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The Sin of Putting God to the Test

Monday, June 20, 2011

Here'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 Johnson
Executive Director


#1  Posted by Steven Xue  |  Monday, June 20, 2011at 1:25 AM

I've posted this very comment on the previous blog "a good question" but since this article recently came up I think it will be more suited to this topic. Here I am comparing the stock market to betting on horses at the race track.

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 extensive 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 he had to do a lot of research 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. Compared 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 them to make 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. But despite you best 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 making a profit.

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 other methods of gambling, there are various winners in these competitions. It isn’t about one person winning 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), many people betting on the same horse will make a profit. Of course there will be people losing money, but this principle is quite similar to investing in the stock market.

#2  Posted by Kim Eriksen  |  Monday, June 20, 2011at 6:56 AM

Hi

TY for this Article..i have always wanted and still do when people say

in any conversation "good luck"..what would be a better saying to that

to get a person to think?? even christians say that it botrhers me cause i know that the Lord Jesus is sovereign over this evil world

thanks..feel free to send me a quote or thought to my email address..would love to have something in place of that saying..which is a denial of the living God..thanks

Kim

Savannah Ga

#3  Posted by Joseph Whiting  |  Monday, June 20, 2011at 8:31 AM

Thank you Mr Johnson for another airtight argument constructed on God's word. I look forward to each one every week, but this particular one seems to have really struck the death blow to the question of gambling.

Joe

#4  Posted by Matthew Ens  |  Monday, June 20, 2011at 8:53 AM

I really appreciate this series you are doing Phil. I also would appreciate it if you answered the #2 post by Kim Eriksen. I have noticed myself and others using the phrase "good luck" when someone has something important to do. How can we change our phrase to honor God?

In Christ alone,

Matthew Ens

#5  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Monday, June 20, 2011at 9:43 AM

#2, Go for it. Keep trying. That's what I would say if what they do is not offensive to God. If it is, then I try not to say a word.

If someone say these words like good luck. Just explain why it offensive to God and say don't believe in it...

Hope it helps?

#6  Posted by Kerby Destin  |  Monday, June 20, 2011at 9:48 AM

This is a good question, though. What I usually say is: I wish you well. That always works for me.

#7  Posted by Allister Philip  |  Monday, June 20, 2011at 10:08 AM

You have to go through much pains to find an argument to justify gambling. I think that every Christian's first instinct should be against gambling. Some forms of gambling are perhaps less obvious than others, but gambling is gambling.

I used to partake in gambling. It was a weekly game of poker with the "boys." It started off as a get together for some "friendly" fun. It certainly was addictive at the time. As the weeks and months went by, the friendliness took a backseat to the stress of wanting to win. Winning for one was always at the expense of another. One day by the grace of God, I stopped and never looked back !!!!! No more desire whatsoever !!

As far as the stock market is concerned, the whole idea just does not sit well with me. I do not feel the need to analyze it any further. I try to place my trust in what the Spirit tells me. That is good enough for me.

Thank you Phil for this article. I am a new member of this website and feel truly privileged to be a part of this body of Christ. I absolutely adore John Macarthur's teaching and sober-mindedness of character and spirit.

#8  Posted by Barbara Laurie  |  Monday, June 20, 2011at 12:49 PM

Great continuation on this topic of gambling. When some one wishes me "Good Luck", I retort: "Luck is not a factor!" That often starts a conversation because that person says,"Huh?" and it's a grand opening to sharing the Gospel. When I want to give someone encouraging words I agree with #2, and may add, Let's pray right now", or, "we will pray today for that" etc.. God Bless all.

#9  Posted by David Johnston  |  Monday, June 20, 2011at 6:22 PM

#2 Kim and #4 Matthew

How about saying "Godspeed."

Etymology: Middle English "god speid" from the phrase "God spede you" God prosper you, 15th century. (Merriam-Webster)

#10  Posted by Darrel Robertson  |  Monday, June 20, 2011at 6:40 PM

Phill I have never met you, but I do admire you I do not agree with all you say here, but lets say its a gentelmens disagreement, and I must say what my heart is telling me, I will not say anymore , do to a check in my spirit. I Bet on College games and do well, not great because I dont bet great amounts, but the Holy Spirt wishes that I say nothing more do to the fact their maybe some who are reading this that are having trouble with Gambling, or are teetering in that direction and I DO NOT want to influnence them in that direction, I know what Gambling can do, if let go un-checked....so with all do respect to GTY and my admaration for John Macarthur I will now leave this subject alone, I have given my thoughts in the other blogs and that is as far as I should go....Blessing to you my friend

#11  Posted by Rebecca Schwem  |  Tuesday, June 21, 2011at 7:29 AM

I think that we can argue 'til the cows come home about whether the the stock market is gambling or not. We can argue the innocence of all kinds of gambling and make constant strides to prove some forms less serious.

