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December 27, 2010


Great answer. I've always heard other Christians say gambling is a sin, but never give any biblical arguments or careful thinking to the question. This is a fair and well balanced response by Greg...as always. Thanks.

Greg, you have me except for when you compare gambling/gaming to baseball as a game. In baseball, you are collecting a salary for performing your job just the same as the local grocery store manager. I would not equate the grocery store manager collecting a salary for performing his/her job to be anything like playing poker. Even if all your income is from being a pro poker player, you are putting money at risk for loss every time you show up for "work" to play poker. That is not the case for a ball player or store manager when they show up for work. Now, I do look at gaming the same as I do gambling, which is just like you describe it. If a person puts some of their money towards gambling/gaming as a means of entertainment, and as long as they are wise in the amount they put towards it, then it is OK. Thanks.

Thank you for your comments, Greg. I have come to the conclusion that gambling becomes a problem when you sacrifice any non-entertainment money to do it and/or when you begin to see it as the way to provide for yourself. I think God wants us to see Him as our provider, even when we earn a living at our jobs. Thanks.

Thanks for the careful thinking Greg. I think the distinction between gaming and gambling is a fair one.

As "Deedub" above, I don't think I get your comparison to professional sports. They get paid for their abilities as you and do I but I certainly wouldn't classify our jobs as gambling.

It's very possible I didn't understand that comparison so if anyone else has any thoughts I'd be interested in hearing them.

In addition, I wondered if anyone had any thoughts concerning the idea that gambling, whether lottery tickets or casino slot machines, contributes to an enterprise that tends to prey on people. It's probably not a strong argument and I apologize if it's not communicated very well but I just wondered if it could be considered reasonable.


Does this mean that playing the stock market is also gambling?

What about using medical marijuana in states where it is legal to do so with a qualifying medical condition? Or even using it for recreational purposes in places where it has been legalized or decriminalized?

I think some are missing the point about gaming and skill. Gaming involves skill such as poker. Poker is not the lottery where no skill is needed. Putting money at risk is also not the issue either. You put money at risk as a business owner all the time too so just having money at risk is not the issue with poker either. It becomes a problem when you serve money instead of God.

Greg thinks that it isn't sinful to spend $20 on popcorn and entertainment. That's questionable. Since that same $20 can do so much good for a Haitian in great need, spending it instead on popcorn and a movie is heartlessly self-indulgent.

In other words, we are apparently faced with the following choice: do I spend my $20 on movies and popcorn or do I use that same money to help another person facing life-threatening misery? Given these alternatives, how is not sinful to indulge in the popcorn and entertainment?

Hi all,

@Lars: I see your point, but it's hard to draw a line to say where spending money on ourselves versus spending it on the needy becomes the sin of self-indulgence. For instance, Christ himself was seen by some to be a glutton and winebibber (Matt 11:19). Obviously, food and wine cost money, and this is good food we;re talking about. You could hardly be called a glutton for eating lots of dry bread!

Now, Christ could easily have subsisted on dry bread and water only, and could have given the money saved to the needy. But he didn't. Since Christ never sinned, it follows that spending money on yourself instead of on the needy is not a sin, even to the point where you appear quite "gluttonous,", i.e. self-indulgent.

@Deedub: "you are putting money at risk for loss every time you show up for "work" to play poker. That is not the case for a ball player or store manager when they show up for work." I don't agree with your assessment. I might be wrong, but a pro baseball player DOES put his livelihood/money at risk every time he shows up for a game: it's all too easy to sustain a serious injury while playing any sort of sport, effectively destroying the player's capacity to earn a living. The store manager likewise risks his life every time he leaves his house to go to work; robberies are all too common nowadays.

In any case, Greg's comparison between gaming and pro baseball is valid as long as you view it at the correct level of abstraction. If you view pro baseball as a person engaging in an activity that requires skill in order to gain money for subsistence, then yes, that is exactly the same as playing poker. If you add the "salary" part, then you'll be able to warp the comparison a little, but not enough to make Greg's comparison invalid.

@Eric: Perfect summary, and so simple.

