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When is acceptable for a Christian to gamble?

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Part of the assignment of my ethic course is to do a weekly post. One of the students ask…when is it acceptable for Christian to gamble? Here’s my take on it…I went for a run after I submitted this. I do not think this is a very solid argument as I feel I am missing a feel thing. Please feel free to comment on this…whether you agree or disagree. My whole discussion is discerning whether gambling (be it a lottery ticket to casino) turn people in to a lover of money or not.

If one is to claim that gambling is to risk (something) on the outcome of a contest or any uncertain event or matter, would investing in stocks a matter of gambling? In business, money is invested upon areas which will bring in a desirable return. For example, a manager persuade his supervisor for more money to invest in a specific project because base on his calculations, it will bring the highest return. Would that consider a form of gambling? Or is that a form of investing?

There are a lot of similarities between gambling, like going to the casino, and a business investment. For example, both is playing with the odds. It is a rule of thumb that 90% of small businesses will be closed within 5 years. In the casino, we know the odds are always against us. If that’s the case, should we consider business as a form of gambling as well?

In the Gospels, there were many references and warning regarding the hoarding of material wealth. Jesus mentioned in the beatitudes that we can only serve God or money (Matthew 6:19-22) Paul wrote in 1 Tim 6:10 that “for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” James condemn those who think they know the future by going to a city to make money (James 5:24-17) Richard Foster, in his book, The Challenge of the Disciplined life, wrote “we are serving mammon [money] when we allow mammon to determine our economic decisions. We simply must decide who is going to make our decisions – God or mammon.” (pg. 56) The purchase of stocks is ownership of a company or corporation. By itself, it is not gambling. However, many treat stock as gambling. For example, the Bre-X Gold Scandal or the crash of Nortel stocks in 2002 are the result of allowing mammon to determine the economic decisions. Millions were lost and many saw their retirement fund disappeared. Thus, those investments becomes gambling. Recently, I was reflecting on raffles. What if a friend approached to me selling raffle tickets for a charitable clause? Would this consider a form of gambling? As discussed in our class, let’s take a look at the intent and action.

What’s the intent of my friend? Is it a clever scheme to buy more tickets in the hope to increase the odd of winning? Or is he genuine and a firm believer that this money will go to a good clause? What’s my intention? Am I to help my friend and to participate together for a worthy clause? Or am I entice with greed of wanting more? There is nothing wrong with helping a friend or giving money to a charity. As Christians we are to store up treasure on heaven and not on earth. One radical approach is to simply give the money to the friend for the clause without purchasing a ticket. My friend will benefit from this as it helps him for the clause; the money goes straight to the charitable organization and thus benefitting society. And by denying myself of the ticket, my action shows where my heart is at, the heavenly treasure, not earthly ones. One can also argue that since there are charitable casinos and since the money will benefit the community, isn’t it right to go to casino? Again we can look at going to casino by looking at the action and the intent. True, there are casinos that give a portion of the money back to the community. Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) is one that disperses money collected from the lottery to non-profit organizations around Ontario. One cannot argue the fact that it is morally wrong for OLG to invest in health care and other organizations that benefit community. However, we need to take a look at how the money is generated (action). Casino operates to encourage greed and gambling. Studies have shown that casinos are design to keep people to stay inside as long as possible. Without windows, gamblers cannot tell whether it is day or night and distort their perception of time. The rationale is that the longer a person stays in the casino, the more likely they will spend money. Slot machines have buttons or lever for players to interact. It gives an illusion of control to the user when the reality is that the win is determined by the machine. In other games such as poker or black jack, we know the odds always favour the casino. Casino promotes with elaborate bright lights and neon signs. The idea of ‘you can win’ entices visitors to spend as much money as they can. I have a co-worker who once worked at a casino. He told stories where people who lost everything in the casino in a matter of weeks. We can clearly see that casino, even the charitable ones, might have good intent but the intent cannot be justify its sinful action. Gambling turns people away from God. It encourages people to allow money to determine their economic decision. It violates Christ’s law of love. As Christians, we are to seek His Kingdom first. This include following God’s Will. As James suggested in James 4:15 in relating to making money, we should say, “if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

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