YOU ASKED FOR IT
WHAT’S WRONG WITH GAMBLING?
Sunday May 21, 2006
Scripture Reference: 1 Timothy 6:9-11
A. I just want to begin this message today by saying, “You Asked For It.” This is not going to be an easy message for me to preach but for some of you it will not be an easy message to hear but I just want to remind you that “You asked for it”. These were the sermon topics that you chose so you can’t say that I chose a sermon topic that I knew you would not like. I can tell you without reservation that there is no topic that we pastors hate to preach on more than we do the topic of money which is really what the issue of gambling is all about. I know that some people think we enjoy it and some think it is all we talk about but neither of those assumptions is true. I don’t enjoy preaching about money and I certainly don’t do it all the time, but here is what you also have to know. I am not afraid to speak on this issue and I certainly do not shy away from it. When I leave this church whether it is because God has called me elsewhere or because I am retiring I want my words to be the same as Paul’s when he spoke to the Ephesian elders the last time in Acts 20:26-27 Let me say plainly that I have been faithful. No one’s damnation can be blamed on me, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants for you.
1. It may not be fun for me to speak to you on this issue but since you requested it then I am left to assume that it is an issue that concerns you and you want to know what God has to say about it and for that I commend you and I ask those who may not feel you want to hear this message to be open to the Holy Spirit today because I think God has something to say to all of us even if gambling is not an issue that you struggle with. If it is not an issue for you I can guarantee you that you know someone for whom this is an issue and maybe a very destructive issue.
B. Let me begin by sharing with you some important statistics about gambling in America today. This is not going to be a statistical message but as I did my research for this topic I was amazed at the things I learned about gambling in America today. Here are a few of the things I learned.
• In 2004 Americans spent $700 BILLION dollars on legalized gambling. (Please note that I said “legalized gambling” so this does not include interoffice betting or people using bookies or things illegal like this.)
• Gambling is the fastest growing industry in America.
• More people gamble on-line than go to the movies.
• Americans gamble more money than they spend on groceries.
• Evidence proves that problem or pathological gambling is directly linked to other social problems like divorce, child abuse, domestic violence, bankruptcy, crime and suicide. It is estimated that 15.4 million adults and adolescences meet the criteria of these disorders.
This is what shocked me most of all.
• According to an article in the Christian Century April 27, 1994 by Martin E. Marty, in 1993 churches in American and Canada gave $3,222,753,233.00 to benevolences like world poverty, the aged, homeless, or other “outside purposes”. Since we gamble at the rate of $904,000,000.00 per day this means that in all that churches gave to do the work Christ called us to in one year was matched in just 3 ½ days by those who gamble.
I am left to wonder how much of that money was also spent by those in the church who said they could only afford to give $5 or $10 dollars to the work of World Evangelism.
1. We ought to be very concerned about the impact and effects that gambling is having on our society, but I think we have to face an even greater concern. That concern is this, “What is the impact that gambling is having on the church of Jesus Christ today? As those who call themselves Christians we MUST wake up to the fact that gambling is a threatening moral issue. We need to engage ourselves not in what we “feel” about gambling but we need to engage ourselves in what the Bible says to us about this issue and that is precisely what we will do today. I want to alert you to beware of the spirit that says, “Hey pastor, mind your own business.” “This is just my form of entertainment.” “It is my money, I earned it, and I can do with it as I please.” Do you care what God says about this matter or will your mind and heart be closed?
Trans. I am sure that some of you will be very glad to hear that there is no scripture in the entire Bible that says, “Thou shall not gamble. Sadly for some this is the only criteria they will use for doing or not doing something. Imagine the wide range of activities available to us if we are to apply this principle for all of our lives. The Bible no where says, “Thou shall not smoke marijuana.” It no where says, “Thou shall not use cocaine.” It doesn’t say, “Thou shall not have sex with children.” It doesn’t say, “Thou shall not drive 80 mph through a school zone.” It does not say, “Thou shall not drink and drive.” The Bible is not a book of minute rules of instead it is a book of grand principles. The problem with laws is that people are always trying to find loopholes in the laws, ways to break the law “legally”. The fact is laws are for children.  When you were raising your children you undoubtedly had a lot of rules for your children to follow. These rules were to help the children understand order and authority in their lives and to protect them from doing things that would harm them. As your children got older did you still have the same number of rules for them? If so you have proven that they never matured because they still need to be continually regulated. God did not need to set down innumerable laws or rules for you and I because he knew that the principles He gave us would be enough to guide the lives of those who wanted to serve Him and please Him. So I am not going to share with you today all the rules the bible gives about gambling but what I am going to do is share with you the principles that God’s word gives us that relate directly to this issue of gambling. Before I do that there is something else I need to share with you that will help lay the foundation upon which we will build on today.
