Is there a clear biblical position against lotteries and casino gambling?

Is there an explicit, direct, biblical prohibition of casino gambling or lotteries? Not that I know of. However, the Christian church has consistently taken a dim view of casino gambling and the use of lotteries based on the implications of certain biblical principles. For example, in the church where I am ordained as a minister, part of our confessional position is that we are to follow not only what the Bible teaches explicitly but what can be drawn from the Scriptures by clear and necessary inference. The Bible does have clear principles that touch issues like this. The most notable, of course, is the principle of stewardship, whereby I am responsible to act as a steward of my possessions, including my wealth, and not be wasteful or irresponsible in how I spend my money.

The biggest problem I have personally with casino gambling, and particularly with lotteries, is that they tend to be very poor investments, and inevitably they exploit the poor of the society. The poor man dreams of improving his material welfare. He dreams of owning a house and a nice car. He dreams of being liberated from the endless grinding tasks of day-to-day toil with very small rewards. As a person working for a low hourly wage or depending on a government welfare check, he never has much of an opportunity to accumulate enough money to give himself a solid base or invest in the future. His only chance to get financial security and improve his situation is to hit the numbers or to hit it big in the casinos. He will take his dollar and hope to win the million-dollar jackpot. That’s his dream. But he doesn’t have a full understanding of how the system works and how huge the odds are against him.

We went through this struggle in the state of Pennsylvania when I was living there, and everybody was worried about organized crime and all of that. Well, organized crime was already there. When I was growing up, there was already a lottery in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t state owned; it was run by the Mafia, and you could buy a number on almost any street corner in Pittsburgh. The thing that astonished me was that when the state took it over for the benefit of senior citizens, the odds for winning under the state-run system were worse than the odds under the Mafia’s system. So I saw the state taking advantage of people’s desire for the get-rich-quick dollar and exploiting the poor by this terrible form of investment.

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©1996 by R.C. Sproul. Used by permission of Tyndale.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.