God’s Attitude Toward Gambling
God’s people in
Bible times apparently were not greatly
tempted with gambling. It seems the vice
manifested itself only when Israel was
dominated by heathen nations. When gambling
did occur God clearly indicated His attitude
During their Babylonian captivity the
Israelites came under the influence of
people who gambled. As a result some of the
captives also became involved. To these
people God through Isaiah said, “Ye are they
that forsake the Lord, that forget my holy
mountain, that prepare a table for that
troop, and that furnish the drink offering
unto that number” (Isaiah 65:11, KJV). As
indicated in some modern translations of the
Bible, the Hebrew words translated “troop”
and “number” were names of the heathen gods
“Gad” and “Meni.” To the heathen, Gad was
the giver of good luck. Meni was the god of
bad luck. The translation of Isaiah 65:11 by
James Moffat is as follows: “But ye who have
forsaken the Eternal, ye who ignore his
sacred hill, spreading tables to Good Luck,
pouring libations to Fate, I make the sword
General Council of the Assemblies of God
A Biblical Perspective on Gambling
Lottery sales are up, and desperate people are
there is a silver lining to the economic
recession, it could be that some forms of
gambling are in decline. Many casinos and
racetracks have reported decreased revenue as
Americans scale back on travel.
in some states, lottery sales have increased as
down-on-their-luck consumers purchase tickets in
hopes of scoring a windfall.
“Some people who wouldn’t normally take a risk
are now trying to get back what they’ve lost,”
says Jerry Prosapio, co-founder of Gambling
Exposed in Crestwood, Ill., a Christian
organization that opposes all forms of gambling.
“They’ve lost jobs. They’ve lost everything. And
so they buy these scratch-off tickets in hopes
of getting quick cash.”
Prosapio has experienced the devastating effects
of gambling. He started wagering on poker games
as a third-grader, enjoying the rush that came
from winning. In high school, he spent his free
time hanging around racetracks, observing the
events like an apprentice studying a trade.
21, he took his first trip to a casino, where he
lost all his money but saw a stranger win big.
That was all it took.
Bible says in Proverbs 14:12, ‘There is a way
that seems right to a man, but in the end it
leads to death,’ ” Prosapio says. “Winning
became my goal in life.”
goal nearly destroyed Prosapio. Though he
married and became a father, the gambling
addiction grew. In the first two years of his
marriage, he maxed out 17 credit cards and
borrowed additional cash from family and
friends. After exhausting his other sources of
money, he accepted a loan from an organized
Prosapio fell behind on the street loan, a
member of the mob showed up at his door,
threatening his wife and infant son.
“That was hitting bottom for me,” Prosapio says.
“I knew I was not only risking my own life over
this, but now my family as well.”
Prosapio joined a chapter of Gamblers Anonymous.
Eventually, he accepted Christ as his Savior and
broke free from his addictions. That was 26
“Everything I thought I could get by gambling —
happiness, peace of mind, fulfillment — I’ve
gotten by not gambling,” Prosapio says.
Today, Prosapio shares his story in churches,
where he says he encounters many Christians
secretly in the throes of gambling. In one
Assemblies of God church, he says he met a
husband and wife who were both compulsive
gamblers to the point that they couldn’t put
food on the table.
Christians, playing the lottery may be more of a
temptation than other forms of gambling because
some believe purchasing tickets is somehow more
acceptable than visiting casinos.
Gambling Exposed survey of teens in church youth
groups and Christian schools, 47 percent said
someone in their extended family whom they
considered Christian purchased lottery tickets.
One in three teens said a Christian in their
immediate family played the lottery.
Assemblies of God Chaplain Glen Ryswyk, a
nationally certified gambling counselor and
clinical director of the Christian Family
Counseling Center in Lawton, Okla., says any
form of gambling — including the lottery — can
lead to addiction.
see the lottery as a gateway to more significant
and destructive forms of gambling, much like
marijuana is the gateway to harder drugs,”
There is also a risk that playing the lottery
can become the primary addiction, he notes.
have heard of people spending their whole
paycheck on lottery tickets,” he says. “As with
other forms of gambling, a win becomes a curse.
They have to go back and get a bigger win. Money
is no longer the motivation. Money is only a
means to play. They’re chasing the high of the
win. That’s why it’s so addictive.”
than half of all states with lotteries reported
increased sales in the second half of 2008,
particularly in daily games and instant
scratch-offs. Some states have proposed measures
for expanding these games to make up for budget
shortfalls in difficult economic times.
Scratch-off ticket sales represent big money for
state-run lotteries. During the last week in
April, instant tickets accounted for 71.8
percent of lottery tickets sold in Texas,
bringing in more than $51 million, according to
the Texas Lottery Commission.
Charles Mattix, pastor of First Assembly of God
in Barstow, Calif., has seen firsthand what
gambling does to a community.
Located two hours from Las Vegas, the
economically depressed city of 24,700 is rife
with tragic stories of gambling addiction.
wife of one of our church members told me her
husband has been so addicted to gambling that
their family has been nearly torn apart,” Mattix
availability of lottery tickets at virtually
every corner service station only adds to the
problem, Mattix says.
“Unemployment, predominately minimum wage
earnings and government-assisted income is the
breeding ground for the lotto smorgasbord,”
Mattix says. “Purchasing gas at the local
convenience store, I see insolvent seekers
standing in line to buy their tickets. Their aim
is to become rich with minimal investment, with
dreams of quitting their jobs and living in
likelihood of a big lottery win is slim, to say
the least. Mike Orkin, author of Can You Win?
The Real Odds for Casino Gambling, Sports
Betting and Lotteries, calculated that one
person purchasing 50 lottery tickets a day would
strike it rich once every 5,000 years.
James Walsh, author of True Odds, put
it another way by saying a lottery player is
much more likely to die of a flesh-eating
bacteria than to win the jackpot.
biggest losers are often those who can least
afford to play. Lottery tickets often sell best
in the most impoverished counties, which could
explain why the lottery industry targets the
poor with strategic marketing.
Prosapio says a billboard displayed a few years
ago in a Chicago ghetto featured a lottery
ticket and the slogan: “This could be your
wheels behind gambling are covetousness and
greed,” Prosapio says. “In order for you to win,
somebody else has to lose.”
Assemblies of God opposes all forms of gambling.
According to the Fellowship’s official position
paper, gambling is wrong because it disregards
responsible stewardship, involves a game of
chance at the expense and suffering of others,
is inconsistent with the work ethic taught in
Scripture, and tends to be habit forming.
“Gambling is a pseudo form of grace,” Ryswyk
says. “People are searching for life, for the
answer to their hopes and dreams, in something
other than God. Yet it’s quite phenomenal the
number of people I see in gambling counseling
who are people of faith. There are a lot of
hurting people in our midst who need the true
grace that comes from a relationship with
CHRISTINA QUICK is a freelance writer and former
TPE staff writer. She lives in
Springfield, Mo., and attends Central Assembly
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