Some people and you might be one of them today like to justify gambling by saying that gambling is just taking a risk and people take risks everyday. You have probably heard this idea expressed this way, “All life is a gamble.” I just want you to know today this is a very false and shaking foundation. Gambling is not the same thing as taking a risk. The farmer who plants his seed in the ground is taking a risk but he is not gambling. When you get in your car and drive away from church today you are taking a risk but you are not gambling. Most of what we do day in and day out involves a risk of some kind but that in no way implies that we are all gambling everyday. Here is what you need to know. The definition of gambling is this: “Desiring the possession of another the gambler creates a risk (losing his own) in an attempt, through chance, to gain the other person’s possession with nothing to give in exchange.” What I am telling you is that gambling is nothing less than one person trying to get into the pockets of another person.
Well now that I have offended many of you let me give you five biblical principles that are violated when we chose to gamble.
I. PRINCIPLE NUMBER 0NE: GAMBLING CONTRADICTS GOD’S HONESTY PRINCIPLE.
A. Gambling is a form of consensual theft.
1. Here is the bible guideline, Exodus 21:15 says, “Thou shall not steal.” Gambling is robbery by mutual consent. Gambling is taking from another person what does not belong to you. The fact that someone willingly participates in an action that is wrong does not make that activity right. When two people who are married agree to involve themselves in an illicit sexual relationship that we call an affair, their mutual consent to the act does not therefore make it right. An affair is adultery by consent, but it is still wrong. The fact that a group of people are wiling to sit together around a table and take each others money does not mean everyone is OK. What it means is that there are a group of people who are all coveting another person’s money. What is right about that according to God’s word? NOTHING!
2.  Let me illustrate what I am saying here. Imagine that two men walking into an alley together. One has a gun and walks out of the alley with the other mans money. Or suppose that these same two men walk into this alley but instead of a gun this time he has a pair of dice but he still walks out with the other mans money. What’s the difference? Both of these men desired to take the other man’s money they just chose different tools to do the same job.
“The person who gambles and wins is a thief. The person who gambles and loses is a fool.”
Trans. Here is the second biblical principle that gambling violates.
II. PRINCIPLE NUMBER TWO: THE PRINCIPLE OF LOVE.
We spent fourteen weeks learning about what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments in all of the bible; they were to love God and to love one another. Gambling violates both of these commandments. Jesus said that if we loved him we would obey his commands and taking from others surely is not an expression of love.
A. Love Does Not Harm It’s Neighbor.
1. Listen to what the Bible says in Romans 13:8-9 MSG Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other "don’t" you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. This verse makes it very clear that we cannot say that we love others and still allow ourselves to take from them. Now you might want to say, “Well I didn’t force them gamble so it’s not my fault that they lost their money.” It that what love says? Do you believe what the Bible says? Well the bible says “Don’t take what isn’t yours.” Was that money you won in the lottery, or on the ballgame, or in the slot machines yours? No it was someone else’s money that you took.
2. Let me remind you of these words from Jesus. When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:39-40 NLT Gambling is an industry that preys upon the poorest of our society. Did you know that the National Gambling Impact Study Commission of which James Dobson was a member discovered that those with incomes of less than $10,000.00 a year spent more on lottery tickets than any other income group? When the lottery was introduced to Kentucky one community reported that grocery sales dropped by 17%. Here is another fact; the biggest day of the month at Atlantic City is the day welfare checks come out.
Trans. Well I could go on but let me give you another biblical principle that gambling violates.
III. Principle Number Three: The Stewardship Principle.
Who can tell me what percentage of your money belongs to God? If you said 10% you would be wrong, 100% of your money belongs to God. He merely asks that we return a minimum of 10% for the work of His kingdom. Listen to what 1 Corinthians 4:7 NLT says, What makes you better than anyone else? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God, why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own?
A. All We Have Is Borrowed.
1. One of the arguments for gambling that I hear over and over again is this, “It is just entertainment.” “We are only doing this for fun.” Great, then why don’t you gamble for pretzels or toothpicks? If winning money is not the objective then why are you using money? If it is just for fun why not use something else as your winnings? Why shouldn’t we make it that the winner gets to serve a day in a soup kitchen, or help with some other compassionate ministry? If gambling is just about the entertainment factor then let’s see what happens to these casinos if all the money is removed. How many lights do you think will still be on in Vegas if they removed money from the slot machines and poker tables?
