Thou shalt not steal. - Exodus 20:15 (KJV)Then the preacher gave those words a wide-ranging impact. Among other applications, he said gambling is "morally wrong." He explained in business, people make money selling items to other people -- and both sides should gain from it. But in "gaming" (which he indicated was the polite word players put on it), people cannot win money without other people losing money.
We heard this explanation, then stopped to consider how overly simplistic it sounded. For one thing, wouldn't many sports events be considered gambling -- whether you bet on them or not?
Many pro golf tournaments have qualifying rounds, where people pay entry fees hoping to make the field. The ones who do could wind up winning thousands of dollars -- while the ones who don't drive home with $200 less in their wallets. The U.S. Open in tennis works the same way, with entry fees for sectional qualifying round.
We've heard some people consider the stock market a form of gambling -- because prices of stock can go up and down, based on all sorts of factors. A $1,000 investment today might be worth $2,000 next week (think Apple), or practically zero (think Enron). People who "buy low and sell high" win, while those who choose badly lose.
Another radio minister even dared to say farming is gambling. Farmers plant seeds, then wait for the proper sun and rain to develop a crop. In fact, this might be the ultimate type of gambling -- because farmers pray (or should) for God to provide the essential things they need. If it's a year of drought, as 2012 has been in much of the U.S., you lose.
In years gone by, we would have agreed with that anti-gambling preacher -- and to some extent, we still do. Slot machines and lotteries seem to us like a terrible waste of money, because the odds of winning are very steep.
But we've concluded it's ultimately a matter of where you invest your money, and how carefully you handle that investment. Poker tables (especially in no-limit games) allow you to be as careful or as reckless as you wish. As for how to approach those tables, consider these words of Jesus:
So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? - Luke 16:11-12Believers realize everything they own isn't really theirs. Those items ultimately are God's. So they handle them with care -- but without going too far:
No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. - Luke 16:13In other words: God should be your God -- not the blessings God gives you.
For more on why we see no Biblical problem with poker, read our complete Bible study on the topic.