"Wheel-Of-Fortune" is the famous phrase that introduces the famed American television game show program hosted by Pat Sajak and Vanna White. The show first aired in 1976 and since then has been gaining audiences and contestants around the world with the hope of fortune. The allurement of quick money has been part of human history since antiquity and has developed into a billionaire industry throughout the globe reaping dividends on human greed. As Christianity is becoming more liberal the prohibition for believers in regard to gambling is not taught.
Gambling is one of many 21st century controversial Christian issues. However, just a few decades ago this, like many other social issues would not be debated. The determination between what is holy and unholy, clean and unclean is not so clear anymore as many churches today do not teach on sin and holiness but have substituted such messages for an inclusive and progressive message that appease the ears. As the Scriptures declared, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears". The reason such issues are now controversial is simply that the Word of God has not changed in spite of humanities effort to reason and justify its actions while attempting to gain God'sapproval.
The principals of the Spirit, as declared by the written Word of God, have not changed. Similarly, the unclean spirits that influence mankind's behavior have not changed, as well. These spirits existed in antiquity and revealed as pagan idols. The occult practices of old have gone undercover in a more familiar fashion that does not shock the conciseness of man but softly seduces it. Nonetheless, an unclean spirit is still unclean no matter how it is dressed up and packaged in the 21st century.
Casinos, games, and dice did not originate in Atlantic City or Los Vegas but can be traced back to Antioch. The city of Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, located in Syria. It's a geographical location near the water allowed for bustling maritime businesses and commercial trade throughout the region. Antioch was a wealthy metropolis that attributed its wealth and fortune to its patron deity Tyche.
Tyche in Greco-Roman culture was the goddess of fortune, chance, and luck. What today deems as mythology, was once a reality for ancient people to explain various life events. If the gods were not pleased the consequences of disaster and tragedy would befall the persons to which their anger was cast on. To maintain good fortune, the image of Tyche filled the city of Antioch so all its citizens could see and praise. Her image was portrayed throughout the region as a cornucopia (i.e. horn of plenty) and a wheel of fortune to remind people that she was the one that provided the bounty. Legend has it that Palamedes at Tyche’s temple in Argos dedicated the first set of dye unto her.
Tyche was believed to be the daughter of Zeus hat was celebrated with immaculate houses decorated with lights and bright colors filled with revelries and games of chance. Even losers of the games were rewarded with suicide to honor Tyche. The bright colors and noise in her temples as they are in casinos are designed to disorient and confuse worshipers/patrons to willingly lay their sacrifice down on her altars. This type of worship generates the same pharmacological effects similar to that of opiates creating an addiction. Similarly, losers are led to the point of suicide, which gamblers are 15 times higher risk of suicide and 20% of gamblers attempt suicide.
The human proclivity toward luck, chance, and fortune go farther back than Antioch as well. In the time of ancient Israel, the prophet Isaiah condemns those who have forsaken Jehovah for Gad and Meni(i.e., troop and number). As aforementioned, an unclean spirit does not change in purpose or intent, but it does change its name according to time and culture. Gad is the heathen deity of fortune, while Meni refers to the Babylonian god of fate and fortune. The same Scripture reads in the Jewish translation known as the Tanakh as, "But as for you who forsake the Lord, who ignore my holy mountain, who set the table for Luck and fill a mixing bowl for Destiny." The nation of Israel abandoned the commands of Jehovah to worship gods of luck and fortune through various forms of gambling.
Additionally, it can be read in the narrative of the birth of Jacob and Leah's fifth son through her maidservant Zilphah the influence of "luck" on culture. The Tanakh reads, "And Leah said, ‘What luck!' So she named him Gad". The Hebrew oral tradition, known as the Ketib, explains this text and the usage of an exclamation point to express Leah identifying her assistance in birth, "by the help of Gad!" Leah was the daughter of Laban, who was acquainted with the religious practices of his homeland that included the cities of Baalgad and Migdal-gad, which worship the gods of luck and fortune. Thus, it can be determined that Leah was aware of her words.
