Wednesday, February 08, 2006

God and Gambling-- the Latest Scourge

It may not be on the medieval list of the seven deadly sins, but we should have realized that since Jesus and the NT has plenty to say about and against 'the love of money', gambling was likely to surface at some point as one of the major besetting sins of a culture with too much discretionary income. That culture would be western culture, supposedly based on a free market economy, though it might be better called a venture capital and barricuda investor economy. What that sort of approach to economics is really good at is turning our country into a debtor nation.
The rich get richer, and those least able to afford it, the poor and working class, turn to scratch off tickets trying to win the lottery so they can 'get ahead' in life.

But what is wrong with a little betting at the office pool or buying a lottery ticket? What is wrong with going to a casino and having a little fun? After all-- it is 'our' money isn't it? Well in truth there are a whole cluster of problems with gambling from a Biblical point of view of which I only have time to list a few.

Firstly let us deal with the basic Biblical notion that "a workman is worthy of his hire". This principle found in the OT and reiterated in the NT by both Jesus and Paul and others stresses not only that work is good, but that proper compensation for the work is appropriate, indeed a moral requirement of a just society. The principle behind gambling not only severs the connection between work and proper remuneration, but in fact encourages a flagrant disregard for such a work ethic.

The idea behind gambling is of course that I invest only a little of my time and capital in hopes of a return that is out of all proportion to the investment, indeed could in no way be justified as a 'fair or just return' for the investment. Put in colloquial terms it is an attempt to gain a lot, by investing or doing very little. In short, it is a form of cheating which demeans honest hard work. It is always and everywhere a form of cheating, even when it is done out of desperation in order to try and survive.

One of the more moving films of the past year which I watched again last night is Cinderella Man. There is a gripping scene where Jimmy Braddock, despite how shamed he felt and how much of a failure as a bread-winner he felt, got in the governmental assistance line to get funds to keep his family from starving. This scene however is revisted with a happier ending when Jimmy goes back to the assistance office, and gives back, with interest, all he had been given. He understood the principle of work, and the importance of seeing loans as loans that must be paid back.

The second problem with gambling is that according to the Bible, a Christian person is not supposed to charge, nor receive benefit from ridiculous and egregious or exorbitant interest rates. But in fact gambling operates on the principle of in effect charging people in general way more than they can afford to pay, in order that a few people can be inordinately 'rewarded' for their investment, and I do mean a tiny minority of people.

I have not seen the latest figures, but if you view gambling as a form of investing, then it is clear that over 90% of all the participants are getting ripped off on a regular basis. For a Christian to participate in such a system is to violate what God's Word says when it stresses that at most there should be a modest interest rate used and that in any case loaning money or borrowing money should be done on the basis of a fair return and the eventual ability to repay (read Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers again). Forgivness of debts should be at the discretion of the loaner, not be an expectation of the borrower.

But these problems are minor compared to the major one that "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof". Every Christian should know that 'their' money is in fact not something they 'own'. They are actually only stewards of God's money and God's resources. In a world full of worthy causes, to gamble with the money you make is in fact to take food out of the mouths of the poor, and indeed may well be to take food out of the mouths of your own family! It is inexcusably self-centered behavior, too often grounded not in desperation, but in a desire to 'get something for next to nothing' which is neither an honorable nor a Christian affection, desire or longing. It is incompatible with the Christian character as described under the heading of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5. That acquistive desire, or desire for securing one's own future by hook or crook is incompatible with a self-sacrificial temperament. It is clearly not what Jesus would do or want us to do.

There is furthermore of course the pragmatic issue that gambling is habit-forming even with people who have some degree of self-discipline. It can very easily, and very quickly become an addiction, especially if one, early on has the 'thrill' of actually getting an inordinate reward for a tiny investment. Suddenly one's brain sees red and thinks--- "you can get something for nothing, and if you can, you ought to." Americans are suckers for all kinds of get rich quick schemes, it's just that gambling is an endemic form of it.

Even worse is when the church itself promotes one or another form of gambling (e.g. Wednesday night bingo) in order to pay its own bills. The Bible is perfectly clear that since everything belongs to God Christians should be giving sacrificially to the cause of Christ, which in many cases will mean well beyond a tithe. Jesus calls his followers to heed the example of the widow who gave all her monetary assets to the Temple treasury. This was far more than tithing. If we were coming even close to doing that, there would be no need for bingo to pay the bills. In fact however, America is one of the least tithing 'Christian' countries on earth. It's absolutely disgraceful.

And beneath and below the surface of all of this there is the deep amnesia that God, after all, has all the resources in the world and beyond in his hands. There is absolutely no reason or justifable cause for Christians to compromise their ethics to get 'ahead' in life, as if they could not turn to God and the body of Christ and get assistance. God's bank never runs short and if we ask according to the will of God (praying for things that are necessities such as are listed in the Lord's prayer, not unnecessary luxuries which we are not encouraged to ask for)God will indeed do more than we expect. Gambling is an act of despair by those who either never trusted God or have given up doing so.

One of the things that has most depressed me of late is seeing my beloved home state, North Carolina, after having fought the good fight against a state lottery for so long, finally capitulate to this sinful enterprise, expedited by political trickery. I was not surprised by the recent allegations about a major gambling ring run by an NHL coach no less. Sports and betting have become kissing cousins in our lifetime where as before the gambling industry was more like the black sheep of the family that nonetheless sports acknowledge as part of the family. But I had hoped for better out of the N.C. State legislature. It is simply one more sign that Christian values are losing their grip on American public life and we shall all be the poorer for it.

My grandfather was a remarkable man who never had more than a junior high education. He was a deacon in the Baptist church, and a fireman and fire chief, and he gave a good deal of his time to public service--- among other things counting votes, giving his time freely and for nothing. During the depression when he was making next to nothing, he continued to give to his church, and indeed to those less fortunate even when he was making about $10-12 every week or so. He would be ashamed of North Carolina just now and its decision about gambling. He understood the value of hard work, and he understood the big difference between freely giving something away-- time, talent, money, and the attempt to snatch something by some immoral means from some industry based on the sin of greed.

Gambling at the the end of the day, cheapens the soul of the gambler, can ruin his family, and supports a blood-sucking industry that in fact cannot claim to do any great good for American society, for it induces and seduces us to forget God and give up on honest work. James was right--- "the love of money is a root of all imaginable sorts of evil". May our society wake up and stop this self-infliced wounding of the human spirit.


Scott Williams said...

What is your view on something like poker? Some people play it professionally, but also put a vast amount of time and energy into learning and practicing. It is certainly not the same as blowing your money on lottery tickets, yet is still regarded as gambling. Granted, there are many seedy (to put it mildly) associations with poker and casinos, but the game itself relies just as much, if not more, on skill as it does luck.

davebeals said...

Ben...AMEN...No further comment...Dave

Marc Axelrod said...

Good article. Gambing has never been my vice, butit has been for some of my family members. My grandpa on my father's side ruined his marriage and life with gambling. My brother has done some online gambling, too. It's bad stuff.

Ben Witherington said...

Poker, if one plays for the fun of the game, and just for chips, no money involved, is simply a competitive card game (unless of course we are talking strip poker, which is a no no for sure).

But alas, the reason most people play poker is for the money aspect, which pushes it directly into the realm of gambling, and is not appropriate behavior for any Christian person.