2. Let me ask you this; do you believe what I said a moment ago that 100% of our money is God’s? Let’s say then that you go to Vegas as many do and you take just $200.00 and you say that when I lose this $200.00 then I am done. So you go and you lose that $200.00, but if that was indeed God’s money do you think He is pleased with what you did with His money that He entrusted to you? Good stewardship says that you don’t flush money down the toilet; you don’t just throw it out the window. That would be wrong and so is gambling because you are not using your money you are using God’s money. That is of course if you believe what the Bible teaches you about stewardship.
3. In California we voted in the lottery system under the guise that their would help our schools. So now we feel that we can gamble legitimately because we want to help our schools. If you feel that you can help the schools by spending $5 or $10 dollars a week buying lottery tickets then why don’t you be honest with yourself and go down to the district office and given them that money directly. If winning millions is not your motive but helping the schools is then why do you need to buy a lottery ticket? Here is what James Dobson said after finishing his time with this national commission on gambling, “Given the overwhelming evidence of the harms of gambling, one might wonder why the American people and their leaders have opened the doors to this industry that wrecks families and undermines the work ethic. The answer is money. Unfathomable amounts of money.
Trans. Here is principle number four.
IV. PRINCIPLE NUMBER FOUR: THE DANGER PRINCIPLE.
Listen to what the bible tells us, 1 Corinthians 6:12, 19-20 MSG Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please; squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.
A. Gambling Is Harmful.
1. The facts are in my friends, gambling is not fun it is destructive. Here are just a few of the facts.
• 72% of problem gamblers reported an episode of depression.
• 52% report alcohol abuse.
• 50% of problem gamblers abuse their children.
• In areas that allow casino gambling judges are reporting that 1/3 of the divorce cases they see involve gambling as a reason the marriage is dissolving. In these same areas spousal abuse has risen over 300%.
• After Mississippi legalized casino gambling pawn shops became the faster growing business in the state. People are pawning their possessions in order to gamble.
• Problem gamblers are 150 times more likely to attempt suicide.
• Secular treatment of problem gamblers has only an 8% success rate. This is one of the lowest rates of any addiction. The reason the success rate for treating a gambling problem is so difficult is because it is not a disease it is a moral choice.
B. Don’t Play With Fire.
1. Proverbs 6:27 MSG says, Can you build a fire in your lap and not burn your pants? If you chose to gamble you are choosing to play with fire. How do you know you will not become one of the thousands of problem gamblers that fill our society today? How do you know that your first drink will not lead you down a path of alcoholism? 8% of those who are problem gamblers said that the first time they ever gambled was just for fun. Look at William Bennett, he used to be considered America’s Moral Tsar then it was discovered that he had a gambling problem and all his authority on moral issue disappeared. Rex Rogers said, “Gambling is an equal opportunity destroyer.” Why should you or I take the chance of being destroyed?
Trans. Let me quickly give you one more important principle.
V. PRINCIPLE NUMBER FIVE: THE PRINCIPLE OF TRUST.
Here is what the bible tells us, Matthew 6:32-33 NLT Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.
A. God Provides For His Children.
1. Friends, if we try to provide for our needs in a way contrary to what God has commanded what we are doing is saying, “God I really do not trust you to meet my needs, so you need to step aside and let me handle this.” Look at what the scripture said that we read this morning, For the love of money is the first step toward all kinds of sin. Some people have even turned away from God because of their love for it, and as a result have pierced themselves with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:10 NLT
A. Here are the five principles that violate all the various reason we give for excusing our desire to gamble. The Honesty Principle, The Love Principle, The Stewardship Principle, The Danger Principle and the Trust Principle.
1. I will tell you honestly that what causes the greatest fear in me these days is something I see in much of the so called Christian church today. I think I can call this the spirit of “Rationalism”. It seems more and more that I hear Christians using all sorts of arguments to rationalize behavior that the bible tells us we should not be involved in. Some of you today are having a real hard time with what I have shared but you must ask yourself why you feel the way you do? Is it because what I have shared is wrong and a distortion of Gods word or is it because you know God is calling you to separate yourself from things that not only hurt you but also bring harm to the name of Jesus?
2. It is time that we who call Christ our savior develop a Christian Worldview and Christian worldview is nothing less than “To see as God sees.” George Barna a Christian researchers says that only 4% of those who call themselves Christians hold a Christian Worldview and only 9% of those who call themselves Born Again hold a Christian Worldview. It is time friends for those who name themselves as flowers of Christ to leave this world behind and follow Him, no matter what the rest of the world says or does.
B. In gambling everyone wants a sure thing. Can I give you a few “sure things” today?
1. God loves you. No matter what you have done or what kind of a mess your life is in right now God loves you deeply.
2. God forgives. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
3. God will empower you to live for Him. Here is what God says in Titus 2:11-12 MSG God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now,
4. Do you need a new start right now? God will give it to you today all you have to do is ask.