Does the Bible forbid gambling?

Does the Bible forbid gambling?

My hyper-Christian friends tell me that gambling is forbidden. I’ve tried searching for a reference. A few web pages about “What the Bible says about gambling” make no reference to gambling at all. It says that you shouldn’t hang around with bad people, and some gamblers do that. You shouldn’t cheat, and some gamblers do that. And so on.

Is there anything in the Bible would condemn someone who buys a couple of lottery tickets or participate in the office pool?

I’m looking for factual information about references to gambling in the Bible.
I’m atheist myself

Found this on a christian site:

I don’t think is does specifically - but one can easily make the case that gambling can (by its addictive nature) become an idol (i.e. something that becomes the thing of greatest importance in your life, thereby replacing God).

It is probably best placed in the category of “Things that could easily get you into trouble”, which might also include (depending on how liberal/conservative you are) alcohol, dancing, smoking, hanging around in public lavatories, etc.

The only scripture reference that I can find is in Ephesians 4 in the Amplified Version:


Gambling, like dancing, drinking, and smoking, is one of those things that fundamentalist Christians wished the Bible specifically forbade. So essentially they twist and stretch and extrapolate the text as much as they need to do get it to say what they want. I.e., gambling can become an idol; the body is a temple so you shouldn’t smoke. Nametag’s post summed up these attempts perfectly. My take: the Bible is hundreds of pages long. If God couldn’t be bothered to slip in a single sentence somewhere along the line saying “Don’t gamble,” it’s probably because he doesn’t disapprove of it.

I should also mention that there are several instances of gambling that are viewed positively in the Bible. Most famously, the apostles cast lots to see who will replace Judas.

The only explicit mention of gambling in the Bible (I have read it [the Protestant Cannon, KJV and most of the Catholic Bible as well as extensive passages in the NIV] more than once in it’s entirety) is that of casting lots (a type of die, ussually made from the heel bone of a dog). This is done on several occasions in order to make important decisions. It is also done in the form of a game by the soldiers attending the Christ’s execution, the prize being among other items, his cloak and other garnments. Interestingly, this is my prime defense of gaming. If the soldiers were doing this, as shameful and degrading as it was, then it is obvious by the way it is treated in the text that games of chance for tangible stakes were not out of the ordinary for the Romans. So . . . why did Christ, in his sermons, not specifically address it? Besides, work ethic? work ethic?! WORK ETHIC?!?!?! I’m rounding right now and it is, without a doubt, the hardest job I have EVER HAD! I have been a medic, radiographer, soldier, laborer and a bunch of other stuff and they don’t even come close. If you want a tough job, in which you have to be intelligent, patient, diciplined, studious, dedicated and then put up money that you had to get from a “real job” just to risk losing it anyway, go ahead and try to be a gambler. Anyone who has tried it will tell you that it is a “Tough way to make an easy living”. You can call me cynical, jaded, faithless or even damned . . . but, until you’ve tried it, don’t question my work ethic!

Yeah, but that’s not gambling. Determining things of importance, even political affairs, by casting lots was not that uncommon in ancient times. It doesn’t have anything to do with gambling, i.e. playing games of luck for money.

I’m not a Bible expert, so I can’t really help to answer the OP. However, this site (not an objective source - it’s clearly anti-gambling) sums up several of the twist used in Scripture interpretation to back up the statement that “gambling is forbidden by the Bible”.

And of course, there’s my second sig line.

In addition to casting lots to making decisions, the Hebrews used “Urim and Thurim” for divination purposes. Sounds very “occult” to me. Do a Google on those terms to learn more.

At the most, one can claim that the Bible treats gambling like drinking wine: an okay everyday activity but not so good when used to excess.

Oops: “Thumim”

But you’d better not eat the shrimp at the casino buffet–shellfish are a specific no-no. :smiley:

From the Jewish perspective, gambling is not a Torah prohibition, and the leisure gambler is not considered to have committed any sin. However, one who makes his living off gambling is considered to be invalid as a witness in court because it is assumed that one cannot live off games of chance without some form of unfair advantage…possibly not theft by the strict scriptural definition, but enough shadiness to undermine his credibility.

Thanks for all the info.

Would someone who works in a casino or for the state lottery be considered invalid as a witness? These games have a clear advantage but it’s clearly documented, no cheating, nothing to imply dishonesty.