I am not impressed with the 'skill' level required to be good at gambling in any form. It is a game of 'chance' which no amount of skill can eliminate. If someone wants to talk about skill and a card game try bridge, or to mention a different game--- chess.
There are people good at reading and betting on the horses here in Kentucky, but alas it is still gambling all the same, no matter how pretty the horses.

reJoyce said...

When we lived in California, groups from our church would go together to Las Vegas. It made me a little twitchy, to say the least. When questioned, one of my friends said that he thought that it was no different than dropping $200 to go to Disneyland. I never could quite figure out how to respond to that, but your post has articulated very well some of the objections I can raise the next time I hear that type of justification. Thanks!

reJoyce said...

Oh, I should have said "go together to Las Vegas to gamble". Going to Las Vegas without gambling doesn't strike me as being a no-no! ;-)

Scott Williams said...

To play devil's advocate here, couldn't the same be said about the stock market? You are "investing" (betting) your money on a particular stock with the hopes that it will rise in value, netting you profit. Now, you can spend plenty of time researching companies and stock trends, but it still has a strong element of chance. Even Warren Buffett doesn't bat 1.000.

Remember how popular Day Trading was back in the .com bubble? To me, that fits the exact description of gambling, and those involved tended to end up like those who don't know when to quit traditional forms of gambling. Yet, stock trading is still considered "investing."

If you really wanted to push the analogy, you could make similar claims to real estate, or nearly any form of investment banking altogether.

I think what it comes down to is attitude and motive. If someone is just trying to make a quick and dirty buck without work, then they are not being a good steward of God's money.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Scott:

I think I'll play the angel's advocate instead.

You are absolutely right. No investing in the stock market either if your goal is to make a pile of money on some instant turn around. That is also gambling.

Now if you are allowing someone to use your money over the long haul and they can get equivalent value out of your investment, that would be different. Otherwise its just selfish profiteering. My point on this would be that 'lending' your money at a slight interest is Biblical. Being Martha Stewart is not.

So its important to have some ethics in place before you go into this. I personally don't think day trading is ethical. Whenever I or my pension account has bought stocks, we have done it for the long haul, not being interested in the 'fast buck'.

And no, its not just about attitude at all-- its about actions, and as the Bible says--- what you DO with your money reveals your actual values pretty clearly.


James Gregory said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Leslie JS said...

enjoyed your writeup...

Ben Witherington said...

Hi James: Thanks for your post. You are right to ask about what of all those other activities, and I quite agree Christians are called to de-enculturate their life style. I also don't see anything in the Bible about the concept of 'retirement' or about 'saving for retirement'. What was envisioned as Paul's advice about the widows in the Pastoral Epistles is that the body of Christ would take care of their own, rather than one's retirement funds. I believe this is basically the right answer to that issue. However you are quite wrong to draw an analogy between gambling and paying money to see a concert, for example. The latter is a straight exchange-- and goods and services in exchange for money. One is not trying to 'get something for next to nothing'. The principle of exchange is quite different than the mechanism of gambling and its supposed rationale. And as for sports betting that too is gambling, and we shouldn't do it, not least because its a bad witness--- supporting an industry that has no redeeming features and preys on people's weaknesses.

James Gregory said...

Sorry for the confusion, I wanted to make sure that it was known I am not trying to stir up dissension, so I deleted my former comment in order to clarify myself in this one.

I have interpreted your post in the following way:

Main theme:
we are to be good stewards with the money God has given us

gambling is an action that does not practice good stewardship of the money God has given us

I agree with the main and sub themes in your article.

But let me offer this:
gambling done in sport without giving up one's job, tithing, sacrificing, or providing for one's family's needs, just for a past-time, within reasonable limits, is not being a bad steward.

What do you think of this? Is it even possible to do so?

Thanks for your input.

James Gregory said...

Ben said: "[Y]ou are quite wrong to draw an analogy between gambling and paying money to see a concert, for example. The latter is a straight exchange-- and goods and services in exchange for money. One is not trying to 'get something for next to nothing'. The principle of exchange is quite different than the mechanism of gambling and its supposed rationale. And as for sports betting that too is gambling, and we shouldn't do it, not least because its a bad witness--- supporting an industry that has no redeeming features and preys on people's weaknesses."

I understand the principle of exchange, thank you for reminding me about it. But I am wondering that the issue isn't so much exchange but rather stewardship. The money is not ours, but God's. All past-times requiring a wasteful amount of money is not within reason for one of God's stewards. Paying $100 in order to play 18 holes is not being a good steward just as much as placing the same amount of money down for a buy-in is not.

But now I wonder about raffle drawings: it is the same general idea, getting something for next to nothing, although what is usually awarded were donations or bought for the raffle-winners, and the money usually goes to some sort of donation for a non-profit organization or the likes. Or sweepstakes: buy the pepsi from Taco Bell, peel the sticker off from the side and see if you won $1,000,000! Same principle: getting a lot of something for next to nothing. Is there a difference between gambling, raffle tickets and/or sweepstakes, then?

Furthermore, what of competitions that have a prize? An entry fee is required, which usually is a little amount of money compared to the first place prize. You enter, pay the fee, compete fairly without any guarantee that you are going to win, like the PGA or NASCAR, for example. Same principle: getting a lot of something for next to nothing. But the analogy draws thin here, because not only do PGA and NASCAR athletes put up a fee but they also demonstrate raw and spectacular talent--those who perform the best and have stood up to the qualifications receive the prize. Yet, the element of getting a lot of something for next to nothing still exists.

So, then, I ask, what are we to do with such things? Do we go golfing in Hawaii while on vacation and pay $115 for 18 holes per person? It is just a past-time that happens to be expensive, right? Do we go to a basketball game and pay $50 for a two-hour sporting event just for one's own amusement? And what of the person who has paid all of their bills, donated well beyond their tithe for the month to the church, saved a good portion of their money for a dry spout in their life, kept more than enough money for food for all the people in their family, kept more than enough money for other expenditures for all of their family, and still have extra money left over and decide to spend $5.00 on slot-machines as a low-cost, mindless past-time?

$5.00 for a slot-machine, $50.00 for a Kings game, $100.00 for golfing--which is worse?

$1.00 for a lottery ticket, $1.00 for a raffle ticket, or $1.50 for a Taco Bell drink for the sweepstakes game--which is worse?

If gambling is done as a past-time that is not burning wholes in the wallet, then I still don't see why it is any different than dropping $100 for golfing when it doesn't burn a whole in the wallet.

What do you think, Ben? Again, I appreciate your input. This is definately something worth thinking about and am glad you have got me thinking about this.

Václav Patrik Šulik said...

Hi Ben:

I just realized you have a blog -- I'm looking forward to catching up on your archives. Anyway, I was wondering if you saw the New Yorker piece on Mary Magdalene it's online here:

I'd love to get your reaction.

Thanks, William P. Sulik

James Gregory said...

Also, might I add, that the three examples--slot-machines, Kings game, or golfing--are to be done as paying in an exchange for goods or service: golfing is paying to play golf on a beautiful course, a good of recreation that does not necessarily reap money in the end (although I think it is a good use of time since it entails exercise); Kings game is paying to watch a spectacular display of skill in basketball, a service of exhibition that does not necessarily reap money in the end (although I think it is a fun use of time); slot-machines is paying to pull a lever that does not necessarily reap money in the end (although I think it is a waste of time).