Peace in Christ

@Jacques: Yes, there are risks inherent in life to the ball player and store manager simply by showing up for work, but that risk is not the same as for the professional poker player "showing up for work". The ball player or store manager does not have to put up money already earned so that he/she may play ball or manage their store that day. The poker player, on the other hand, must put money already earned at risk to "work" that day. Your example is apples and oranges.

As for "warping" the comparison, I disagree. I am simply expanding on what Greg put forth. In his video here, Greg himself mentions personally knowing people that made a living from gaming. By doing so, he is acknowledging that this is their livelihood. By then comparing that to ball players and their livelihood, he is invalidating his comparison because, as I pointed out, the risks involved are not at all the same. Derek Jeter doesn't have to pay $50,000 to play when he shows up to work at Yankee Stadium with the risk of losing that money if he goes 0-for-4 at the plate with 3 errors in the field. The store manger doesn't have to put up $50,000 to show up for work at Costco with the risk of losing that money if a gunman comes in and steals a truckload of big screen TV's. Those guys are collecting their pay that day regardless. Doyle Brunson, on the other hand, has to put up $50,000 to play in the WSOP World Championship H.O.R.S.E. event, and he may walk away with nothing. So, to sum up, different examples, different risks. Thanks!

I would agree with Deedub's reasoning above re: comparison with professional sports. Gambling is NOT compensation, it is still risk.

Vern Poythress makes a very good point here in the broader context of scriptural inferences here:

Consider the following hypothetical dialog:
“Is there an express command not to gamble?” “Yes, Exodus 20:15.”
“But the word ‘gamble ‘is not found in Exodus 20:15. You need some kind of inference, don’t you?”
“Gambling is a form of stealing.”
“How do you know? Can you prove it from Scripture?”

The inquirer here may be genuinely puzzled. But after we have mustered our evidence about the teaching of Scripture on property, on the casting of lots, on preserving one’s neighbor’s property, we will not permit the inquirer to continue to press, “Can you prove it?” unless he is able to exhibit some counter-evidence of his own.

Also, Albert Mohler has commented many times, including here.


Jesus could miraculously multiply loaves and turn water into wine. Contemporary Christians usually don't report possessing the same powers.

But suppose that Jesus is put in the same situation facing us today: he can either rescue a Haitian child from life threatening misery for $20; or, neglecting that child, he could blow that same $20 on popcorn and a movie for himself.

Given that choice, WWJD? What is the right thing to do?


"It becomes a problem when you serve money instead of God."

You are correct, but there is a loophole that some Christians find to get around this problem. They simply call it "success" or "accomplishment" and then measure it with the numbers in their bank accounts. The truth is that sometimes they are just fooling themselves. Beneath their acceptable Christian veneer of striving for success and accomplishment is the truth that they love money. They might be fooling those around them and maybe even themselves, but God knows their hearts and no amount of outward piety will hide that from Him.

There are some interesting points raised by the Albert Mohler link posted by James. Dr. Mohler condemns gambling - but he is not specific as to which form he is talking about. In summary, he says that gambling preys on the greed of those inticed to it, results in poor stewardship of God's blessings, promotes a poor work ethic and preys on the poor.

Here is a quote from a related article which I found compelling "The gaming industry — whatever the form of gaming — exists to entice persons to risk their money for the vain hope of financial gain."

How about this point? Doesn't legalized gambling legitimize giving people false hope of riches? I would agree that people should be responsible in how they respond to this false hope, but should we allow businesses, like lotteries and casinos, which prey on many of their patrons?

Thanks for your feedback.

I believe that it all boils down to your intent. Most gamble to get rich quick which is addressed throughout scripture as wrong.

@Lars Try rewording your statement to "But suppose that Jesus is put in the same situation facing us today: he can either rescue a Haitian child from life threatening misery for $20; or, neglecting that child, he could blow that same $20 on perfume for himself." (accept it was worth a much more than $20) I believe it was Judas who made the same argument as you.

Kelly, great scripture reference, and great point!

Kelly and Jim,

Your responses are alarmingly misguided. The perfume incident you have in mind regards an act of worship made towards Jesus. Now, even if, given the above choice, Jesus would perform the same sort of self-worship (which is doubtful), it is hardly appropriate for one of us to worship ourselves. Self-worship is not an adequate reason to let someone else suffer and die for so little.