Here's the point for me. Our persistence to prove anything just shows our hearts. An argument against gambling proves what about a man's heart? An argument for proves what about that man's heart? You have to really think about what is driving man to such a conclusion?

I do that about myself. After a while, I'll ask myself,"what is causing you to be so driven on this topic?" I really think about it. Am I arguing because I am able? Sometimes that's true about me. Am I arguing because I am better with words that the other? Not very flattering but sometimes that's true about me as well. Am I arguing because the other has so many holes in their rebuttal, I am able to mop them up? That's a hard admission but true at times about me as well. Arrogant, I know. But I am aware of it. So is Tommy and he gently corrects me and I appreciate it. I will probably always have to work on it. I will always have to rely on my Lord to help me clearly see when I am using a gift or talent for His Glory or using gifts/talents to be self serving.

So...what the Lord has prompted me to do is look to see if my argument is righteous. If I am holding up God's truth...yes, as I see it and understand it. If I can't find God's righteousness in it, then I must know my competitiveness is what is steering my arguments.

Answer the blog with your conscience first and intellect second. If you feel in your heart that the stock market is gambling, then don't dabble in the stock market. When in doubt, don't do it. You need no other proof. God will bless your obedience to abstain from anything of which He might not actually disapprove. He's given us a conscience for things we may never resolve with facts and or evidence to support it. And your test might be more a test of obedience to God's voice, to that conscience He placed in you more than the topic at hand.

However, if the stock market is indeed gambling, God will reveal that to a righteous man and a Godly righteous man will listen and obey. At the end of the day, that's what Godly righteous men do. They are eager to serve and obey.

So again, look at the arguments, look at the facts and if you follow closely enough each argument, you will see what is in any man's heart. You will see what motivates him. God's agenda or his own?

#12  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Tuesday, June 21, 2011at 10:58 AM

Best point yet. I'm lovin' the discussions.

As a youth pastor, I often get asked the question, "Is it a sin to ____ ?" The behavior in question is almost always something the bible is either vague or silent on. The general test I give my students is this:

(1) Check your heart. Are you asking so you know what you can get away with? Or are you interested in being able to better honor Christ? If the former, we have other issues we need to discuss.

(2) The bible says all things are permissible but not necessarily beneficial. What is the wise choice? What leads you closer in your relationship with Christ?

And there is the rub. I think everything I have read so far shows that by and large gambling is not "beneficial", but you have yet to prove to me that it is always sin at all times for all people in all forms.

Now, I'm the sort to err on the side of caution. While I do not presently, drink, smoke, or gamble, I can honestly say that the times I have in the past (excepting some rowdy college days) I was not convicted in the least bit. Whether a jack & coke to relax, a cigar with an old friend or some penny-ante poker with the in-laws, not a twing of doubt, regret or confusion. In fact, many times those situations have led to witnessing.

THAT BEING SAID ... I believe we should err on the side of caution. While I'm not the sort to force, push or berate ofhters in to doing things my way, I do choose to abstain from those sorts of things that may constitute a gray area, and I encourage others to adopt a similar approach.

You are doing an awesome job in showing why gambling should be avoided and the damage it can do, but so far I am unconvinced that it is always sin at all times for all people in all forms. Which seems to be what you are trying to prove.

#14  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, June 21, 2011at 3:44 PM

The rich man put God to test. For he claimed to Jesus saying he obeyed all the commandments not realizing Jesus is God. Jesus knew

his heart motives and told him to leave his riches behind to follow him. The rich man went away sad. Lesson is to not hide things from God for he sees it and into the heart too. Amen.

#15  Posted by Darrel Robertson  |  Tuesday, June 21, 2011at 6:15 PM

I know I have voiced my opinion on the Gambling issue....but here is my 2 pesos on the "Gambling and investing in the stockmarket topic"

I am amazed that people actually ask this question, there is absalutly no comparison because Some thooes that say this is gambling,must not know what STOCK is? Stock is a means for people to become part owners of a company. Buying stock is no more inherently gambling than is ownership of any other business.

