Super Bowl Sunday inspired Big Eva to write an article exploring Christian’s decreasing concerns with sports wagering or other event related gambling. Christianity Today questions why Christians are growing increasingly apathetic to the topic of gambling, in an article titled, Super Bowl Betting Is a $7.6 Billion Problem Fewer Evangelicals Care About.
Few Christians see sports gambling as a problem. A 2016 survey from Lifeway Research found that only 36 percent of Christians thought sports betting was morally wrong. Pastors carry more reservations, with a majority telling Lifeway in 2019 that betting on sports is morally wrong and three-quarters believing it should not be legal.
People responding on social media to critiques of gambling on Desiring God or The Gospel Coalition argued that the authors were being “legalistic” and that betting was no different than investing in the stock market or a 401(k).
The critic of the Big Eva publications are actually morally correct. There are three premises, I argue, why gambling is not a sin.
If gambling were a sin, the Bible would be explicit
There is not a single law in the Old Testament, nor proverb that condemns gambling. It simply does not exist. So Big Eva publications take verses out of context to extrapolate a framework to condemn this activity.
It is rather odd that a concept that existed in ancient times is not explicitly condemned by Scripture yet because of tradition is thought to be.
Contrast this with internet pornography where we can take verses condemning lust, fornication, and homosexuality to create a concise theology on the issue.
In the instance of gambling, Big Eva uses a scattershot of verses about mostly money. But must of it adds up to eisegesis.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) puts out every year an antigambling church bulletin insert, which lays out in bullet points why gambling is a “sin against God.” The Assemblies of God adopted a position paper in 2015 calling gambling “unwise” and “a compromise of Christian ethics and witness.”
These leaders and denominations point not only to the biblical wisdom on the nature of work, stewardship, and avoiding greed, but also to the idea that the few who gain from it are doing so at the expense of the many–including the poor. The ERLC bulletin insert emphasizes that opposition to gambling is based on love for neighbor.
The Russell Moore position paper cited argues that not earning money by the sweat of your brow is sinful gain, in which case investment would be condemned by this position paper.
Additionally, their is a non sequitur fallacy, in which the ERLC argues that covetousness is the cause of wagering.
Additionally, the Assemblies of God position paper argues that the zero sum game of gambling makes it a sin because you thrive at the expense of others. But this concept exists in the stock market, entrepreneurship, and other forms of investment or even getting a promotion at a job. The zero sum game is nit a basis for labeling something a sin.
These arguments require a poor reading of the text and the majority of Christians and even pagans are seeing through these midwit arguments.
Gambling is an allowed pleasure, like drinking
For some, gambling is a calculated risk investment. For others, it is a pleasure seeking activity. Yet, as the Bible does not condemn this activity, this would leave room to categorize gambling with drinking. Drinking alcohol is not a sin according to Scripture, and our society has already seen the damage caused by those who argued otherwise.
This is not to say this this allowed pleasure can’t lead to sin. Many people have gambling problems. But many more have drinking problems. You could argue that alcohol is a net negative for society, but that does not make drinking a sin.
Complaints about the lottery preying on the poor may have merit as it relates to the government monopolizing an industry. But arguments against state lotteries can hardly be applied to other areas like cards or sports wagering.
There’s no moral different between gambling and other forms of investment
High risks investments are referred to as gambles whether they are of chance or skill. The average person has no control over whether a stock will increase in value, the same way that the average person has no control over the outcome of a sports event. Additionally, high risk investments such as cryptocurrency are riskier than many money lines.
The failure rate of starting a restaurant is astronomical, yet this activity is not condemned by Big Eva. Entire investment industries like venture capital thrive based on the success of very few of their investments. This is gambling but because rich people do it, Big Eva has no qualms about it. But if a poor person doesn’t believe the LA Rams can cover the spread, they are sinning? This logically does not make sense. The factors in determining a business’s success are comparable to the factors predicting the outcome of a sporting event. Even more calculated is playing blackjack or poker where success is mathematical.
Gambling has Big Eva very uppity, yet its further undermines their credibility. The increasing skepticism of the laity to the tradition that holds gambling as a sins is a response to two observations: lack of Scriptural evidence and classism.