You know, I have come to respect and admire Greg Koukl (and STR) because of his (usual) careful, biblical thinking. However, I must say that, on the subject of gambling, he seems to have put the Bible on the shelf in favor of personal opinion. Greg's views in this video are pretty controversial and, frankly, stunning, when 99% of conservative Christians strongly believe that gambling is sinful. I wish he would have appealed to the Scriptures to support his argument, but there were zero biblical references.

Another poster alluded to Al Mohler's many articles about gambling. I would say that Dr. Mohler does a much better job dealing with this topic because he thoroughly examines gambling through the lens of a biblical worldview and analyzes the detrimental effects this enterprise has had on society. I would love to hear Greg's response to his commentaries.

"He seems to have put the Bible on the shelf in favor of personal opinion."

How true. And so it is also with his careless claims about blowing $20 on popcorn and movies.

What ever is not of faith is sin says the Apostle Paul. Even the plowing of the wicked is sin.

How could anything described in Greg's commentary not be sin?

The only way we ever escape the charge of covetousness is when our quest for earning is in obedience to the Word of God.

"He seems to have put the Bible on the shelf in favor of personal opinion."

That's because there's nothing in the Bible that condemns gambling per se. You could only extrapolate verses referring to the love of money and irresponsibility to being 'anti-gambling'...and if you were to do that and be intellectually honest, you would also have to apply the same standard to literally any career or any form of entertainment that costs money.

Also, can any of you name a single industry that employs people where risk of losing money is non-existent?

This was a great video by Greg. I'm going to show it to anyone who calls me a pagan for playing poker with my friends. ha

Dave said:
"What ever is not of faith is sin says the Apostle Paul. Even the plowing of the wicked is sin...
How could anything described in Greg's commentary not be sin? "

Was this post you made "of faith"? When you woke up this morning and turned off your alarm clock, was that "of faith"? When you went to work today, was everything that you said and did "of faith"?

What does "of faith" mean, do you think?

But consider again Greg's careless claims about blowing $20 on popcorn and movies. How can any serious Christian condone such a telling comment? How can it reflect a serious attempt to follow Jesus and to teach others to do the same?

Deuteronomy 14:26
Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice.

Psalm 128:2
You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.

Isaiah 3:10 Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.

When you start rationalizing gambling you make it sound good.
Gambling isnt good. God is good.

Trading on the stock market involves risk, but it is the same risk inherent in owning any sort of property. Stock is share of ownership in property, and a right of ownership is to alienate (give away or sell) the property. If it was sinful to buy and sell stock because of the risk involved, corporations would not be able to raise funds by issuing new stock in the first place.

One think that makes gambling hurtful is the government "take" involved. Lottery winnings are typically only half the buy-in. In betting on horses (economically equivalent to a derivative) the state takes about a sixth of the amount you bet. How long would the stock market last if the government took out a sixth of the value of every transaction?

If you are going to have gambling, at least make it revenue-neutral. And if you are going to have gambling, make it competitive. Houses that extract a smaller "take" will attract customers who want to have more fun per dollar spent. A smaller "take" is likely also to result in a smaller "hold", which is how much of your money the house has when you have finished.

RE: Rob > Was this post you made "of faith"? When you woke up this morning and turned off your alarm clock, was that "of faith"? When you went to work today, was everything that you said and did "of faith"?

What does "of faith" mean, do you think?

>> Paul also says, Faith works by love. If you walk in the Spirit you are in the realm of faith, even when you switch off the alarm, getting up to go to work in obedience to Christ.

@ Lars > You seem very focused on Greg's comment regarding spending $20 for popcorn and a movie. You argue that a real Christian should take that money and feed/cloth the under served/poor. Can you guide my thinking by providing the specific amount of money I can spend on entertainment? Is entertainment even a biblical principle? I am home alone for a few days, doing some work on the house (obviously not as much, since I'm sitting here responding to these posts). Last night I ordered a pizza. Was that OK? I could have eaten something in the freezer and given the $18 to an NGO that feeds/cloths the needy.

Have a blessed new year everyone!