Ben Witherington said...

Hi William: I am afraid the link didn't work. It led me to a page which one could see by subscription only.

As for the further queries of of James, I would say that I am not a member of the no fun league (I'M even a musician), and the questions you raised at the end have nothing to do with gambling or supporting the gambling industry. If I am going to buy a coke at Wendy's and there happens to be a sticker on it-- fine. I didn't buy the drink to get a sticker, and if I win something without having gambled anything to do so (i.e. I didn't pay any extra money for the sticker) fine-- winning in such a case is a bonus that I never set out to obtain or achieve. This one is an issue of heart and intent.

Thanks for the probing,


James Gregory said...

I was not accusing you of being a "member of the 'No-Fun League'," and I am sorry if I came across that way.

BTW, I too am a musician, I am a percussianist, mostly jazz drums. What instrument(s) do you play and what style is your favorite?

I raised those questions to demonstrate the fact that there are similarities in gambling with many acceptable forms of lottery, such as raffle tickets or sweepstakes entries, as well as with competitions that require an entrance fee in order to compete for the prize for which there is no guarantee. My question, which you have already answered, is "What is the difference between them?"

You have answered it to be that the difference is that a concert, as per your example, is an exchange of money for musical service and a seat, while gambling there is no exchange, just the destructive opportunity for an unwise attempt at getting more money from a little amount.

However, there are goods/services involved in gambling. When a person spends $5 on slots, he is paying to pull the lever. The service rendered is to play the game. To participate in a poker hand with a $100 buy-in is the amount required to play the game, in other words it is the amount that must be paid in order to have the services rendered--to play. You can't play the game if you don't pay the $100, just like you can't play the slots unless you pay the $.05, or $.25 (I don't know what it is, I have never gambled in a casino or done slots before).

And so, in my mind, although I would not do slots or buy-in for a high stakes poker game, for those who can afford to spend their money either on an expensive concert or basketball game, or on cheap slots or card games so long as it is not a means for substantial income but only for sport and leisure, I see no issue at hand any more than I do for those who put up an entrance fee for the chance to compete for the grand-prize.

I do, however, take issue with people who quit their jobs, empty their savings and checking accounts, take all their money in a briefcase to a local casino, and bet all their entire life-savings on a game of roulette for the chance to "better themselves in life."

Gambling for entertainment, then, I see no problem with.
Gambling for financial support, then, I do.

The particular danger I see with gambling, it ought to be noted, is that by nature, being Americans especially in a materialistic culture, we are greedy, and the lust for more becomes all the more potent. Even if one intends to gamble for leisure and sport, it would be all too easy to fall into greed's snare, and then after a long and financially draining course, in the worst-case-scenario, it could bring severe damage to marriage, relationships, and personal and financial well-being. For some it would not be a problem, while for others it may.

Personally, I have no desire to spend my time or my money on gambling; I'd rather spend it playing my drums, or watching movies and relaxing with my fiancée.

At the least, no Christian should try to spend their life savings--money that God alone has granted them for their well-being--on card games and the like in order to become richer. They ought to put their trust in God, not money. But when they use their money for sport and leisure, for fun events and past-times, they ought always use discression in being good stewards of the God-given money.

BP said...

Dr. Witherington,

All sorts of gambling has been "sold" as entertainment and so many folks, especially those who make little are "buying" into this cultural seduction. I too, once bought a lottery ticket every couple of months; you know when the winnings were tens or a hundred million. Thanks to God, I no longer do.

About your grandfather, I have seen his example in Malawi, Africa. On average, these folks make $150 a year and yet, when it's time to walk forward and give the tithe, they do it. They know what it means to give an offering of sacrifice.

As I see it, if we trust in anything else and not God, we sin.

Thank you for your service in the kingdom. God is using you to teach many that you will never know.


Matthew Phillips said...

Dr. Witherington, Thanks for your insightful comments as always. As a native (and current) North Carolinian, I was distressed for us to start a lottery as well. Your description of the seemingly benign church fundraisers is apt for state government too: if we were faithful in our stewardship and honest about the costs of the things we ask government to do, then we wouldn't need to raise revenue on the backs of those least able to afford it. Little wonder, a friend of mine here says, that scandals are now emerging relating to scores of people behind the state lottery.

Thanks for having the courage to call a spade a spade and to group together everything from church bingo to state "education" lotteries, from charity raffles to day-trading.

Lisa said...

Dr. Witherington,

Great Post! I have had some questions posed to me recently about the subject and have not yet been able to well articulate an answer. Your post has been quite helpful!

James, you bring up good points that are helpful for dialogue. I've been told that conflict can be extremely constructive, when done properly as you have done, because it helps you really get to the heart of the truth and the best thing to do. So now I will offer some things to that end.

I think you've missed one of the major sub-themes of Dr. Witherington's position. If "gambling is an action that does not practice good stewardship of the money God has given us" is sub-point #1, then "gambling is an action that reveals an inner-heart motive to get rich quick" would definitely be sub-point #2. A person may say that the only return they hope for on their 5-dollar slot-machine "investment" is the pleasure of pulling the lever, but I believe that person is being dishonest - and perhaps with themselves as well as with others. The reason that gambling is a "fun pass-time" is that there is a hope for a disproportionate return on an investment - to get something for nothing. This is clearly not a Biblical principle - or "Christian affection."

Now, that being said, I think while your comments do not provide much of a solid defense for gambling, they DO call into question some of the other things that we, as Christians, spend our "extra-money" on. Just because something is not gambling does not make it an okay thing to waste money one. I don't think there's anything particularly un-Christian about entertainment; but we must always take into consideration what we are sacrificing for that entertainment. How many people could be fed with the $115 we spend to play golf in Hawaii. I do not think that legalism is the answer here. The Pharisees had that down well, and Jesus was very displeased with everything they did, including their tithing. I think it really comes down to your heart, the thing that Jesus seems to be most concerned with. Who has it? Does the bank have it? Do the credit-card companies have it? Does your wallet have it? Or does Jesus have it? Where do your affections lie? And Dr. Witherington is quite right that our actions do matter, because our actions reveal the inner-motives of our heart. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Can we always see what’s inside a man’s heart by his actions? No. However we are called to display fruits as evidence of a Spirit-filled life. I will leave you with two "Pastor Georgeisms" (things my pastor says frequently) to ponder.

1. The wallet is usually the last thing to get saved, and the first thing to leave when people get mad.
2. Every decision is a stewardship decision.

sam k said...

Dr. Witherington,

I'm a little unclear on why speculative investing of any kind isn't right-out under your "something for nothing" standard.

Also, arguably, playing for chips removes much of the skill involved with Poker and makes it less enjoyable.

Mark Clark said...

Ben, i wonder if your premise of "getting something for nothing" is actually a misunderstanding. I wonder if what you think drives gambling is actually rather uninformed. That you think that this is the motive, as an outsider, someone simply thinking hypothetically on the issue like you, as a scholar do in all matters. Because i am not a gambler i do not know what drives them, but i wonder if you asked whether it is the idea of money, getting something for nothing, or whether it is something else altogether: rush, the game, i don't know.

