Questions and Answers

by Bobby L. Graham


Are Gambling and Playing the Lottery Sinful?


Gambling in any form, including the lottery, has proved to be a financial drain on those who can least afford the loss. It is also a social blight to the communities depending on it, and a moral curse to those participating in it. By leaving such a wake of destruction wherever it spreads, how can people recommend gambling or even a lottery?

Jimmy the Greek, a famous oddsmaker from a previous generation, warned about becoming involved in gambling: "They should never legalize gambling in America. If you think dope addiction is bad, a guy who gets hooked on gambling goes all the way. The average American does not have the discipline to quit. God forbid if they legalize gambling." Jimmy quit gambling in 1961, did not visit the newly opened casinos in Atlantic City, NJ, and had no plans to do so. He further said gambling is for suckers and that he had seen many lose their homes and families because of gambling debt.

"But the lottery is just a game," one objects. Friend, it is much more than a game. It is a legalized form of betting on the outcome of a drawing for a winner. In that respect, playing the lottery is precisely like betting on a football game. Both forms of gambling involve a game (football and the lottery), but both are still gambling: placing a wager on the outcome of an event. Whether the event is a game of skill (football, horse racing) or one of chance (lottery), the outcome is not known because chance is involved even in a game of skill, thus allowing the placing of a bet/wager on its outcome. This is what gambling is, and the unknown element provides the thrill for millions!

Why are gambling and playing the lottery sinful? Consider the following brief list of scriptural reasons:

  1. Gambling/lottery violates the Golden Rule and its core principle of loving treatment of others as one desires to be treated (Matt. 7:12). Who would want another to try to "beat him out of his money" coming from the lottery?
  2. Gambling/lottery is addictive, appealing through covetousness and thrill to one's desire to get more and have more. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:12, the Spirit warns against being brought under the power of anything. When covetousness is removed from the picture, there will be no desire to gamble/play the lottery. It is a sin; it is the root of all evils (Col. 3:5-6; 1 Tim. 6:10).
  3. Gambling/lottery is stealing by consent, because it arises from the desire to take from another that which he does not wish to surrender, without giving that person a fair return for what is being taken. Stealing is sinful; in fact, it should be replaced by work, so that one then has what he can give to others in need (Eph. 4:28). Gambling is not an acceptable way of gaining wealth, but labor is! Though all participating in any form of gambling give their consent, the fact is that dueling also implies consent to have one life taken by another. In either case, consent does not make the practice moral or right in God's sight.
  4. Some attempt to justify certain forms of gambling, like the lottery, because "good causes" are funded by the practice (schools, civic-club endeavors, etc.). However, Scripture shows that the principle of doing evil so that good might result is unacceptable to God (Rom. 3:8). The end does not justify the means; the means must first qualify as good in God's eyes before it can be used to support a good cause.
  5. The odds of winning a lottery are so infinitely small that one's stewardship of the money/possessions God has entrusted to him has to be classified as bad stewardship when he gambles/plays the lottery. The Lord intends for us to practice good stewardship (Prov. 28:20; 1 Cor. 4:2).
  6. God's word shows us how to gain wealth and to transfer it to others: (1) honest work (Eph. 4:28); (2) fair exchange/buying-selling (Acts 4:32-37); (3) giving (Matt. 7:11); (4) and investing (Matt. 25:14-30). Since He has not included or commended any form of gambling, we do not depend on such doubtful practices.

Playing the lottery is not just a game. People who think so are deceived, thus making themselves even easier prey for the "gambling mania" sweeping the nation and the world and more likely victims of the destruction which gambling can produce. Friends, wake up, and realize what is happening to individuals, married couples, families, churches, and communities because of gambling's push to control our lives!

Author Bio: Bobby L. Graham preaches and is an elder for the Old Moulton Rd church of Christ in Decatur, AL. He and his wife, Karen, have three children: Richard, Mary Katherine Winland (Darren), and Laura Paschall (Jeremy). He can be reached at