The intent is to make a profit by producing something of benefit to customers. Investors receive their share of these profits in the form of dividends or increases in the value of the stock.

Further, when stock is sold, both buyer and seller agree on the price. There is no wager - no prior agreement to risk loss at another's expense. If either thinks the price is unfair, they refuse to deal. (It may be possible to gamble or otherwise sin in the stock market, but buying stock does not inherently constitute gambling.)

In my opinion HIGH RISK SHORT TERM stocks, carry a closer meaning to Gambling...than a long term investment. Yes I do bet on College football, and spin a slot maching once a year....but I stand behind Phill 100% on the fact that Gambling in no way is in the same bed as stock market...the only resemblance in my opinion there are there are thoes that cheat in both areas...EX. Enron plus a few more USUALLY when someone cheats at a poker game you might loose 110 bills more or less...but when they cheat at the stock market side ...peoples life savings are at stake.

#16  Posted by Luke Fulliton  |  Tuesday, June 21, 2011at 9:19 PM

Phil, your points in the above article in no way support your claim that gambling is sinful. You can conjure up as much opposition in your mind as you want, but bottom line you don’t have biblical grounds to call it sin.

If it is sin to put your money down on a game of chance for any of the reasons you attempted to mention above one would also be in sin for putting their money down in a new business venture. Both are chancy, risky, contain elements of uncertainty, and all results depend on the Lord. If this is supposed to support your opposition to gambling, you only continue to strike out. Even if we take your argument at face value and adopt the point that there is no such thing as chance; you cannot jump from “God is in control of everything” to “gambling is sin”. Your attempt to make the connection from the former point to the later is in error. No one is arguing that God doesn’t control the dice. God controls the dice and also whether the new business venture is going to succeed or fail and yet neither is a sure success. God gave us brains to calculate risk and reward. You are really pulling from the air in your attempt to make gambling look sinful. No one is trying to deny any of the principles in any of the verses that you quoted. One can gamble without violating a single one of the principles in those verses you quoted. Yet, one can gamble and violate every principle listed. The sin is not in the act of gambling itself.

Just because there is a chance you won’t win on every roll of the die does not deny any doctrine of divine providence. God might let you win, or he might not. He also might let your business succeed, or he might not. If anything, you have only furthered the point that gambling is not sinful. Because when one wins, he has the Lord to thank and not himself. The winner in a game of black jack owes praise to the Lord as much as a successful business owner does.

If gambling is a sin under the claim that it puts God to the test, using your supporting points, then it is also sin to try to start a new business, because it puts God to the test. He has never promised that every business one starts will be a success.

Continued on next post.

#17  Posted by Luke Fulliton  |  Tuesday, June 21, 2011at 9:20 PM

Phil, you said, “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.” Who said everyone always does that when they gamble? To presume something on God when he has not promised it, is bad. To presume that one’s business will never fail is foolishness as well, but who ever said anything about that. Phil, you are trying to confuse and entangle two entirely different points. Even though people might presume things upon God when they gamble does not support the point that gambling is sinful. Not everyone presumes things upon God when they gamble. Presuming is the error, not gambling. The premise for your argument is faulty and misconstrued.

Last but not least, in the last sentence of your article you said gambling is “wrong in principle“. I am confused where you stand now Phil. Is gambling sin or not?

#18  Posted by Luke Fulliton  |  Tuesday, June 21, 2011at 9:25 PM

#12 Marc:

Amen!! I could not have said it better myself. Beautiful and excellent points. I am glad you wrote that.

#19  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Wednesday, June 22, 2011at 5:31 AM

#14 Yes Dan, you are able to see

#20  Posted by Barbara Laurie  |  Wednesday, June 22, 2011at 10:27 AM

@#11 Rebecca, Good post. I agree, though I often just minimize things to this: How a person responds to something says more about them then the actual topic. Or, My DH puts it another way, when you get bumped, what spills out shows us the person you are at the moment.

I think Phil has made great arguments. And he, as someone who has spent years studying God's word, As a trusted elder in the body of Christ, an experienced teacher and preacher I just want to hear or read his teaching and learn. I wonder if blogging has somehow made us all more able to argue with those who would lead us sheep into Godliness. Church isn't a democracy, but blogging seems to let us fight against stuff that convicts us or ruffles our feathers.

