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 is it so important for Christians to abstain from gambling?
Although "Thou shalt not gamble" is not one of the Ten Commandments, the practice violates some values that Scripture recognizes. In addition to obeying what the Bible teaches explicitly, we must also adhere to the clear inference of Scripture. The principle of stewardship opposes gambling. Christians are to be responsible stewards of all their possessions, including their wealth, and how possessions are used or spent (Psalm 24:1, Matthew 25:14-20). Gambling does not demonstrate responsible stewardship of our resources.
The biblical principle of respecting honest labor and productive work disallows gambling. Seeking to get rich in a way that avoids respectable work violates scriptural truth (Proverbs 12:11, 28:19,20; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). The biblical principle of Christian love towards all human beings opposes gambling. If we love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), we cannot engage in profiting from his losses.
Some who wish to defend gambling suggest life itself is a gamble. They rationalize that no one knows when or how one’s life will end. At any time catastrophe and sickness can upset their lifelong plans. So why, they ask, when life poses such risk should the church oppose lotteries and gambling?
The difference—one is self imposed, while the other is not. Lotteries, casino gambling, and paramutual betting are completely different from the normal circumstantial risks of life. They are intentionally brought on by temptations of gain. The point is gambling is a voluntary agreement. It is made between two parties to transfer something of value contingent on an uncertain event and resulting in discernible gain for one party and corresponding loss for the other. On the basis of this definition, we believe all forms of gambling are contrary to developing and maintaining wholesome interpersonal relationships as God intends for His people. We take this position in full awareness some advocate the recreational or entertainment value of gambling and the supposed use by government of gambling earnings for social and educational programs. This is an indictment against government. The end (i.e.: more money for education) does not justify the means. If a person really wants to contribute to a worthy cause, they should do so directly and remove all risk taking.
The trumpeted benefits of gambling are illusionary or for the benefit of those willing to take advantage of others. But the pain and hurt of the countless losers of lotteries, casino gambling, and other forms of gambling is real and tragic. It is too often the poor who are exploited by gambling. Of course the industry trumpets the winners but fails to speak of the losers. In addition—money "winners" of sudden wealth face great temptations and are often ‘losers’ in the long run.
There are gray areas on which Christians have different opinions. Is it all right to invest in the stock market? What about any kind of investment that could result in the loss of one’s money? Some theologians see a difference between games of chance and business ventures that involve some degree of skill or informed decisions. One’s conscience and commitment to biblical stewardship should be the guide here. Many retirement programs rely on the skill of wise investors, whereas private investment without adequate preparation and background would put investments at great risk, almost a suggestion of gambling. Not only are we "our brothers’ keeper," we are also keepers of what God has committed to our careful stewardship.
Another matter for consideration is the biblical use of resources beyond bare essentials. As God blesses our honest work ethic, prosperity is likely to result. How much wealth beyond basic essentials should be put in savings or investments? How much should be "invested" in the Lord’s work, even beyond the expected tithe? Asking God’s guidance about the wise use of our resources is a mark of good biblical stewardship.
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching. The official delineation of this position is found in the Assemblies of God position paper, "A Biblical Perspective on Gambling," 1983.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.