The Life Foundations Nexus
Is gambling a sin? Yes, with one (complex) exception.
First, what is gambling? Gambling is paying money to possibly get more money. If you paid 1¢ to possibly get $1,000,000, practically nobody would condemn you for gambling. Why? Because the real issue is not gambling but extravagance.
Now, what is the one exception to the ban on gambling? God says you can gamble as long as you are not extravagant according to the following explanation of extravagance. What is extravagance? To put it another way, when is a bet too big a bet? The answer varies from person to person but there is a clear way to identify extravagance. Extravagance is paying too much for something. What determines whether a payment is “too much”? Two things: 1) the thing you are purchasing and 2) whether or not you have something more important to buy.
Let’s look first at the thing you are purchasing. The value of what you are purchasing must be equal to or greater than the amount of money you are spending. This is a matter of judgment. Therefore, we cannot lay down a rule as to how much money you should pay for what. In other words, we cannot lay down a rule as to how much money to gamble.
Now, let’s look at whether or not you have something more important to buy. What is more important than gambling?
At this point, it appears that any amount of money is “too much” to pay for the possibility of more money. That is, that any amount of money is too much to gamble. But wait. What about that 1¢ for $1,000,000? If all you have is 1¢, you could buy a hungry person a piece of bubble gum. They would not be unthankful. Someone says, “You might have won the $1,000,000 and, thus, have been able to buy the hungry person food for the rest of their life.” That is true. What it boils down to, then, is this: which is a better rule in life overall, to provide immediate help or to gamble and possibly provide future help? The answer is not hard to figure out. Everyone knows that most people lose more at gambling than they win. Consider how many people repeatedly fail to win anything playing the lottery. And what about the fact that if most people did not lose more at gambling than they won the casinos would go out of business. Therefore, the better rule in life overall is to provide immediate help. Therefore, it is better to give money to those in need than it is to gamble money to obtain even more money to give to those in need.
At this point, it looks like we have proved that you can never gamble. Not so. Why? Sometimes you have no opportunity to provide immediate help. All you can do then is to provide future help. You can give money that will buy something that will meet someone’s needs. One of the ways this can be done is to gamble at a game where some of the proceeds from the game will go to meet the needs of others. This is only allowable where items 1 and 2 above have been taken care of and where you have no opportunity to simply give money to meet the needs of others.
What, then, is the one exception to the ban on gambling? Engaging in gambling activity when you have no opportunity to provide immediate help and where items 1 and 2 above have been taken care of and where some of the proceeds from the gambling activity will go to meet the needs of others and where you are in a situation where you have no opportunity to simply give money to meet the needs of others.