I am not saying that we cannot comment on something unless we ourselves know it inside and out that would close off so many conversations, but that the idea that people gamble to win money without working...mmmmm. I don't know. I know the times that i have been involed in card games, like poker or whatever, it has never been about making money, but the rush of the game. The skills involved in betting, check raising and beating my friends.

I agree that what you said is true for many, maybe even most, when it escalates, but that it never starts that way. I don't know anyone who says, "Yeah, i really have to pay off the mortgage this month thus i am going to go put 5,ooo down on black on the Roulette table so i can pay it" Again no doubt there are many who have done, but most probably not. And again, if our desire is to make sure people don't keep travelling down the road mayeb you sould speak to the earlier signs of gambling,like the rush of sport, and gaming itself. Maybe that is the epidemic?

nblaw said...

Very timely post. I just heard a nationally syndicated sports talk host opining yesterday that gambling is a victimless vice. I disagreed with him then, and do so even more now.

Ben Witherington said...

There is one related matter to consider in posting on this subject. If we all had a servant's heart and thought of others before thinking of ourselves there is something else we might do with our money--- we would say no to cheap goods that are junk to start with and cost our own people jobs simply because we were unwilling to pay a little more and support the small local business person, the home made goods, and the like. We would not patronize businesses that put craftsmen out of business and make mass production of cheap goods the rule.

I will give one example. I grew up in the furniture capital of the U.S.--- High Point N.C. When I was young there were many small companies that made beautiful hand-turned cherry dining room sets, bedroom sets etc. It took more time, and there was a lot of skill and love put into it. But of course they could always be undersold by shoddy furniture made out of pressboard and contact paper.

Our desire to get something on the ultra-cheap, rather than paying a bit more for something of quality, or even handmade, is not that different from the desire to get something for next to nothing.

We lived in the United Kingdom for some years, and I once asked the owner of a small record shop why records were so expensive in the U.K. compared to the U.S. The answer was clear--- Americans were not prepared to pay more just so you could help local artists, local shops, local musicians, local producers stay in business. Americans didn't care--- just give me the lowest price.

As the man said--- "much of the time, you get what you pay for". Well that's as it ought to be--- if you pay little, you should expect to receive little of merit or quality. But in fact we hardly ever think this way in our country.

James Gregory said...

Well said, Lisa. However, I don't think we can claim that it is universally true for everyone who gambles for the sake of pulling a lever and playing poker is being dishonest in their intention. I think that it is possible, though not probable, to gamble without the desire to get a lot of money for just a little bit. By this I mean that it is a possibility, there is that chance, that one can gamble for the sole sake of entertainment, yet it is not probable, it is not likely, that the person is completely gambling for sport alone without a hint of wanting to strike it rich.

For many, having a poker night with their buddies in which they bring their spare change from a month's worth of collecting to gamble and play cards can be done in this manner. Certainly, there is no chance of striking it rich, merely the game of poker with a little bit of chunk change as a prize for winning the game. In this sense, then, gambling is a fun past-time not because of the opportunity to strike it rich, which is not really feasible in this case, but because it is fun to play poker, monetarial bets and all, and spend time with friends. So in this case, the act of gambling does reveal the inward attitude of the heart as well, that is, the heart of friendship and fun--not that of greed or self-sufficiency.

Personally, I don't see the difference between raffle drawings and slot-machines because when it all comes down to it, both function off the same principle of getting a lot of something for a little nothing. I personally don't see anything wrong with raffle drawings. To be able to buy a $1.00 raffle ticket and hope to win without any guarantee of winning a $500 digital camera is a cool thing. Similarly, slot machines allow you to buy a turn of the lever for a few cents and you can hope to win $500 in silver as well. What gives me the right to say that raffles are ok but slots are not? They are too similar. And if I can accept raffles as acceptable, how can I deem slots as unacceptable? That seems to be hypocritical of me to do so.

As per your two points:
1. The wallet is usually the last thing to get saved, and the first thing to leave when people get mad.
2. Every decision is a stewardship decision

The second point is what I was trying to say all along, and I believe many others have already addressed the first. Thanks for putting it down for us all to see; let's hope and pray fervently first that people will not attempt to serve both God and money but surrender all that they have and are to Him, and second, that we all would be good stewards of the God-given money in our possession and have not only thankful hearts but also generous ones as well.

James Gregory said...

Ben, your most recent comment brings back to mind music and video piracy.

Personally, I like paying for music rather than downloading it (illegally) "for free" via different illegal music clients because it gives me the opportunity of supporting composers and bands rather than keep income from them. I do not think that it is ethically right to take music for free that is illegally downloaded from the internet, for it is the same way that you said for the furniture, getting for cheap, or in this case nothing, rather than spending a few bucks to get the actual product.

I wonder, this would make a good post in itself--Christians and Music Piracy.

Dan McGowan said...

I guess there are quite a lot of "things" we could begin clamping down on... and that is my issue here... of course there are "wrong" things for follower of Christ to become involved with... and at some point we simply have to elect which of these we will and will not allow, lest we become legalistic... we live under grace after all...

For example - James brings up a GREAT point about piracy - but it's not only music videos or songs off the web... how about all you sports fans who VIDEO TAPE your favorite game? That is ILLEGAL. On two counts. One, you are not allowed to video tape stuff BY LAW off the TV. That is, technically, a RECORDING that has not been authorized... Two, the broadcast itself states very clearly in both written and verbal form that the game you are watching cannot be copied in any manner... but a lot of people do it - they get around it by saying, "Hey, I'm not SELLING it to anyone" but SELLING it is not the issue - COPYING it is. So, do we hammer down on our bro's and sis's who do this?

How about when you rent a movie at Blockbuster and bring it home and show it to 10 of your friends... is that okay? Not technically - not according to what the "law" says. But people do it.

My point - gambling, like anything (drinking, smoking, chewing, etc.) must be dealt with on an individual basis between God and man... every believer KNOWS right from wrong - or they are just lame! God will handle our "stuff" (well, he already did - on the cross.) Now it's up to us to live in grace -

Who's got change for a fifty? I need more chips...

Mike said...

There is something in this debate that has gotten me thinking. Is hunting the same as gambling? For instance, last year I paid $50 for two tags. I never was able to bag a deer. Where I hunt, it's very difficult some years to get one's bag limit. Sometimes we do go without. When this happens, the money is no less gone, and there is no one-to-one exchange for goods or services. When a sportsman spends his money on tags there is no guarantee from the State that he will get an animal.
A person might say, though, that it's not a gamble because the skill level makes it sport....but I would disagree. If nothing comes your way, it won't matter how much skill you have.
Another argument I've heard is that it's a cheaper way to get meat, so you're saving money. But even if you get a deer, there's no guarantee that it's a bargain. How much did you spend on ammo? Tags? Processing? Transportation? Etc.?
Just a thought.

David said...

Good points. Several years ago I quit sending in those Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes applications for the sole reason that, in my heart, I was scared to death I'd win. It seems that the more money one has the more one wants. Runaway greed is something I capable of doing. As a Christian this is unacceptable, so I quit.

James Gregory said...

Mike, your point is well taken as it shows that there really are several different kinds of gambling. Most of these forms seem to be acceptable ones that are not taboo for Christians, but when it comes to the specific kind of gambling in casinos that is where we generally cross the line. What gives us the right to draw the line here but not elsewhere?

