How gambling preys on the longings of the heart 

7 reasons why people gamble and the Bible’s better answer 

March 24, 2022

It is estimated that Americans lost $161 billion to all forms of gambling in 2018, with $306 million of that going to online gambling.1Ultimate USA Gambling Facts & Revenue (Updated 2022), www.onlineunitedstatescasinos.com/usa-gambling-facts/ While this amount is for all types of gambling, the fastest growing kind of gambling is online. Online gambling has been increasing each year, and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that gain. As brick-and-mortar gambling sites saw a decrease in activity, online gambling venues took up the slack. Often, people turned to online gambling during the pandemic for entertainment during long days and nights of being stuck indoors. This created the perfect storm for gambling on the 2022 Super Bowl. It is estimated that 31 million people bet more than $7.6 billion on Super Bowl LVI, an increase of 35% over 2021.2Erich Richter, Superbowl Odds 2023: Live Sportsbook Odds, March 2, 2022, www.bonus.com/odds/super-bowl/

With 71% of Americans believing that gambling is morally acceptable, and only 36% of Christians believing that sports betting is morally wrong, it is clear that America has a gambling problem.3Lisa Cannon Green, Is sports gambling moral? You bet, Americans say, January 22, 2016, www. News.lifeway.com/2016/01/22/ is-sports-gambling-moral-you-bet-americans-say. It isn’t only sports betting online that is exploding. The internet offers practically any kind of gambling that someone could desire. 

The internet has certain built-in features that make gambling more dangerous for people, too. Gambling is available 24/7 to anyone with a computer and an internet connection in their homes, which is more than 77% of Americans, or more than 250 million people.4Catherine McNally, Nearly 1 in 4 Households Don’t Have Internet—and a Quarter Million Still Use Dial-Up, August 17, 2021, www.reviews.org/internet-service/how-many-us-households-are-without-internet-connection. In addition, anyone who wants to gamble can easily circumvent age requirements by lying about their age. The fact that people can gamble in the privacy of their homes increases the likelihood that they will gamble more often and for longer periods of time. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to restrict access to online gambling for people who know they have a gambling problem. 

Regrettably, most governments have succumbed to the constant barrage of gambling lobbying and voter initiatives. The vast majority of Americans can buy lottery tickets, play the standard forms of brick-and-mortar gambling like poker, roulette, and even slots, and bet on multiple sporting events all from the privacy and anonymity of their home computer screens. 

While we can’t prevent people from accessing these myriad gambling opportunities, we can help them understand that God has a better way. This should be especially true for Christians. We who have professed Jesus Christ as Lord have committed to live faithful lives before him and the world. We must look to God’s Word for guidance in all things, including whether or not to gamble, and why. 

Getting to the heart of gambling

To know what the Bible has to say about gambling, it can be helpful to know why people gamble and then look at what Scripture has to say about that. People gamble for a variety of reasons, but regardless of the reason, the Bible points to a better way. Below are the principal reasons that people gamble and the Bible’s better answer to the need they are trying to meet with their gambling.

Some people gamble to get money. This is the primary reason most people gamble. It is a demonstrable fact that more people gamble as the jackpot increases or they place a high value on the prize. The Christian who gambles in order to win money has failed to understand or accept that God desires to be their provider. Scripture says God will supply all the needs of the person who puts his trust in God (Matt. 10:31; Phil. 4:19). The person who gambles out of greed or for worldly wealth is valuing the wrong thing (Luke 12:15). The person who gambles out of financial desperation is trusting in the wrong source for his need. Even if he wins enough to escape his destitution, which is highly unlikely, he has chosen to reject God’s way to meet his needs (Matt. 6:33).

Some people gamble for entertainment. This is another primary reason people gamble. People will often gamble online because they are bored or they are looking for a distraction. And some people argue that gambling is just a form of entertainment, like going to a movie or a restaurant, but that is not true. No one will lose all of his retirement savings by visiting a restaurant or going to a movie, but some people will lose that and more from gambling. Christians need to consider what they are supporting and empowering when they spend their God-provided money. God calls Christians to be good stewards of their possessions, that includes their money (Luke 6:10-13). When we empower gambling venues with our money, we help keep them in business to prey on people with gambling addictions. Empowering institutions that ruin people’s lives for a few moments of entertainment is not something that Christians should take part in (Eph. 5:11).