Consider the following principle:

If you can rescue a child from a miserable, life-threatening situation at a relatively very small cost to yourself (like the sacrifice of a movie and popcorn), then, ordinarily, it would be sinful to knowingly refuse to rescue that child. That is, it would be a sinful failure to love that other person (the child) as yourself if, for a mere popcorn and a movie, you knowingly choose to abandon him or her to that miserable, life-threatening situation.

Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and he gave plenty of related warnings about selfishness, self-concern, and riches.

John 2:
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”


I understand your comment. However, you didn't answer my question. Every time I spend money that is not absolutely necessary to feed, cloth, and house myself and family, then I knowingly do not provide for another person that could be served by that money. So, is all entertainment sinful? Based on your perspective, it is.

Does entertainment provide anything beneficial to the person. In other words, did God create us with a need for entertainment and recreation? I believe He did. I think we could and should broadly apply the thinking you suggest to our decisions in this regard. For example, should I pay a monthly fee for internet service (or should you) so that I can read and interact with others for my edification and, hopefully, theirs? Or should I take that money and send it off to an organization so that some of it may reach the needy and under served? Do I really need cable television, or could I get along with basic TV, or none at all? Do we need to go to visit family during the Holidays, or could we stay at home? None of these have an obvious right or wrong answer, but I agree with you in principle, that we need to carefully/prayerfully consider these types of questions in our daily lives.


To whatever extent that you really do need entertainment, then you might try to argue that giving it up is not "a relatively very small cost to yourself." I allow that there may be occasions when this might be the case. You'd want to make sure this were indeed true, however--and not simply a lazy excuse for selfishness (we are all, I think, quite prone to selfishness).

Whenever, however, it is simply a movie and popcorn--and you're in no need for such things--how could you be loving the other person as yourself if you let him or her die (or abandon him/her to some miserable, life-threatening fate) simply so that you can eat popcorn and watch a movie?

There seems to be a big difference between

a) "institutionalized" gambling which is designed to prey upon those without hope and/or self-control and

b) gambling between friends/aquaintences for fun (I admit that particularly heartless people can (and do) turn this into a small-time version of #1).

As a Christ-follower I'm much less comfortable with a.


Maybe this addresses your concerns:

Thanks Deedub. Unfortunately, the column addresses only peripheral issues. It never actually deals with circumstance at issue here: when you are choosing between saving a person's life and popcorn/movie. It never discusses that central command of Jesus': love your neighbor as yourself.

Unfortunately, Amy and Greg's discussions of wealth are far too circumscribed, following perhaps the values of the relatively affluent society in which they live.

Choices that will lose out when compared to saving a person's life:
internet service
owning a computer
watching television
owning a car
paying for a haircut
wearing shoes
taking vitamins
income tax
buying a Bible
church tithes
eye glasses
taking a day off work

So Daron, do you then simply choose not to love your neighbor as yourself?

I make no such choice. Why do you ask, Lars?
Do you love your neighbor as yourself and, in demonstration of that fact, care for them in all the ways I just listed? Do you feed everyone as yourself? And house them as yourself? In your every activity do you compare it to saving a life and then, if it is not as important, refrain?

Daron, do you simply refuse to think about the fact that you can rescue others from miserable, life-threatening situations when you want rather to treat yourself to movies and popcorn with those life-saving resources? Or, do you love your neighbor as yourself?

I have not refused to think. Have you? How many homeless people do you share your house with rather than treat yourself to privacy and comfort? Do you go barefoot year-round to save the lives of several people rather than treat yourself to shoes?

Of course I don't love others as myself - I'm not Jesus.
I am co-operating with the Spirit in my sanctification every day but I have an unfathomable distance to go yet. How about you? Is your show and demand of piety a reflection of your true love of your neighbor? Are you starved near to death because you are feeding everyone you possibly can as much as yourself?


You seem defensive. I don't know why you think that my behavior--whatever it is--is supposed to excuse you from following Christ's commandment.

Let's consider your claim to be "co-operating with the Spirit." Does the Spirit you're co-operating with ever give you a license to disobey the central command of Christ to love your neighbor as yourself? If not, then, when you are choosing whether to indulge your desire for popcorn and a movie at the expense of someone else's life, what exactly does it mean for you to "co-operate with the Spirit"?