And Dan takes the cake:
"My point - gambling, like anything (drinking, smoking, chewing, etc.) must be dealt with on an individual basis between God and man... every believer KNOWS right from wrong - or they are just lame! God will handle our "stuff" (well, he already did - on the cross.) Now it's up to us to live in grace"

I would have to say, then, that when gambling is other than sport and it becomes a get-rich-quick deal, it is totally wrong; aside from that, i can't say that gambling is wrong for everyone because it very well could be one of someone's past-times.
this is one of those cases, for me, where i can't speak for everyone, but only for myself, for it is true that for some certain things are permissable to their conscience while others the same things may not be

Perhaps this is what Paul refers to in 1 Cor 6:12, 10:23-33?

Steve Patton said...

Bravo! One of the best arguments against gambling I've ever read.

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks one and all for the good chat.

I do not have a problem with hunting for food, especially when some animals in preserves need culling from time to time. Hunting for so-called sport is another question. It would be a sport if the deer had guns and could shoot back. Now that would be a challenge. I suppose one could look at the hunting fee as paying for the 'sporting' experience, not for the deer themselves.

I do want to say to Dan that you seem to have forgotten that we are under the Law od Christ, which should not be contrasted with grace, because it is grace which enables us to obey it.

Of course as Paul makes clear, the heart of the Law of Christ is loving God and neighbor, a point Jesus makes as well. And certainly Jesus expected us to live by his ethical pronouncements such as the Sermon on the Mount.

It will simply not do to say 'lets not be legalistic since we are under grace.' Why in the world would we think that God requires less of us under grace than previously under the Mosaic Law? Jesus says to whom more is given more is required, and he also reminded us he expected our righteousness to be greater than that of the Pharisees. The only real question is which commandments and their implications must we obey to honor Christ and the NT writers? This is not legalism, this is obedience to the one whom we love and are called to follow.



Dan McGowan said...

Hi Ben,

I appreciate your comments about us being under the "Law" of Christ - however - Christ set us free - completely. This means no more law. Period. End of story. Paul does make it very clear that we are not to ABUSE our freedom - however - we ARE free, that cannot be denied. Christ totally and completely accomplished our total freedom on the cross - or he accomplished NOTHING. There is not middle ground there - we are either free or not.

See, it's actually a lot easier to live under the law. I CAN do this, I CAN'T do that... blah blah blah - no need for our own sense of ownership in what Christ has done for us. In fact, we are "off the hook" under the law. That's why it is so appealing to so many believers who have not figured out they are free... I can live with a "do/don't" list a lot easier than I can live with total freedom - cuz total freedom means living responsibly with what Christ has done for me.

And - I am free! Completely. Totally. Fully.

Because of what Chrsit did on the cross.

There is no other option.

Ben Witherington said...

Sorry Dan

You seem to have mistaken obedience, which is not optional for legalism.

The question about freedom is free from what, and the answer is 1) freedom from the bondage of sin and 2) freedom from works of the Mosaic Law (we are not under the Mosaic covenant any longer). This by no means connotes "freedom from obedience to any and all divine requirements."

It would be nice if in fact all Christians were mature enough not to need to be commanded to do what they must and ought to do, but alas, it is not so. Indeed, the NT is littered with the reminder that we are not mature as we ought to be, and do indeed require instructions and even commands. As Paul says to Philemon, while he would rather persuade, he is perfectly prepared to command and he does so frequently.

I would suggest you go and read a good commentary on Galatians, 'the Magna Carta of Christian freedom'. You will discover that in that very document Paul enunicates very clearly the Law of Christ for Christians to obey which involves: 1) obedience to those parts of the Ten Commandments that are reaffirmed by Christ; 2) obedience to the new commands of Jesus' 3) obedience to the apostolic teachings of various sorts.

This is precisely why Paul speaks in Romans of the obedience of faith--- which means the obedience that flows from faith-- as a brief glance at Rom. 12-15 will show.

Ethical requirements are not optional extras for the Christian life. When Jesus said 'no adultery' he did not mean--- "I highly suggest you do not behave this way".

Of course it is true that in matters adaiaphora (things indifferent like choice of clothes etc) we have freedom to do as we like so long as we do it without causing others to stumble or be scandalized. Of course it is also true that in addition to the commandments in the NT we also have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But nowhere in the NT is it ever suggested that freedom in Christ means antonomianism, freedom from obedience to God in Christ, much less freedom to do whatever we please.

No indeed, we are free to do what pleases God, whether voluntarily or in response to a command.

It appears you have badly misunderstood what the NT says about freedom in Christ. Your view does not comport with that of any of the great reformers-- not even Luther.


Ben W.

Dan McGowan said...


Are you free to worship God with your hands raised, dancing in the isles of your church? Because the Bible TELLS us to do that. It is not "an option." If we are to be obedient, and I agree with you on that, then we need to be obedient to ALL of what the Bible clearly teaches - not just those parts that we think are important for us.

We are to shout, sing, dance, lift up hands, call out His name, tell the nations of His wonders, and many other things - most of which hardly ever occur in churches. Because people think these are optional ways to worship God if we feel like it.

But they are not.

So, before we start hammering each other about obedience, we need to be sure that we really are being honest about it.

See, Ben, this is the beginning of living under the LAW, rather than under GRACE.

I'm not in total opposition to what you say - but I have seen too many believers who live as SLAVES because they don't understand freedom.

One more thing - you spoke pretty condescendingly to me in your post. I'm not sure why you chose to do this, but I doubt your credentials are so superior to mine that you should be afforded the freedom to speak to me as you did.

And, I'm still keeping a link to this blog on my blog because I like the way iron sharpens iron.


Dan McGowan said...

By the way - how does "gambling," your original question, fall into play within your lengthy discourse on law and grace? I'm still confused. Is it okay?

Ben Witherington said...


No attempt to be condescending, and if it came across that way, I am sorry. Put it down to the fact that you can't tell tone from this cold medium. You came across as an anti-nomian, which I am relieved to hear you are not.

But I have to ask--- have you actually studied what the commentaries say about Paul's discussion of the Law of Christ, or Christ's insistence on the higher righteousness?

I quite agree of course we are indeed commanded to worship the Lord in the ways you suggest. Those commandments should be heeded as well.

Having said this, what really motivates me to do any of this is that I love God and actually want to please God, enjoy doing it, and find as the old divines say "in obedience to Him is perfect freedom". If all of theology is grace, then all of ethics and obedience is done out of gratitude for what Christ has done.

There is something very freeing about being and behaving as God desires. It is not in any way legalistic or drudgery.

As for Gambling--- absolutely I think it is a sin, a violation of what is highest and best for a Christian person.



Ben Witherington said...

P.S. to Dan--- I am also a musician as well as a NT scholar, so I am glad there is something else we have in common.

Dan McGowan said...

Hi Ben,
There is a lot I have not studied. But I am well-studied in spite of my need to study more.

I've discovered a secret, Ben - it's called grace. That is a dangerous word, because the moment you use it around evangelicals, when talking about freedom, everyone gets nervous because they think you are talking about living life without any boundaries.

That is not what I am talking about - because that is not what the Bible teaches.

But the Bible ALSO does not teach that we are to be trapped in a type of "do's and don't" mentality that many believers really do live by... which is sad.

