When departing on my recent vacation and listening to the Green Bay Packers Radio Network, a broadcast casino commercial’s tagline struck me: “please gamble responsibly”. When later returning home and listening to U2’s Songs of Innocence, a line in “Every Breaking Wave” struck me: “And every gambler knows that to lose / Is what you’re really there for.” If gamblers are there to lose, can any gambling be responsible?
Wisconsin and other states’ casinos, Texas’s lottery for education, local civic organizations’ raffles for other good causes, office pools, and ubiquitous websites and apps offer us various opportunities to gamble. While the Bible mentions casting lots to ascertain God’s will (for example, Proverbs 16:33), and while governments may legalize and even utilize various forms of gambling, ultimately a vice cannot be made a virtue. While the gambling industry is said to bring some economic benefits (such as jobs), those are debatable, and gambling comes with serious societal costs (such as increased crime and destruction of families), not to mention moral issues.
A 1996 report to our church body listed the following moral concerns about gambling: encouraging the sins of greed and covetousness, promoting the mismanagement of possessions entrusted to us by God, undermining absolute reliance on God for His provision, working against a commitment to productive work, being potentially addictive behavior, and threatening the welfare of our neighbor and militating against the common good.
To be sure, the Bible does not clearly declare gambling to be sinful, and so, even though gambling can and often does lead to sinful behavior, consciences cannot be made to regard each and every gamble “sinful”. When people do sin by gambling, God calls them, as He calls us, sinners all, to repentance, and so to receive His forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s famous “wager” may make a case for one’s “betting” on God’s existence, but such was not Pascal’s intent and is not true Christian faith. Christians are sure God exists and so certain of His Word, without considering such to be “gambles” at all.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.