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Gambling and Lotteries
This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.
Why does the Assemblies of God object to lotteries and other forms of gambling?
The Assemblies of God opposes gambling from a biblical perspective. The church believes gambling is an artificial and contrived risk taken for selfish gain at anothers expense. It is done without a fair return for "creative effort, useful skills, or responsible investment." A careful study of the Scriptures indicates that gambling is a form of evil that the Christian seeking to live by scriptural principles should avoid.
Scripture (Isaiah 65:11) recounts that during the Babylonian captivity of Israel some Israelites succumbed to the influence of their captors and worshiped heathen gods of "chance" or "luck." In their idolatry they denied the providence of God, trusting in luck rather than the living, sovereign Lord of the universe. Verses 12-16 shows God does not accept such activity.
Scripture further condemns the practice of gambling by showing it to be inconsistent with its teaching on work, stewardship, and love of ones neighbor. Gambling avoids honest labor in an effort to "get something for nothing" or to "get rich quick." Thus, it violates the scriptural principle that teaches man must work for his sustenance. (See Proverbs 12:11; 28:19,20; 2 Thessalonians 3:10.) The Christian should recognize all that one possesses belongs to God (Psalms 24:1). In the Parable of Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) Jesus teaches that a persons resources are given as a trust to be used wisely. No candid appraisal of gambling can endorse it as such. Finally, Jesus taught that love is what earmarks the Christian as His disciple (John 13:35). No Christian who seeks to love his neighbor as himself (Matthew 22:39) can justify profiting from greed and addiction that motivates so much of gambling.
In todays culture so much of societys ethics are determined by an appeal to what works, rather than biblical authority. Sadly, some in the church use this same rationale to make allowance in their personal lives for playing the lottery and involvement in other forms of gambling.
An argument of many gambling proponents is that gambling remains healthy and acceptable when done on a recreational basis. They rationalize gambling is not inappropriate or immoral when one uses small amounts of personal funds normally spent on other forms of entertainment. These same proponents commonly defend their actions by rationalizing "when gambling they expect to lose." But at what cost does winning come? When one wins, who loses? In winning, what happens to the recreational gamblers work ethic? When temptation to increase the stakes lures people to big losses and financial ruin, who pays the tab?
The truth is winning often entices individuals to further involvement and in some extreme cases complete debilitating addiction. This addiction has brought financial ruin and brokeness to literally thousands of individuals, careers, and families.
Another rationale used to justify gambling is that portions of the revenues are used for good and charitable causes. For example, in some states like Missouri, state-sponsored gambling was approved by voters under the stipulation that portions of the gambling revenues be used to support and improve the states public education programs. Proponents of gambling use this rationale saying it cuts the amount of taxes citizens have to pay. Unfortunately this line of reasoning has often silenced Christians who, while not participating themselves in games of chance, will not protest its practice. This is essentially a selfish posture; one that ignores our responsibility to be salt and light in this world and to love our neighbor.
In similar fashion, some professing Christians use the same good will rationale, suggesting that one can tithe on all winnings. But a question persists: can sin and evil ever produce good? Can darkness ever produce light? The Bibles says no. "What fellowship can light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14). James 3:12-16 also applies: "My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching. The official delineation of this position is found int he Assemblies of God position paper, "A Biblical Perspective on Gambling," 1983.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.