Some people gamble to feel important or special. Casinos, whether brick-and-mortar or online, specialize in selling an illusion to people. They make them feel important in exchange for their money. Some people crave this attention and return over and over because it feeds their sense of importance and value. Any anything we rely upon apart from the Lord for our value is an idol (Psa. 135:18). The Bible tells us that God is best able to tell us of our worth and importance. Jesus can give a person a permanent realization of her worth. We are so loved by God that he sent Jesus to die a gruesome death on a cross in order to redeem us for himself (John 3:16). Through Jesus, the Christian is a child of God. That is a permanent status that should see any Christian through feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt (2 Tim. 2:13).

Some people gamble to compete against others. There is nothing wrong with healthy competition. However, when that competition threatens to destroy another person, it is no longer healthy. The Bible reminds us that we are our brother’s keeper and that we should love others as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). We have a responsibility to look out for each other. Gambling encourages the exact opposite. The only money available through gambling is the money that someone else has lost. Neighbor love calls on Christians to think of others more highly than we think of ourselves (Mark 12:31; Phil. 2:3). Gambling makes us predators rather than protectors.

Some people gamble for the thrill. Again, there is nothing in the Bible that tells us to live boring, uneventful lives. In fact, Jesus told his disciples that they would have joyful, meaningful lives through faith in him (John 10:10). The question that a thrill-seeking gambler needs to ask is whether or not the thrill of gambling is the best source of joy, happiness, excitement, or meaning. Gambling’s thrill often comes at someone else’s expense. Your involvement can perpetuate the predatory nature of the gambling industry. And while the thrill of gambling might last for a few seconds, in the end it is replaced by disappointment. If a person wins, it will not satisfy the longings of her soul (Eccl. 5:10). If a person loses, which he almost always does, he is left with emptiness and a potentially significant loss of resources. When the thrill is placed in the prospect of winning and the result is the opposite, that is a sucker’s bet. Jesus offers true and lasting joy (John 15:11).

Some people gamble to escape their problems. Gambling offers escape for a short while. In the end, however, it adds to people’s problems. Once gambling’s distraction is gone, the person’s problems remain and are compounded by the loss of money, which may very well be a principal reason the person was seeking a distraction in the first place. Jesus called on people to admit their problems and place them on him, not run from them (Matt. 11:28-30). The Apostle Peter wrote that Christians can place all their cares on the Lord because he cares for them (1 Pet. 5:7). Christianity encourages people to acknowledge their problems and sins and turn to God for help with them. He is ready and able to help those who admit their need and seek him. Anything else we run to for help will fall short. 

Some people gamble to feel hopeful. It is hard to carry on when hope is lost. Gambling offers a temporary hope that seldom rewards the person who leans on it. Until the ball falls in the slot on the roulette wheel or the last card is turned over, the gambler feels all the hope in the world. Anything is possible in that moment, but then all that hope is dashed and even greater fear and hopelessness rushes in. God, on the other hand, is the God of second chances. He has demonstrated in the Bible and in countless lives all around us that those who put their trust in him will never be disappointed or hopeless (Rom. 15:4). God is greater than any problem someone might have and greater than any obstacle that stands in their way (Phil. 4:19). 

Whether someone is gambling online or at a casino,, the Bible makes it clear that any activity that replaces trust in God with luck dethrones God in that person’s life. God ordained work as our means of support. From the beginning, when God put our original parents in the Garden, he revealed that he designed us to work (Gen. 2:15) as a means of his provision for us. Gambling perverts that design and promises something for nothing. That promise is as empty as the serpent’s first deception. Luck is the sand that will not support a life. God is the rock that will (Matt. 7:24-27).

There is more to be said about gambling, yet regardless of why someone gambles, God is the better choice. Gambling is a false idol. It destroys, perverts, and lies to people who look to it for anything. The true source of happiness and meaning in life is found in God. He alone can deliver what he promises. He alone is dependable and trustworthy. We must all learn to trust him and place our hope and futures in him. When we do that, we will never be disappointed. May Jesus be Lord in our lives.

Barrett Duke

Barrett Duke is now the executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention. He is the former vice president for Public Policy and Research at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24