a lot of money.

So as you can see ther isn't really much of a difference between betting on horses at the track and putting money in the stock market.

#18  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 11:33 PM


What you describe is the world we a delivered from.

I'll let John MacArthur speak with a quote from the sermon series:

Title: Back To The Basics

Search for: 202_Back-to-Basics-The-ABCs-of-Christian-Living

"Now, keep this in mind, most of us when we're saved have ah, a kind of a balancing act that we carry on, in fact this is true of all believers I'm sure. We have the principle of new life in us; we also have the old sin that's around us, the sin that's in our flesh, that thing which is no good that's part of being human. And now that we're a believer we find that a little bit of our life is given to God and a little bit to sin, and we kind of balance it off. But as we mature, there is an increasing frequency of righteousness, and a decreasing frequency of sinfulness. There isn't the idea that sometime in your Christian life you stop being sinful, and you just are righteous no, it's always progress, it's always a moving, Paul says, "Not as though I had attained, but I press toward the mark." You're always moving up and the evidence of moving up is the decreasing frequency of sin. I use myself as an illustration, I'm a well known sinner, and when I was saved ah, it was a struggle a very great struggle a kind of a struggle Paul talks about in Romans 7, the things I wanted to do, I didn't do, the things I didn't want to do, I did and I was fighting against the flesh and all of this. The struggle is the same now, but what I've noticed is that as I've grown, grown by living to the glory of God, grown by walking in the Holy Spirit, grown by a life of obedience, as I have matured in the progress of spiritual maturity I have seen the decrease of the frequency of sinfulness, not its absence, it just doesn't happen as much as it used to, as I'm growing away from that toward a more righteous standard.

Now, glorifying God becomes the key thing. Second Corinthians 3:18 was our verse on that, and we said that in that verse it says this, that as we, "with an unveiled face," that is there's no more veil over us as there was in the Old Testament. The veil is taken away, "we behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord." Now somebody asked after class in the last session, why a mirror? And the reason is because the glory of the Lord is reflected to us, isn't it? In other words we don't literally see the shekinah, we don't literally see the presence of God, or we would be consumed, "For no man can see my face and live." Says God. So God refracts His glory to us, He reflects it to us, how? Through the Word. So as we focus on the Word of God, and as we obey its principles we are seeing in this the mirror of Gods glory. And then Paul says, as we see that glory, we move from one level of glory to the next level of glory to the next level of glory, conforming to the very image of Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit."

#19  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Monday, June 20, 2011 at 9:48 AM


Paul use to be a cold blood murderer. God changed him for a purpose and showed him what a christian life leads. Paul humbled himself, blinded by the light. God gave his sight back and Paul endured and praise God for his love. He was the best preacher in the N.T. Just a thought to share.