The matter of whether gambling should be permitted or not has a long history. At present, the perception of gambling is changing. No longer is gambling considered vice by governments and even some Christians. Rather, the industry has successfully sought to recast itself as part of the larger entertainment industry and participation in gaming activities of all varieties simply a matter of having fun.
Reasons why gambling should be permitted are convincing. Not only do many see gambling as a form of entertainment to be enjoyed, albeit by responsible adults, people have a right to engage in harmless entertainment if they so choose. It is an abuse of the power of government to prohibit citizens from engaging in an activity that is seemingly harmless while providing economic benefit to the community, the state, and individual participants. Legal gambling also provides government with a way to redistribute wealth from people higher up the socioeconomic ladder to those below by using the funds raised for special projects that primarily benefit the poor at the expense of the more affluent. Further, the presence of gambling in the Bible suggests that Christians are free to engage in this harmless fun.
While these arguments may seem convincing to some, especially Christians, each argument has been thoroughly refuted. The fact is that gambling is not merely entertainment. It remains an exploitive activity that drains financial resources from the economy, leads people into addiction, oppresses the poor, and ultimately undermines biblical principles for living the Christian life. With so much evidence pointing to the ills associated with and caused by gambling, it is rather simple to conclude that gambling is a sin and should be avoided by Christians. While it is easy to arrive at such a conclusion, describing the Christian response to gambling is a bit more difficult.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that believers are to be light and salt in the world. We are to live in a manner such that people will see our good works and glorify God (Matt. 5:13-16). Aside from concluding that Christians are not permitted to gambling, perhaps a lesson from Jesus will best summarize how the Christian should address gambling. In Matthew 22:15-22, the Pharisees tried to trap Christ by asking about the payment of taxes. Understanding the trap being laid for Him, Christ affirmed that some things rightfully belong to Caesar (the government) and some things belong to God.
Governments have the right to legalize gambling if they are so persuaded. Sociologists will continue to analyze the culture and report on it from both a secular and Christian perspective. Christians should avoid gambling, point out the inherent dangers of engaging in all forms of gambling, and should love those ensnared by gambling when the opportunity presents itself.