Unleavened Brett

Brett’s Friday Blog Post

UB Feb 9

Will you be betting on the Super Bowl?

This Sunday’s Super Bowl is expected to be the biggest sports betting event in the nation’s history, hosted in the world’s gambling Mecca of Las Vegas. It’s reported that some 68 million Americans will bet about $23 billion–a new record 35% higher than last year’s previous record. 43 million intend to bet online, at a retail sportsbook or with a bookie. Such gambling is persistently advertised online, on TV & billboards (FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, & many more). Another 36.5 million will bet casually with friends. Since being legalized in 2018 (at least in most states), people will bet on every single aspect of the game including the coin toss & color of Gatorade poured on the winning coach.

A nationwide gambling explosion is continuing accompanied by rising gambling addiction rates. Nearly everyone does it, right? Maybe even you. While casinos used to be isolated to Vegas & Atlantic City, in the past few decades casinos began popping up in many places (with 3 major ones just a few miles up the road in downtown Detroit).

It wasn’t that long ago that many Christians were opposed to gambling which is why it was generally illegal. We understood that it was mostly destructive to people, families, & the society’s common good. I remember how the pastors in Detroit’s churches stood opposed to casinos being legalized because of the harm it would do to their communities. But when a casino opened across the river in Windsor, they hypocritically changed their tune because they didn’t want money leaving Detroit to go into Canada. The promise was that Detroit would be financially better off with casinos providing jobs. How’d that go?

The same argument was made for legalizing state lotteries. The promise was that the money would benefit the public schools. So playing the lottery was promoted as a virtuous behavior that would help educate kids. How’d that go? Schools are no better funded with lotteries than without. Someone said: “I’m beginning to understand exactly how the state lottery helps education–every time I buy a losing ticket, I get a little smarter.”

Government-run lotteries are even more pernicious because the State itself is actively promoting a behavior detrimental to its own citizens, especially exploiting those in poverty. Lotteries thrive in the poorest communities because of the vain hope of easy wealth.

We can understand from a libertarian perspective why gambling is legal. But why has something that used to be generally regarded as a vice been embraced as virtuous, even by many Christians? “Gambling” has even been sanitized as simply “gaming”–harmless fun. Yes, even some churches promote gambling as a means of fundraising. Since the Bible never specifically condemns gambling, we certainly shouldn’t judge anyone’s actions as sinful. But other than the Roman soldiers gambling to win Jesus’s clothing while he hung on the cross, is Scripture silent about the matter altogether?

Aside from the sad truths of compulsive gambling destroying families & causing suicide attempts, most see nothing wrong with casual or recreational gambling. If someone’s not a “problem gambler,” what’s the big deal? For Christians, we have to grapple with some motive issues & serious questions involved in games of chance.

・Am I being greedy? Consider Prov. 15:27, 1 Tim. 6:9-10, Eph. 5:3, 1 Cor. 5:9-13, 6:9-11.

・Am I being covetous? How can it be coveting if people give up their money voluntarily? Is it legitimate to want money that others are only giving up in the hope that they’ll be gaining your money? If they wanted you to have their money, they’d give it to you–but they don’t. If the system is built on getting as many people to lose as possible, are you taking what somebody really doesn’t want to give? Consider Ex. 20:17, Rom. 13:9, Luke 12:15.

・Is gambling a moral way to gain money? What are biblical ways to gain wealth? Work, making wise financial investments, & receiving income as a gift. Does gambling instead prey on the desire to avoid labor & get-rich-quick thinking–getting something for nothing? Consider Prov. 28:19-20.

・Am I being a good steward (manager) of God-given resources? Is this purposely wasting what God entrusted to you? If you heard that church leaders were gambling the offering money you entrusted to them, what would you think? Consider Luke 16:10-11, Matt. 25:14-30.

・Am I showing love to my neighbor? Some forms of gambling tend to prey on the desperation of the poor. Consider Rom. 13:10.

・Am I trusting God for my provision? Jesus said if we put God first, He’ll meet our needs & we should be content with that. But does gambling promote looking to “Lady Luck” as Provider? Consider Heb. 13:5.

This is ultimately a heart issue that only you can decide. And when it comes to the Super Bowl, since the Lions are out…I hope both teams lose.