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Why not gamble? If Moses had made this an eleventh commandment, he could have saved a great deal of heartache and pain.
We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
(2 Thess. 3:7-8)
"Dr. Sala, do you ever gamble?" "Sure, John," I replied. "I gamble every time I turn the key of my car and drive down the street. I gamble when I get on an airplane or put money in the bank." "No," he said. "I mean do you gamble with money?" "No way." "Well, why not?"

That exchange which took place with a neighbor over the side fence happened a number of years ago. I probably told John that I couldn't afford to lose, but I've thought a good deal about the issue in recent months, especially as it has become an increasingly popular pastime with such great promise. "Win the lottery: pay off your bills, buy a nice home for your elderly parents, take a much-deserved vacation and give a large chunk to your church or to your favorite charity." Why not?
One friend who invests a pretty large sum in the lottery every month says that when he wins, he'll let his wife work at Guidelines as a volunteer. No. I used the wrong word. Putting money in the lottery isn't an investment. It is a chance, and a fat chance at that. The chances of getting struck by lightning are seven times as great as winning the big one.
Take a moment and look up the word gamble in the dictionary and you will find definitions such as, "to hazard; wager. A transaction involving gambling; hence, anything involving a like risk or uncertainty."
Why not gamble? If Moses had made this an eleventh commandment, he could have saved a great deal of heartache and pain. Though gambling isn't directly mentioned in Scripture, the issue is addressed in rather blunt terms.

Part of the answer to the question of "Why not?" is that gambling involves getting something which you neither deserve nor worked for. Your gain is the result of somebody's loss, and it is well possible that the money you win was grocery and rent money which someone else could ill afford to lose. This violates the very context of Biblical teaching which is: God blesses the fruit of our effort and by our sweat we earn our bread and keep.
As David Neff and Thomas Giles put it, "To gamble is to put at risk something of value in the hopes of getting something worth far more. It usually involves artificially-created chance (dice, roulette wheels, and cards, for example) or an event that is hard to predict (a horse race or a cock fight). And the winnings of a few are usually financed by the losses of the many" (David Neff and Giles, "Feeding the Monster Called More," Christianity Today,Nov. 25, 1991, p. 19).
Gambling is an addiction which is just as devastating in its consequences as drugs or alcohol. It becomes a compulsion that drives people to bankruptcy and to suicide, but few people think of this possibility when they plunk down their money for a chance at the big lottery.
Bill Hybels, however, doesn't really believe the gambling machine is fueled by the two reasons I've just mentioned. In one word, he labels the fuel that feeds the monster as "More!" He says, "Part of what motivates a gambler is the hope for a windfall without having to submit to the discipline and rigors of working and budgeting and saving.... At the root of wanting a windfall in the first place is a deep, gnawing dissatisfaction with your current level of provision that God has made for you in your life. Maybe underneath it all is a monster that lurks in the shadows of almost every person's heart, the monster called `More.'"
The old idea of "something for nothing" is about as appealing as taking the forbidden fruit in the garden, but the bitter consequences remind us that there is nothing in all the world that is free. Somebody pays for everything. You can bet on that.
Resource reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

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Author Biography

Harold J. Sala
Web site: Guidelines International Ministries
Speaker, author and Bible teacher, Dr. Harold Sala founded Guidelines in 1963 and has served at its helm since its inception. Pioneering the five-minute commentary in Christian radio, Dr. Sala’s daily “Guidelines-A Five Minute Commentary on Living” is broadcast in 49 of the 50 states and is heard the world over in a variety of languages. Sala, who holds a Ph.D. in biblical text, has authored over 55 books published in 19 languages. He speaks and teaches frequently at conferences, seminars, and churches worldwide. Residing in Mission Viejo, California, Harold and his wife, Darlene, have three adult children and eight well-loved grandchildren.

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