THE BIBLE ON GAMBLING
(Investigator 138, 2011
lost $12 billion just on poker machines. The social costs of problem
gambling include debt, financial hardship, mental health problems,
social isolation, increased crime, marriage/family breakdown and
unemployment. In Australia the dollar value of these social costs has
been estimated near $5 billion per year.
writers have criticised gambling but failed to mention that gambling is
contrary to Bible ethics.
lotteries were widespread in Europe. The Church apparently regarded
them as sinful since the Pope granted remission for sins to the
promoters of a lottery in Paris in 1572.
realized that lotteries could raise revenue without unpopular
taxation-increase. Queen Elizabeth did this in 1569. Lotteries in the
17th and 18th centuries helped to finance London’s water supply, the
British Museum and the expansion of the British Empire.
Parliament declared that lotteries encouraged, "A spirit of gambling
injurious to the highest degree to the morals of the people…" Lotteries
were seen as undermining the prosperity gained by hard work. In 1826
government-run lotteries in England ended (until the 1990s).
GAMBLING in AUSTRALIA
adopted British betting and gaming practices. A superintendent of
convicts described the situation around 1794:
pernicious vice of gaming which had rapidly obtained in the settlement,
and which was carried on to such excess among the convicts that many
have been known, after losing their provisions, money, and spare
clothing to bet, and lose the very clothes from their backs, exhibiting
themselves naked… (O'Hara 1988, p. 10)
betting were established features of Australian life. Christian
opposition was limited because Protestants were distracted by sectarian
infighting and Catholics by financial problems when the state withdrew
assistance. Bishop Polding believed "vice and irreligion were to be
conquered by vital example of virtue" rather than prohibited by law. In
1852 Richard Birnie (Anglican barrister & journalist) lectured in
Melbourne and equated gambling with fraud because it gained money
without earning it. He noted, "We are in danger of becoming a nation of
gamblers." (O'Hara p. 81)
1876 to 1897
legislation was enacted to stop betting in streets, shops, betting
houses and homes, but permitted horse racing and gentlemen's clubs.
and Catholic middle class still held economic and political power and
supported the anti-gambling status-quo. Religious values declined with
the upheavals of the Great War (1914-1918) and churches increasingly
distanced themselves from politics. Politicians legalized ever more
types of gambling, and state-run lotteries became revenue raisers that
avoided the political downside of increased taxation.
continued to oppose legislation that permitted gambling:
betting were opposed in the 1920s on the standard Protestant
middle-class grounds that they produced a habit of indulgence, thereby
interfering with the economy. Such views were summarized in 1923 by
Rev. E.N. Merrington: gambling was bad for business because it created
a distraction from employment and led to thefts and embezzlement; it
was the antithesis of industry because it created labourers who are
content to await a lucky win; it unsettled the attention and the will
by diverting the minds of the young from their studies to the lists of
prizes and winners, and by acting as a deterrent 'from sustained and
patent labour with brain or sinew'; and it led to crime and immorality
through provoking 'wild and unprofitable speculations'.
crusader Rev. Percy Chennel criticized gambling at government inquiries
and in sermons and pamphlets during the 1930s:
along with claims that gaming and betting were contrary to the
teachings of Christ, were put consistently before the numerous
governmental inquiries related to gambling throughout the twentieth
century. (O'Hara, p. 217)
attempted to support his case with detailed statistical analysis. In
his evidence before the 1936 South Australian Royal Commission on
Lotteries, Chennel examined the existing state-run lotteries and tried
to demonstrate that hospital fund-raising through subscriptions and
legacies, and funding by local authorities, decreased dramatically with
the introduction of lotteries. (p. 218)
continued to decline as Australia became more secular, and government
inquiries stopped heeding the churches in the 1960s. The churches,
however, did much of the damage-control by counselling and helping
gambling-effected families. A current initiative is:
Australia's 90,000 problem gamblers losing an average of $21,000 each
year, Australia's major churches have banded together to launch the
Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, calling for consumer protection
measures… (Eternity Number 13, April 2011, p. 2)
Bible has no specific
prohibition against gambling. But it does have principles which are
flouted by gambling:
- The Bible
"You shall not covet" and "Love does no wrong to a neighbour." (Romans
13:9-10) "Covet" means to desire what belongs to someone else — which
do if we try to get their money without earning it.
- The Bible
people to "work honestly" and "earn their living". (Ephesians 4:28; II
Thessalonians 3:7-12) Gambling violates the principle of fair return
for work or labour.
- The Bible
"generosity", i.e. giving to the poor and to the Christian ministry
10:8; II Corinthians
9:11), whereas gambling
entails taking what's not happily given.
- The Bible
the "love of money" because: "those who want to be rich fall into
temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that
plunge people into ruin and destruction." (I Timothy 6:9)
- There are
principles of using time advantageously (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians
4:5) and associating with people of good example. (Proverbs 13:20;
Israelites who "set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for
gambling is inherently contradictory because taxable wealth originates
with productive work whereas gambling is unproductive and merely
redistributes — at great social costs — wealth already produced.
secularized, gambling increased. Many gamblers and their families got
hurt (as happens with other biblical counsel when it's ignored) and
this refuted their rejection of the Bible. Many churches, however,
practice "love your neighbour" and strive to reduce the damage.
R. K. 1987 Encyclopedia
of Biblical and Christian Ethics, p. 165.
J. 1988 A