Rebecca, glad you post, glad you keep checking your motives, I agree, I am the same way. XOXO HAGD

#21  Posted by John Strupith  |  Wednesday, June 22, 2011at 11:09 AM

I agree with you on this subject Phil, but I don't believe you will convince those who enjoy gambling that it is sinful. I think I remember John saying more then once "A man convinced against his will is unconvinced still".

#22  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Wednesday, June 22, 2011at 11:34 AM

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these [things] God will bring thee into judgment. Ecclesiastes 11:9 (AV)

#23  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Wednesday, June 22, 2011at 1:44 PM

Just an interesting thought here...I am a physics professor and I am teaching a quantum physics class for general education credit (that is the class is NOT for physics/chemistry/engineering majors). So quantum mechanics is on my mind this summer...

Do you all realize that our atoms operate completely off of the laws of probability (ie chance)? It is impossible the determine precisely what will happen when you are studying things like atoms, protons, electrons, quarks, etc. The best you can do is calculate the probabilty events will happen.

So, in some sense we are all relying on "probabilty" to determine exactly how electrons will behave, or precisely how interactions in atoms and the like will go...The irony is we are all "gamblers"...

#24  Posted by Darrel Robertson  |  Wednesday, June 22, 2011at 7:37 PM

I must say I love to read Spurgeons writings...and here is one:

A young gambler is sure to be an old beggar if he lives long enough. PT112

I can never look upon dice except with abhorrence. If you ask me why; I reply,—

Because the soldiers at the foot of the cross threw dice for my Saviour’s garments,and I have never heard the rattling of dice but I have conjured up the dreadful scene of Christ upon his cross, and gamblers at the foot of it, with their dice bespattered with his blood.

I do not hesitate to say that, of all sins, there is none that more surely damns men, and, worse than that, makes them the devil’s help to damn others, than gambling. 2629.318

Charles Spurgeon

But I must say I like fine cigars just like this "prince of preachers did"

#25  Posted by Mary Kidwell  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 5:29 AM

Mark (#23)

Thank you for your comment. It made me rejoice to remember that what man can’t control or predict with certainty is all within God’s knowledge and sovereignty.

“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 46:9-10).

#26  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 10:32 AM

Mark (#23)

I am always astounded at what we discover in science. The more we learn, the more amazing God is revealed to be. I'm always hesitant, though, to bring science into theological ideas. Just because it appears to us to be unpredictable, does not mean there is no order to it or that it is indeed random. In the same way that we look back 1000 years and balk at what they thought they 'knew' about science, I am confident our own "understanding" is foolishly immature compared to the truths we may one day learn about His universe.

No real point to make regarding the topic. Just rambling about science. :-)

#27  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 1:04 PM

Comment deleted by user.
#28  Posted by Tom Jourdan  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 1:10 PM

#24 Darrel--Is this the same Darrel that jumps through hoops to justify gambling? Which is it? It does seem odd that you would post this quote by Spurgeon. However, in so doing, I do hope you are beginning to see the evil of gambling for what it is. Playing a game of cards is by no means evil/sinful but gambling is a most wretched sin against a Holy God which needs no further justification than which Phil has so biblically "spelled" out. I certainly hope so and I might add your recent comments to Phil and GTY demonstrate your genuine humility and sincere desire to follow Christ and obey His Spirit. I am happy to know that kind of brother even if, only in the blogosphere! I do hope you will continue to see gambling for what it is- sin against God's Holy Standard and an evil destructive force not only to an individual but an entire society. In Him, Tom

#29  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011at 1:17 PM

Marc Lambert,

Atoms are totally predictable, they just aren't deterministic. That is NOT because we lack information...that has been proven. Yes, proven. Atoms, electrons, photons, etc are INHERENTLY probabilistic in nature. I just wanted to add that to the discussion.

#30  Posted by Justin Lewis  |  Friday, June 24, 2011at 6:42 AM

The main difference with the stock market and gambling is that you can't forget about privately-owned companies that require you to buy stock as an investment and commitment to the company.

#31  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Friday, June 24, 2011at 10:40 AM

Mark (#29)

Pardon my ignorance, I'm not really wanting to get off on some weird tangent, but what's the difference between predicting what something will do and determining what something will do? And how would more knowledge re the subject being predicted/determined not help accuracy in those predictions/determiniations? Seems like some mighty fine hair splitting. But then, history and theology are my things, not science.