Gambling finds its history in pagan worship practices, but how did fortune, chance, and luck seep into Christianity? According to Webster's Dictionary, the word "god" is phonetically spelled "gawd" and the pronunciation is a god. The etymology of the word god according to the Twentieth Century Dictionary states,
“It was applied to heathen deities; and, later, when the Teutonic peoples were converted to Christianity, the word was elevated to the Christian sense”
“The common Teutonic words for a personal object of religious worship…applied to all those superhuman beings of the heathen mythologies. The word ‘god’ on the conversation of the Teutonic peoples were converted to Christianity was adopted as the same name of the one Supreme Being…”
The Teutonic tribes identified their supreme deity as god, while the Christians of the seventh century adopted the name and called their deity God. In other words, the English translators of the Bible borrowed the word god from pagan worship and instituted it into Christianity. As a result, in the English translation of the Bible, the Hebrew and Greek words such as Elohim and Theos are translated as God.
Such knowledge is significant and shines new light on the phrase, "In God, We Trust" found on American currency. A countries success is dependent upon a vital economy. Therefore, policies and laws are institutes to promote booming economic development and low unemployment rates to ensure that just as in Antioch, people are gaining fortune, thereby guaranteeing a prosperous fate. Truly, societies trust in the numbers – they trust in Gawd.
The title God (god) is a universal title given to deity; it is not a specific name or unique to Christianity. As learned, it is of pagan origins to identify the god of fortune adopted by Christians. From Genesis to Revelation the Creator of the Universe, the Supreme Deity revealed himself not by title, but by covenant name – Yahweh. He was not to be confused with other so-called gods but specified his people to call upon his name. The Bible clearly states to call upon the name of the Lord, that in his name there is salvation, and that his name is a strong tower. As the Old Covenant was fulfilled and transitioned into the New Covenant a new name was given that all people can declare and identify as the Universal Savior, the King of kings, the Lord of lords – Jesus. Jesus declared, "Ask anything in my name," and Paul preached that Jesus “Is the name above all other names." For this reason, those who identify as believers and disciples of the one true God are baptized into the revealed covenant name of the Christian deity – Jesus Christ – to identify with him.
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” Acts 4:12
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” 2Chronicles 7:14
It is essential to note the intent of the usage of the word God. Regrettably, truth and knowledge can be weaponized to overly critique others who may not have the information just as early believers did in the New Testament. Christians have used the title God for hundreds of years in prayer, worship, and praise with a godly intent. Thus, it cannot be assumed that when an individual says, "God," they adore the god of fortune. With that same breath, it is also important for professing Christians to never second guess using the name of Jesus Christ in a public arena. Jesus warned his disciples that, "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake" (Matt. 10:22). It is not a title or label that offends people that it is the name of Jesus. Unfortunately, the system of the world and Christianity has become more politically correct as not to offend, so Jesus is replaced with the universal title God; "I believe in God. I worship God. God loves you". As a result, the name of Jesus, standards of holiness, and sin are an endangered language that leaves a diluted form of Christianity that is impotent.
The pagan worship practices to the god of luck were long ago. Or is it? The similarities between the worshipers of old and the patrons of today are staggering. Thousands of people make their pilgrimage to the temples of "Lady Luck" and place their time and money on her altars of fortune. The lights, noise, entertainment, and food all used to arouse the flesh and create a euphoric sense. The greatest deception that Satan has construed is the idea that he no longer exists. The fact is, Satan and idolatry have concealed themselves ever so cleverly under the guise of entertainment and fun that the masses are placing their life in the hands of luck rather than faith.
The wisdom of the Bible lets readers know that fruit can identify a tree. The fruit of gambling tastes sweet, but its intoxicating effects are disastrous. Gambling is a doorway too many non-violent crimes such as embezzlement, theft, and fraud. The rise in domestic violence and alcoholism is often associated with gambling. Lastly, depression and suicide among those who partake are commonly known. Does everyone who gambles become an alcoholic, abuse their spouse, or commit suicide? No. These are just a list of sociological and behavioral issues that are the fruit of the vine of gambling. To give a definite answer to whether or not gambling is an activity that a believer should take part in the evidence must be found in the Scriptural principle.