It is very tempting to want to compare your own behavior to that of others around you, instead of obeying the commands of Christ. Take care that you tests the spirits, as you may be co-operating with the spirit of this age, rather than the Spirit of God.

Hi Lars,

You seem defensive
I imagine I seem a lot of ways. Subjective feelings of how I seem don't mean very much.
But you offered an objective measure of loving your neighbor as yourself. You offered that it is sinful, careless, and unthinking not to save a life when you can. For some reason you repeated and repeated this with regard to movies and popcorn, but have decided not to apply it when it comes to internet access, computers, driving, buying shoes, etc.
Where do you draw the line when you decide to moralize?
It is very tempting to want to compare your own behavior to that of others around you, instead of obeying the commands of Christ.
Indeed. And I do not love God with all my heart, soul, strength and spirit, either. The bar is set very high, isn't it?
There are many ways to be unloving and to disobey God's commands that don't have anything to do with how you spend your money.
Take care that you tests the spirits, as you may be co-operating with the spirit of this age, rather than the Spirit of God.

Ah, thanks for the excellent advice, Lars. Indeed, you are correct about taking care to co-operate with the Spirit of God.
I test your simple claims against Jesus' participation at the wedding feast in Cana.

Daron, it looks like you are still trying to justify your intention to avoid loving your neighbor as you love yourself. It is as if you are already planning to indulge in trivial entertainment and material comforts at the expense of other peoples' lives.

Whether or not this is true, only you know for sure. I only raise the flag of warning.

Daron, it looks like you are still trying to justify your intention to avoid loving your neighbor as you love yourself.
Lars, how things seem or look to you doesn't mean much. But thanks for the warning. Now you too are warned and can see as well that you have no ground to declare who is careless and who is not a serious Christian. While ranting about loving your neighbor your standard crumbles to dust as you sit before us indulging yourself at the same expense. You don't raise a flag but a mirror for your own preening.

Daron, you're not making a lot of sense here.

Christ never claimed that following him would be easy. I don't "draw a line" when it comes to following Christ's commands. Nor should you, if you are a Christian.

So Lars, if you think that we should not spend $20 on movie popcorn but instead spend it on saving Hatian lives, then isn't Daron's point correct? We should also not spend $20 on internet access and spend it instead on saving Hatian lives. Right? If so, how are you managing to carry on this debate? Are you using someone else's Wi-fi (which they lavished on themselves contrary to Christ's command)?

Also, if I can't spend $20 on movie popcorn. I can also think of no good reason to spend $20 on the various forms of sugar they peddle. Nor the hot dogs, nor the pretzels, nor the movie theater tickets themselves. What's to become of the movie theater owners and the people they employ if we all follow your interpretation of Christ's words then. I guess they go out of business, and the employees get fired right?

They won't be sending anything to Haiti then, will they? The truth is, that if we love our neighbors the way you think (incorrectly) that Christ is telling us to, there won't be any money to send to Haiti because we will be Haiti.

I made a lot of sense. Sorry you don't see it.

I don't "draw a line" when it comes to following Christ's commands.

Very good.
So I guess this is good bye.
Surely you've merely been careless and frivolous to now and will quit indulging your baser instincts so that you might better love your neighbor as yourself. Indeed, rather than sinfully sapping productivity by commenting on blogs it seems to me that you'll be taking another job to raise even more money for saving lives. Good on you.

WisdomLover and Daron,

It's tempting to try to excuse oneself from the commands of Christ. Rather than follow the simple command of Christ to love one's neighbor as yourself, you would rather complain how difficult that would be. You would rather measure your own obedience to the behavior of others.

But these are not good excuses. Christ doesn't promise his followers internet access, "nor the hot dogs, nor the pretzels." Your whining in this regard (what else can we call it?) is a sign of the sorry state into which Christian discipleship has fallen. It's a bad sign when two Christians insist on justifying such self-indulgent frivolities at the expense of other peoples' lives.

Like I said, I guess this is your farewell.


Love the Hatians, but not the movie theater owners. Got it.

Loving our neighbors as ourselves amounts to this it seems: making ourselves as miserable as our neighbors.

We are to do this even if that makes our neighbors more miserable than they would be if we allowed ourselves to be happier than them.


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