If gambling is a "sin" as you say (and I am not saying it is or isn't - yet) then which of the following is ALSO a sin?
> smoking
> drinking
> cussing
> gossipping
> "borrowing" office supplies from your place of business.
> using the internet at work for non-work-related activities
> taking a 70-minute lunch "hour"
> wearing jeans and a t-shirt to church
> driving over the speed limit

You get my point... what DETERMINES that something like gambling is a sin? And, more importantly, what IS "gambling?" Is stock trading gamblinb? Is playing poker with buddies when no money is invovled gambling? If you play for pennies only have you now stepped over the line of "gambling?"

At some point, we end up creating rules that actually go beyond what God has already set up for us... and, in fact, this is the very thing Christ died for - our freedom!

See, my point is this... (and you won't like it right away - but sleep on it...) I am 100% completely FREE to do whatever I want - I really am! If I want to rob a bank, I can! If I want to smoke a cigar, I can! If I want to gamble away my mortgage, I can! If I want to drink 5 quarts of tequilla, I can!

But before I do any of those free things I am "allowed" to do, I have to ask a few questions...

1) If I truly am a follower of Christ, do I really WANT to do those things? Is that really where my passions lie?

2) Do those activities please God and further His kingdom?

3) Will doing those things bring me closer to Christ?

See - we can't categorize things as "do's and dont's" because that is NOT true "freedom." The issue comes down to where our HEART resides in all of this... people live by do's and dont's but are NEVER truly free - they are in bondage to LAW. And if the Son has set us free, we are free indeed!

This is how I live. I am not saying you must live this way, but amazingly, we will both be dancing in heaven one day!

Ben Witherington said...

Well Dan, I can only say this.

If by freedom all you mean is, I have a choice about my behavior, of course that is true. Its not a Biblical definition of freedom, but its true.

And it is also true that it is grace which has set us free from the bondage of sin--- that also is true.

What is certainly not true is that God has freed you to do whatever you might want, or have the power of choice to do--- that's certainly about as untrue a definition of Biblical freedom as I could imagine.

Freedom in the Biblical sense has nothing to do with a self-centered right of self-expression or self-directed action. God did not free us for autonomy, he freed us for loving relationships with God and with each other. And relationships always in the Bible have boundaries.

I am not sure which Evangelicals you may be talking about, but most of the one's I know are certainly not legalists. I would suggest, since you have cited the Psalms, that you sit down and read Psalm 119. What it says is as true for Christians as it was for the Psalm--- the Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. Its words are like honey in my mouth.

It may seem a puzzle but even love is commanded in the Bible, indeed it is the great commandment, and what is being referred to is making a decision of the will and putting one's self into active obedience.

As for dancing I love dancing as well. One of the things worth dancing about, is that I don't have to make up life's rules as I go along, nor do I have to believe the myth that I am free to do so.

God has shown me the path that saves, and the behavior that pleases Him. It is a joy to go down that road, a joy that goes well beyond the fleeting sense that I am free to choose whatever I want to do. That's a rather American definition of freedom, but its not a Biblical one.


Ben W.

Dan McGowan said...

Ben - does Jesus' death and ressurrection make any difference between an "Old Testment" way of life vs. a "New Testament" way of life?

Does living on THIS side of the cross alter any aspect of what the Old Testament teaches?

And - I stand by what I said - yes, Ben, you ARE free to do whatever you want to do in life - however, every choice you make (or I make) will bring with it certain ramifications... as I said, if I TRULY love Jesus, then I will not make CERTAIN choices in my freedom - but that is VERY different from living under the legalistic hand of a legalistic God who won't LET me do certain things... In other words - the moment we have restrictions placed upon us, we are no longer really free...

I also stand by my statement that no matter what you may believe about grace & law, and what I may believe about the same topic - we with BOTH be living eternally in glory because we BOTH follow Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Dan:

One last time with gusto--- this has been a good exchange.

Of course Jesus' death and resurrection makes a difference. We now have the fullness of grace which enables us to better love and obey God as part of our free response to what we have received.

It is simply untrue however that the OT is all about Law and the NT is all about grace. God was gracious before Jesus came, and there is certainly Law in the NT as well.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a piety that has an allergic reaction to what God says we "must" do. Jesus did not promise us no yoke of commands--- he promised us a light one, and that he would help us bear it.

If I am understanding you rightly, you seem to think I believe God is compelling me to do what is right. Nope--- I am not an Augustinian or a Calvinist. God is however 'requiring' me to do quite a lot of things, but of course my response is up to me. That doesn't make an appropriate response optional So perhaps we agree on that point.

What I find dangerous is not the freedom we have in Christ. I find dangerous the implication that since Christ has set us free we are not 'required' to do anything.

As John Wesley says, all the commandments of God are covered promises---God enables us to do what he requires us to do. Or as Augustine says--- "give what you command o Lord, and then command whatever you will".

It is a mistake to pit faith over against works--- as James says "faith without works is dead" Such an antithesis isn't Biblical faith. More importantly, faith without obedience is not genuine Biblical faith either.

"Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey."


Ben W.

James Gregory said...

just a few things to note:

Christ said that did not come to abolish or do away with the Law but to fulfill and complete it.

James also refers to the perfect law of liberty, which is the Law in my understanding

This has been a very good on-going conversation
However, I would like to pursue it further than this blog will be able to allow

Ben, would you be so kind as to give me some of your best proof-texts for gambling as a sin, or all if you can, and i will pursue this issue further in my own studies?

Thanks to all,


Ben Witherington said...

James--- too many texts to deal with here are two to start with--- consider the theology of stewardship implied in Ps. 24.1-2. Its not our money!!!! We must do what pleases him and furthers his cause with it.

Consider carefully Gen. 1.28-29-- the task of human being is to fill, subdue, and rule over the world. All this requires work of one kind or another. Consider as well Gen. 2.15--- we are the caretakers of the earth. I point all this out to make clear that 'work' is not the curse. It is the original task God has set for us, and to seek to circumvent that task by gambling so that "I won't have to work any more" is to circumvent some of the primary functions for which we were created--- work produces fruit, offspring, filling the earth, subduing it, caretaking. Nowhere is there a theology of retirement in the Bible.

I would suggest you read the stuff on interest rates and loaning money as well in the Pentateuch. Remember throwing pearls (including hard earned dollars) before swine ( or swindlers) is not an option.



James Gregory said...

thanks for the input, Ben.

Additionally, although I have yet to determine is gambling is an outright sin itself, it does not excuse the fact that in many cases gambling is against the law, it carries the appearance of evil, it leads to the association with the wrong people, it can cause others to stumble, it is not beneficial though permissible, it can lead to addiction, it is done without faith, and isn't necessarily Christ-honoring behavior. Therefore, gambling is not something a Christian ought to do, even if it can't conceivably be identified as an outright sin (Romans 13:1-2; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Corinthians 15:33; 1 Corinthians 8:13; 1 Corinthians 6:12; Romans 14:23; Philippians 1:20). From this perspective, then, gambling is a sin even though it may not be directly called a sin in the Scriptures.

All further discussion before this comment was done to determine whether or not gambling is directly (as opposed to indirectly) called a sin, but this does not excuse the fact that if it is indirectly associated with sin that it is morally wrong for the Christian.

Thanks again for your work and words.


Dan McGowan said...

I hate being misunderstood - but I can deal with it.

Wesley and Augustine are great guys - but they are not Jesus. I give far less credibility to their comments than that of God's Word.