As already expressed, gambling is rooted in pagan practices to worship the goddess of fortune and luck. It is a manifestation of the spirit of bondage that is fueled by covetousness. Coveting is the act of inordinate, ungoverned, and selfish desire that threatens the basic rights of others. It is sinful because it prays upon mankind's greed to obtain materials outside the commandments of God. That natural inclination of men to get money by other means than labor is warned against. Paul writes to Timothy, "For the love of money is the root of all evil" (1Tim. 6:10). The apostle is not demonizing money but highlighting a covetous spirit that will lead to other destructive behaviors that will lead to bondage. Throughout the Bible, believers are commanded to labor to achieve monetary goals and once achieved to be good stewards of the blessing.
Secondly, the prophet Jeremiah pronounces that Jehovah has predetermined and planned in his sovereignty every facet a person's life; "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end”. To have an expected end is to have an end which a person knows the outcome. An expected end is not an end left to chance or luck but is the result of direct investment. The Lord is not a gambler; he does not take chances or leave his will in the hands of fortune. He is knowledgeable, skillful, and aware of persons, situations, and environments that affect the world. When individuals gamble, they are not exhibiting the characteristics of God but leaving the outcome to chance.
Thirdly, intent, and motive are the litmus test of a person's decision to gamble or not. This is what separates gambling from investments. There are some that will suggest that having stocks and bonds are a form of gambling; it can be if intended and motivated to make quick money with disregard of God, family, and knowledge. There are many in the field of stock investments which are motivated by greed and to feed that urge that take part in deceptive practices such as Ponzi schemes with disregard to their victims. Nonetheless, the economic system of the world is based on financial investments. IRA's, pensions, health insurance, wages, tariffs, and the price of consumer products are all based on stock investments. With this in mind, if investing was the same as gambling, then all people would be in sin. In fact, in the Parable of the Talents, the slothful servant was admonished by his master to have at least put the money in the bank so it can gain interest. There are many lessons that can be taken from Jesus's teaching in this text about spiritual investment but taking it in the literal displays that putting money in the bank to gain interest as stocks would is not a sin. Now, some teach this text does not permit this type of investment because usury is prohibited under Jewish law; this is true. Usury was prohibited under Jewish law among trading and borrowing among other Jewish believers, however, to nonbeliever's usury can be applied justly..
Having the wrong approach or intent as it pertains to money can also be found in the church as well. The main focus of gambling is to gain increase on money that is thrown into the lot without actually laboring for the increase. The church has been consumed with doctrines of prosperity and blessing that the offering plate is being used as a roulette table. The Bible teaches to be a cheerful giver with the knowledge that by faith, the Lord will supply for all needs; he is Jehovah-Jireh. However, there are those that give a tithe or offering with the intent and expectancy of gaining a financial increase because God must fulfill his word; "Give, and it shall be given unto thee." This is a manipulation of Scripture to cover up the greedy intent of the heart. There are times that he will bless monetarily, and yet, there are times he blesses in other ways. A person can be blessed with an employment opportunity, extra hours to work, favor, spiritual blessing, peace, and different intangible ways. Therefore, a mature Christian cannot give with the intent to receive money in return.
There are also some believers who see gambling as a resource to bless the church. They will go to the casinos and place their bets with the thought of giving a percentage of their winnings to the church. Could such a generous gesture give a person a license to sin? Christians are instructed in Romans 3:8 that to do evil so that good may come out is still wrong, thereby eliminating the Robin Hood fairy tale. Any money acquired by unrighteous acts is considered filthy lucre.
In summation, gambling was and is a form of idolatries worship to the goddess of chance, luck, and fortune. Even though this unclean spirit has been repackaged as entertainment, it still incites man's carnal nature of covetous and greed. Consequently, the innocent actions of a game will eventually bear fruits of addiction, domestic abuse, depression, and suicide. Christian believers do not serve a God that gambles or takes chances with life. He has set a predetermined course as the Author and Finisher of life that produces an expected end.
Jabre, F. (2013). Gambling on the Brain. Scientific American 309, 5, 28-30
Encyclopedia Britannica, 11thEdition
Ex. 22:24; Lev. 25:36