Can I point to a Scripture passage that says, “Thou shalt not gamble”?  

Not in those exact words, not even in the KJV. But if we look at the Bible’s primary message, it is against gambling. 

First, gambling results from, and also encourages, obsession with material wealth.  

  • “If riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” (Psalm 62:10b) 

  • “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (I Timothy 6:10) 

  • “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

The Bible is not against wealth, but it does warn against a preoccupation with wealth. Gambling encourages that preoccupation. 

Second, gambling undermines the work ethic and encourages get-rich-quick thinking. 

The Bible encourages us to labor to gain wealth: “Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give unto him that needeth.” (Ephesians 4:28). The Scriptures contrast this work ethic with get-rich-quick schemes like gambling: 

  • “He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons [RSV: worthless pursuits] shall have poverty enough. A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.” (Proverbs 28:19-20) 

  • “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished [Living Bible: Wealth from gambling quickly disappears]: but he that gathereth by labor shall increase.” (Proverbs 13:11) 

According to the Bible, the way to become prosperous is to contribute something of value through your time, your labor, your skills, or your capital. A carpenter builds a house for someone, and that person pays him for his time and skill. A doctor provides medical services in return for a fee. The seller gets paid the money he needs, and the buyer receives the goods or services he wants. Both parties benefit from the exchange. 

But not with gambling! When you gamble, you gain only at others’ expense. You win only as others lose. Every dollar you win is a dollar someone else has lost. If you win a million-dollar lottery, a million others have lost a dollar. And usually, the losers are those who can least afford to lose. 

We come back to the ancient command of Genesis 3:19: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” 

But someone may ask, is gambling any different from playing the stock market or investing in real estate?  

High-risk speculation may be wrong, especially if one cannot afford to lose. But investing is different from gambling. The investor does not simply trust blind chance. Rather, he studies the market, consults financial counselors, and makes the soundest decisions he can, but even then, he does not invest more than he can afford to lose. 

Furthermore, the investor puts his money to work, loaning it to others at interest so they can use it to expand their businesses and create jobs.  

Gambling denies the providence of God. 

As I note in by book "Legalized Gambling: America’s Bad Bet," the pagan nations that surrounded Israel often worshipped good fortune and bad fortune as gods: 

'But ye are they that forsake the Lord, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop [RSV: Fortune], and that furnish the drink offering unto that number [RSV: Destiny].' (Isaiah 65:11) 

Nolan P. Howlington says concerning this passage of Scripture, 

'The deities mentioned here, Fortune and Destiny (Gad and Meni) were the gods of fate, and were symbols of good and ill luck. The prophet’s protest was against those Israelites who trusted to chance rather than God. It also involved those who sought a syncretized religion that included both the God of Israel and the gods of luck. The prophet’s disclaimer contains an abiding insight: Faith magnifies the providential care of God; the cult of luck menaces such faith. Forms of activity that tip the hat to chance or preserve the worship of luck must therefore be seriously questioned by the religiously motivated individual.' 

As a person becomes a compulsive gambler, his addiction seems to take on a religious zeal: 

'The gambler’s compulsion is triggered by the first big win. When inevitably, a losing streak sets in, the compulsive gambler increases his bets. As his losses become greater, superstition and magic begin replacing the gambler’s keen judgment. He uses up his earnings and falls behind on his debts. In time, the gambler’s personality degenerates, his career and family life may be ruined and his life becomes a nightmare.' 

Compulsive gambling sounds strangely like the worship of those pagan gods Isaiah spoke of, 'Fortune' and 'Destiny,' all under the spell of 'Lady Luck.' Look Magazine Senior Editor Grereon Zimmerman simply says that 'most gambling is an unreasoned primitive plea for Dame Fortune’s favors.' One remembers the Broadway musical Guys ‘N Dolls in which the gambler places all his hopes for love, marriage, and the future on a dice game, and, as he gets ready to roll the dice, he sings pleadingly, 'Luck, Be a Lady Tonight.'

No, there is no passage of Scripture that expressly says “Thou shalt not gamble.” But the message of the Bible is that we trust in God’s providence and gain wealth by working productively and investing wisely. The gambling worldview is that of a universe governed by the gods of blind chance in which one gets rich at the expense of others. Biblical morality is therefore the antithesis of gambling. 

In this series of five columns, we’ve see that (1) Gambling doesn’t create wealth; it simply redistributes wealth at the expense of the poor; (2) Gambling swept America twice in the past, and each time it proved to be a disaster; (3) Gambling leads to addiction, resulting in ruined families and ruined lives; (4) Gambling is linked to crime – crimes committed by gamblers, increased illegal gambling, corruption in the gambling industry, and links to organized crime; and (5) Gambling is the antithesis of Biblical morality. 

Knowing this, we must ask ourselves: Will legalized gambling really make Alabama a better place in which to live and raise children? 

The answer should be self-evident. 

Col. Eidsmoe is Professor of Constititonal Law for the Oak Brook College of Law & Government Policy ( and Senior Counsel for the Foundation for Moral Law (; 334/262-1245). He may be contacted for speaking engagements at

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