I will continue to live 100% free in Christ - which does not mean (and I never said) it means you can do whatever you want without consequences. It simply means I am free in Christ.

When Christ died, I died with Him. When He raised, I raised with Him. I am a new creation - the old is gone, the new has come. We are free from the law, from the power of sin. We are no longer bound by the fears of men. All of this is because of Christ.

Because I love Him, I will enter into certain activities and refrain from others - but it's because I am free that I do this - it has nothing to do with the law that has been abolished.

I'm not ready to die on the hill and say gamblin is a sin... but I'm also not condoning it - it's more of an illness than anything else... if someone drives over the speed limit - it is a "sin" technically. How far do we take this condemning of each other?

Again - didn't Jesus take care of that on the cross?

No more from me on this - we'll all laugh about this one day in heaven.

Unless we gamble and go to hell - which we're free to do...

Tim W. said...

I just now read all of these comments and would like to make one quick posting. I agree with Ben that our "Freedom in Christ" allows us to do good works in obedience and that we are not "free in Christ" to do sinful works or works that don't glorify Him.
Back to the issue of gambling and my main point that I would like to make that poker is not a sin. Personally, I play in a poker game every one or two weeks with some buddies for around a $10 or $20 buy-in and honestly don’t feel guilty or sinful about that at all. I have however played at casinos a couple of times in my life and lost more money than that, and in turn I have felt guilty of sin in being a poor steward of my money.
To go back to the golf/poker analogy, poker is a game of strategy, percentages, skill, luck, etc. and is a past-time of mine where you put up a dollar amount with a prize for the top two or three finishers. In the same way I play a golf game with some buddies and we play for a few bucks just to make things interesting as well as a few professional events where you put up an entrance fee and have the chance to win a lot of money if you play well, also not a sin at all. (Investing in the stock market, also not a sin in of itself) Thus, golf is also a game of strategy, skill, and luck so if we are saying that golf and poker are sins, perhaps I am in need of repentance and need to completely change my life around. To reiterate, gambling (just in the sense of no-limit hold'em poker) is not a blatant "sin". It is just a once-in-a-while game for fun in which the entire strategy of the game involves playing for money, you can’t just play for no-money, there is no point in doing that. On the contrary, if you play way too much or play for more money than you can afford, or aren’t giving sacrificially to the Lord, then these activities can be sinful (if you feel convicted about golf, poker, investing, speeding, drinking, smoking cigars, etc. than dont partake in these activities and also dont partake in these activities if it causes a brother or sister to stumble), other than that, we are free in my opinion to enjoy these activities within reason. (Any other gambling games outside poker I will not comment on because I have no experience or knowledge on them.)
Finally, I believe and agree with Dan that we are all going to be rejoicing and praising God in Heaven together one day and that we are saved from our sin/sins solely on the blood of Christ alone, nothing more and nothing less. Ben, I appreciate you starting this discussion as it has been very insightful for me!

God Bless

BP said...

Gambling isn't a sin? Hmmm. Why does one gamble? At least one answer is to always "win" something. In gambling, one no longer trusts in, relies upon, nor adheres to what God has said or who He is and that is sin.

Well wait wait wait. I know. You've conjured up some justification for gambling like.... I don't know, fill in the blank. No matter what the other justifications for gambling may be, it can never not be to "win"; therefore it is sin!!!

If were so "free" then why do you have a problem with the freedom others are expressing Dan? and don't say you don't; otherwise you've been typing without a purpose and that's like turning the light switch on and off for an hour and that's called craziness.

If gambling is justified then it's irrelevant what your gambling for. I just have 1 question.

Anyone for casting lots?


Dan McGowan said...

Hi BP,

Huh??? You lost me - I don't have a problem with people freely stating their opinions - you may have misread something...

As for gambling absolutely being a sin - does anyone in this discussion trade stocks? If so, you are sinning - because you are gambling. There is no difference between the two - no matter how you rationalize it, in the end, you COULD LOSE your money when trading stocks.

I might be crazy - jury is still out on that one, bro... however, I have come to have a real distaste in my mouth for those who continue to live under law when we are free because of grace. At the same time, I'm not sure it's a topic to continue to debate... again - you will be in glory and so will I - THAT is the most important part of this whole interaction...

btw, is it a bull or bear market today?

selanderj said...

Christianity is a relationship with God.
Religion (or a cult) is one man stating that other people should have a relationship with God that is like his own relationship with God. What a pity to see some of you throw the baby out with the bath water over this issue? I think that Ben and people like BP should SERIOUSLY not gamble. It really seems like it would cause a riff between you and God. Great, I'm really happy that you're having success with your personal relationship with God. It's good to see that you've isolated things like:
1) Throwing a dollar in the slot machine the 1 time you go to Vegas in a year.


2) Playing cards with people you love for 10 bucks once a week and enjoying each other's company while having some competition.

Or better yet:

3) Doing anything where the goal is to "win"..... (Insert Tuba Sound here)...

Apparently, the above is truly separating some people from being "dialed-in" with regard to their relationship with the Lord. Well, I applaud your self perception. Seriously, that's great if it's really working for you and God.

Guess what though? Your relationship with God and the details that ensue while you live your daily journey with Him are not going to be the details that ensue with MY journey with the Lord.

"Gambling is a sin..." Always?!?!

What a joke??

It's as if you people have no faith in the impact Christ can make in a human's life?!
Meanwhile God is probably up in heaven right now shaking his head that his 'followers' are writing about whether 'doing' or 'don't-ing' gambling is even important.

In fact, let's start more blogs where we can waste the rest of our lives talking about mundane things and generalizing everything.

PEOPLE: the bible says Satan roams the earth seeking who he can destroy. This means that he uses everything from drugs, alcohol, sexual deviance, gambling, and even focusing on the rules instead of the RULER, to destroy us. Be careful all you 'teachers' out there, for you are judged differently then the rest of us. Taking the focus off Christ and the relationship that He desires is scary to me…

Meanwhile, I pray my relationship with the Lord will continue to grow for the rest of my life. I'm also serious when I say the following:
I will pray to God to see if my weekly poker game for a $20 buy in with all my best friends (while we sit there and laugh and tell stories for three hours or so) is sin. If He says that it's NOT causing a riff between Him and I, then I will react to articles like this the same way I wanted to react when I started reading this article....Hit DELETE and stay far away from legalism.

What’s next week? Gambling while being circumcised is not sin?!?! Sign me up… *Another tuba sound*

Thanks! Joe

Dan McGowan said...


I don't get the "tuba sound" but I like the post... I really liked you comment about focusing on the rules vs. focusing on the Ruler.

Thanks for your insights!

selanderj said...

Thanks Dan.

I liked your comments as well. I believe that a TRUE relationship with the Ruler will always produce the answers to the "do's" and "don't-s" (rules).
Thanks Ben for starting such a great amount of feedback. I believe God wants us to enhance each others spirtual lives. This probably wouldn't happen if we all agreed on everything. Nonetheless, I believe that all this feedback has proven this topic to be a mole hill. I ain't about to die on it. I WILL die on the fact that my relationship with the Ruler is most important. Nothing but good flows from keeping Him first.
Oh and I always insert tuba sounds when I'm being a 'little' sarcastic..

Over and out for now. Joe

BP said...

This is what I stand on.

