Online Gambling: Thou Shalt or Thou Shalt Not?

For the most part, monotheistic religion frowns on gambling; the Judeo-Christian morality on which most English speaking countries have founded their laws, all be it via various degrees of separation, considers gambling, online or otherwise to be a big no-no; a Thou Shalt Not, in other words. But why? A sport is a sport, and entertainment costs money so why is this particular form of entertainment generally considered with distaste.

A Christian would find it difficult to produce a clear biblical injunction in either the Old or New Testament against gambling, however he may proffer one of several possible arguments inferred from the text. There are a number of examples in which the New Testament clearly indicates that work is the way to make money, and should this prove impossible then prayer must be turned to (see Eph. 4:28; IIThess. 3:12; Phil.4:6, 19). This, the Christian may argue, is clearly a prohibition against professional gambling, but what of gambling for fun? It may be argued that at various points in the Bible it is made clear that all earthly belongings actually belong to God and therefore people should use them only for God’s bidding, and gambling is not that. Furthermore, greed and covetousness are both strictly prohibited in the bible and both are often understood to be contributing factors to the desire to gamble. Finally, there are a number of ‘character’ arguments that are drawn from the Scriptures including that getting rich quick brings disasters, money raised through inappropriate means breaks up families (Prov. 15:27), and as in Corinthians 8 it is each Christians responsibility to set a good example and partaking in a potentially addictive activity is not setting a good example.

Further general biblical principles often sited as being contravened by gambling include loving thy neighbor, not taking advantage of the poor, and trust in God to provide. That being said, if all players are consenting adults and playing purely for entertainment, what is the problem?

The Jewish response may be a little fuzzier. For starters there are a number of examples in the Jewish books of the bible where lots were drawn to determine issues: One may ask, if God can reveal his wish through lots and all is his will why does this logic disappear when it comes to gambling? Post-biblical Jewish scripture relates that a professional gambler should not be trusted as a witness, telling us that in the time of the rabbis such a person may have existed but it makes no judgment specifically regarding the status of gambling as legal or not.  The strongest denouncement in Jewish tradition of gambling comes from the middle ages and the great teacher Maimonides who taught that gambling between Jews was prohibited as money was taken by one party against the other party’s wishes: Maimonides understood that no-one wanted to loose and therefore the money taken was in fact stolen. For Maimonides the winner of a game of dice on which money was bet was a thief, and the loser had simply wasted his time. Having said that, there are a number of gambling traditions within the Jewish year, for example dreidle spinning on Chanukah, and it is not unusual to find raffles or lottery style fund raisers in synagogues today.

So, is online gambling a Thou Shalt or a Thou Shalt Not? You have the information, now it’s up to you to decide.

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