I recently read Prof argues against expanded gambling in the BPNews. Hershael York, a professors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary argued against Kentucky’s proposal for “expanded gambling.” York purports that gambling is sin, plain and simple.
After being saved I was told that gambling was a sin. Why? For many reasons, some of which York claims, such as, it breaks up families, it is greed, it is like stealing from your neighbor, etc. At the time my buddies and I got together every Friday night to play Texas Hold’em. It was a favorite of ours, we would all come to the table, put ten dollars down for poker chips and use the pot to pay for pizza. Usually the last one standing got the rest of the dough (the money, not the pizza).
One of my closest friends was pretty upset about me stopping. He posed an excellent question to me. He asked, “What is the difference between spending 10$ on a movie and 10$ playing cards.” It was a good question to ask in the face of my “stewardship” defense. My backup defense was that I was putting my money up to “chance.” My pastor at the time told me that he use to gamble in Seminary but it wasn’t for money, because of the stewardship issue, it was for toothpicks or some other “no value” item.
As I started to ask myself the “Why?” questions and I looked to Scripture for answers, I came up empty handed.
I realized that the “chance” argument was completely flawed. How could I, who claims that God is sovereign over everything believe in chance? Of course I don’t and didn’t. So then, what do I say about the good stewardship thing? My friend had a point – so if I stop gambling because of stewardship, then I should stop having pizza night. If stewardship was really the issue, then we should all probably go to drinking river water and eating locusts.
What about the other issues?
Does gambling break up families? No. This is called shifting the blame. It would be like saying cabbage breaks up families or space breaks up families. Gambling doesn’t break anything up, people who abuse their family relationships break up families. If you take away gambling it will be with TV, or Computers, or Trading Cards, or Metal Detecting that ‘breaks up families.’
Are you greedy? Perhaps. The problem here is the old chicken and the egg issue. Are you greedy because you gamble or do you gamble because you are greedy? I think the latter. If I am correct, then taking away gambling does not stop the sin (greed).
Are you really stealing from your neighbor? No. A thief takes something from someone when he does not know and when he is not suspecting. When you are at a table playing poker with other players, you are all in a contract with one another. You have agreed to pay the other person if they do a better job than you. When you are at the slots, you are in a contract with the casino. You have agreed to pay the casino for the sake of entertainment or for the opportunity of getting a larger return than “invested.”
So what is wrong with gambling? In my estimation, nothing. The problems York and others have listed stem from the heart, not from the game. Only Jesus can fix the heart. I think we should spend more of our energy helping others with their heart problems and less time worrying about these distractions.