I don’t know anything about divination, but if I ever were to have two cats, I know what I’m going to name them.

Thanks for all the info.

Would someone who works in a casino or for the state lottery be considered invalid as a witness? These games have a clear advantage but it’s clearly documented, no cheating, nothing to imply dishonesty.

I don’t know anything about divination, but if I ever were to have two cats, I know what I’m going to name them.

The bible sucks. I binned mine.


I am not a Rabbi, but I’d wager (ha!) not. That statement seems to refer not to the managers of the games, but to those who make money gambling through a “system” of betting or some such…their livelihoods are (assumed to be) tied to the possession of knowledge not shared by others playing the game.

Chaim Mattis Keller

If gambling is a sin, the Church Bingo night is sacrilege.

And you’d better be prepared to condemn all the insurance companies, because all they are is institutional gambling. They offer you odds that you’ll live past a certain age. You take them up on the bet and pay them their house ‘vig’. If you ‘win’ the bet, they pay out and lose. If you ‘lose’ the bet, you pay them all your premiums and get nothing back.

For that matter, investing for your retirement is gambling, because you are foregoing a benefit today for a future benefit that you may or may not be alive to take advantage of.

And my extremely religious grandparents gambled everything they had every year that a freak storm wouldn’t come up and wipe out their crops.

The people who condemn gambling don’t understand what it is.

Similarly, REAL Christians don’t have bank accounts. To have one would be supporting an institution dedicated to usury shudder. Another of my standard defenses. Don’t know if anyone has closed their checking account and put all their savings in a shoebox under their bed because of me yet but, every Christian I’ve asked has responded that they do have a bank account.

Jake: Minor point: Heel bone(s) of a Dog?? I thought they used either the knucklebones of a sheep or dice as we know them today.

AFAIK, the Bible doesn’t say “No Gambling” directly, but some groups of Christians condemn it by inference, as described in various posts above. They and many others recognize that gambling usually is a pretty bad way to try to make a good living. I reckon that some might view the old adage that “in the long run the long run always wins” as proof of a sort that the (possibly divinely ordained) laws of statistics condemn gambling as a futile, counterproductive occupation.

Also, Jake:

Usury: I think where there are laws against usury, it’s defined as taking excessive interest, beyond that which is a “fair profit”. Loan Sharking is at least morally a form of usury, if it isn’t prosecuted under that name.

But… You (or at least I) would think very religious/fundamentally Christian areas would have very strict usury laws. Like, say, the Tidewater areas of Virginia… not so. Their “blue laws” on shopping on the sabbath and so on are just now going slightly away, but they’ve been notorious for charging outrageous interest on loans (such as auto loans) to poor sailors for as long as I remember. 24% on a car loan is typical.


Not to nitpick, but was your comment supposed to somehow be addressing the quote of mine you included? I’m wondering if I’m meant to explain something I said, but maybe you just snipped the wrong quote by mistake.

Chaim Mattis Keller

Games of chance appear recurrently in the Bible.

Three obvious instances:

When Jonah was cast out of the boat, after which he was swallowed by the great fish, it was because he had lost when lots were cast.

As noted before, the soldiers cast lots to divide Christ’s garments. It was noted that “this was done to fulfill the Scriptures”.

As noted before, lots were cast to determine Judas’ successor.

It can be argued that these are not instances of gambling since no money changed hands, but this amounts to a distinction without a difference; it is gambling whether you wager your pay check or your coat. Jonah was wagering with some of the highest stakes there are.

Interestingly enough, each of these involve the basest sort of gambling; casting lots is comparable to playing a slot machine, as compared to wagering on a game of skill and luck, such as when playing poker.

When legalizing slot machines came up for a vote in Missouri, a television evangelist in St. Louis ran a series of ads insisting that the Bible forbade gambling. His proof? Quotations criticizing the love of money. Of course he kept solicitng donations during his anti-gambling campaign.

Some people claim they are Biblical literalists when they have a strong position to defend, but the fact remains that they mostly seem to pick and choose their fights. For instance, many a fundamentalist will use the Bible to denounce the theory of evolution, but few today use scripture to dispute the idea that the world is round, or to claim that pi is equal to three exactly, as the Fourth Book of Kings suggests. The fact is people often begin with their positions, and bring the Bible to them, rather than the reverse.