Gambling

This may be defined as an agreement between two or more parties in which the transfer of something of value from one party to another is made to depend solely on an event the outcome of which is unknown, and perhaps unknowable, to the parties. Covered by the definition are betting, lotteries, and financial speculation. Insurance is excluded, being understood as a way of minimizing insecurity in the face of what are regarded as inevitable risks.

The dominant view in the church has been that though it is not wrong to make decisions depend on the outcome of a “chance” event such as a lottery, gambling is wrong because it involves covetousness, the seeking of gain at another's expense, and financial irresponsibility. Objections to gambling based on the view that all events are, or ought to be, within the control of “rational” human decisions are obviously incompatible with a serious recognition of divine sovereignty and so are unsound from a Christian standpoint.

On the above definition, gambling is not a greater evil than other abuses that the church has been more reluctant to condemn, for example, financial and economic exploitation. Further, where the amounts of money or objects of value are small, where the practice is carefully regulated, and where it has the unconstrained agreement of all parties, the evils of gambling are sometimes regarded as at a minimum. Many Christians, however, regard gambling as intrinsically evil.

Where gambling is uncontrolled and large amounts of money become involved, or where poor people are pressed into parting with what they have in the belief they may easily win large amounts of money, it can interfere with family life and with work. It can attract crime and lead in some cases to addiction and compulsive neuroses. In evaluating gambling from a Christian point of view, attention should be focused not only on gambling as an activity that is socially evil, but also on the conditions, moral and social, that give rise to it.