1Co 10:23 "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up.
1Co 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.

Brian said...

good discussion...

I actually think issues like this should be discussed.

Are they trivial in the grand scheme of things? Sure...however, most things are trivial when put in that perspective (I am talking things of Christianity here, doctrines, etc etc...).

The fact of the matter is...we do discuss the "little things" and it can be beneficial.

At any rate, I have no problems with "gambling". I think the problem really lies in the definition and perception. However, I think it falls in line with things like dancing, drinking alcohol, instruments in church, etc etc...

On the other hand, I don't have a problem with Christians stating it is a sin (as long as they make it clear it is a sin for them).

However, to say that it is a sin for everyone is irresponsible. Especially if you do things like "invest" in stocks. It is like the vegan (based on animal rights/cruelty) owning leather.

Investing in the stock market is no different than playing poker. I suppose there is one is viewed as high class and acceptable and the other is not. Though I have to say that since poker is becoming a popular sport the above view is starting to changea little.

As another commenter mentioned, 1 Corinthians 10:23+ is something to look at.

Obviously, if you are doing things that cause your brother to stumble you should look at them (and pray about them). However, that does not mean you should abandon attempting to educate your brother about the issues in question.


noname said...


noname said...

Ooops about the last blog. Am new at this blog thing. I play roulette for a living. I do ofcourse lose hands during a session but I always win at the end of a session (1-2hr period). No one has ever taken care of me. Experience has taught me that I have to take care of myself. I believe in good work ethics but since I am half dead from trying to support myself and pets by working 2 blue collar jobs for 3 yrs, playing roulette now enables me to regain my health and my sanity. Besides since my percentage of winning is 95% therefore playing roulette is not a matter of gambling when I do it. After all God created the mathematical odds that the game is bound by. Besides I have still not been able to find an egalitarian church. I have no home church. Which church shall support me? Where is the person that says that gambling is "a sin period" because I am wondering something. Will that person support me? Such a person should try being ME thereby having within their being all past BAD work related experiences and THEN work a blue collar job.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Witherington,

I enjoy reading your blog. It is very inspiring. My question is out of subject (I apologize). I am interested doing Ph.D. work in New Testament studies concentrating in the Gospels, Historical Jesus and Johannine Literature. What are the schools will you recommend for such pursuit?

ciscoblog said...

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LasrFalconFan said...

Furthermore, what of competitions that have a prize? An entry fee is required, which usually is a little amount of money compared to the first place prize. You enter, pay the fee, compete fairly without any guarantee that you are going to win, like the PGA or NASCAR, for example. Same principle: getting a lot of something for next to nothing. But the analogy draws thin here, because not only do PGA and NASCAR athletes put up a fee but they also demonstrate raw and spectacular talent--those who perform the best and have stood up to the qualifications receive the prize. Yet, the element of getting a lot of something for next to nothing still exists.

i wanted to ask about this point. would it be considered a sin that someone paying an entry fee for a professional sporting event and won the sporting event and collected the money. I mean it takes great skill to win the sporting event but it could be considered a gamble none the less.

and wasnt there a verse in the bible about taking advantage of your brother? could entering in a sporting event with worse players than you be taking advantage of them? anyway, just was wondering

Unknown said...

Hello all I just came across this blog and I have only looked over about half of it I'm not a big reader, sorry but I do want to comment on the subject.I mean no disrespect and I am only voiceing my opinion to get God out of the box we call religion. I recently had a conversation with God on this very subject and he said "Steve I don't have anymore problem with playing poker than I do with eating" and I was thinking what! God said "if someone over endulges in eating and get fat that is a glutney which is no different than one that over endulges in gambling or drinking or exercise or the stock market it is a mater of the heart when selfish lust enters in is when the problem begins" The lord has put the desire in my heart to start a poker ministry I know this my sound rediculous to many of you thats ok it sounds a little crazy to me also concidering I'm not very good at the game, but God dosn't call the qualified He qualifies the called, thank you Jesus. If it had not been for his love, mercy and grace I would be here typing this note and hacking the spelling on all these words hallelujah! anyway back to what God was telling me He said that He wants the Gospel taken to places such as the poker table he wants all those people to know how much he loves them and that he loves them just the way they are right where they are and it's not about doing everything just right but that it is about relationship with Him and if they have a gambling problem or an eating problem or a drinking problem it's ok becuse the more they get to know Him and his uncondtional love and His grace and mercy all those things will fall away and the new man will amerge. Well thats all for now my pecking fingers are getting tired. Love you all and never forget we are all on the same team. Steve
P.S. about 96% of people who invest in the stock market lose money.

Unknown said...

I don't think that online gambling is the actual problem. If you think that you can't hold your horses when stepping into a virtual online casino, then you shouldn't be there. It is just a matter of personal strenght.

Anonymous said...

I don't see gambling as a sin in itself. It definately depends on the circumstance.

Anonymous said...

i think it is an individuals decision whether they gamble or not! i personally play online bingo games, they dont cost a lot and are loads of fun and i dont see it as a massive gamble and soemthing i could stop 2moro!

Jaredd said...

Dear Ben

I am a christian and have always battled with God about gambling, and tonight as I played Poker online I prayed while i was playing and thought hey God you can bless me thro this... So $600 later, I googled God and Gambling only to find this blog. I have never blogged before but here i am. I learnt tonight that when i gamble even with $1 I am doing it to win. That emotion that rises up within me is incredible.. I guess if God wanted us to Gamble He would bless the Christain nation thro it but it is not of Him. We can justify it any way we want but I have lost thousands, and no one I know is up, my buddy drops about $8000 a week on the horses, yes he has some wins but he told me he is still down alot.
I think it is a dangerous thing to play with and if you do win, you will lose twice as much within time, I have, i actually am down about 20 times what i first won. We can argue for hours about the petty things and compare it to copying videos or chewing gum but hey we all know within where we stand with God, it is between you and
Him and you cant lie to yourself.. we all have vices and we all justify it, but enough is enough.... the drugs the internet porn the prostitutes the affairs.....we all have skeletons if we only realised hiding it all keeps us trapped..... God doesnt want us to have guilt its not of Him..... may His mercy be on all of us.....Thank Christ for what He did

Jaredd said...

Dear Ben

I am a christian and have always battled with God about gambling, and tonight as I played Poker online I prayed while i was playing and thought hey God you can bless me thro this... So $600 later, I googled God and Gambling only to find this blog. I have never blogged before but here i am. I learnt tonight that when i gamble even with $1 I am doing it to win. That emotion that rises up within me is incredible.. I guess if God wanted us to Gamble He would bless the Christain nation thro it but it is not of Him. We can justify it any way we want but I have lost thousands, and no one I know is up, my buddy drops about $8000 a week on the horses, yes he has some wins but he told me he is still down alot.
I think it is a dangerous thing to play with and if you do win, you will lose twice as much within time, I have, i actually am down about 20 times what i first won. We can argue for hours about the petty things and compare it to copying videos or chewing gum but hey we all know within where we stand with God, it is between you and
Him and you cant lie to yourself.. we all have vices and we all justify it, but enough is enough.... the drugs the internet porn the prostitutes the affairs.....we all have skeletons if we only realised hiding it all keeps us trapped..... God doesnt want us to have guilt its not of Him..... may His mercy be on all of us.....Thank Christ for what He did