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Gambling: Vice or Virtue?

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Two evangelical leaders make a gambling trip to Las Vegas, followed by a lengthy exposé in a Christian magazine. They later apologize. Several Christian colleges relax their traditional gambling prohibition for their professors and employees—then try to explain why the prohibition remains intact for their students. Gambling games such as poker and blackjack have become so prevalent that they are covered like sports on cable television. Wealthy Christians justify their gambling jaunts as another form of entertainment. After all, they are rich. They can afford it. Rex Rogers, former president of Cornerstone University and author of Gambling: Don’t Bet on It, offers some wise advice on the issue, clarifying what the Bible really teaches about gambling.

I grew up in a Christian home that considered gambling in all its forms to be wrong. I was never permitted to use “playing cards,” and my conservative Christian parents were suspicious of most other cards as well. We used dice when we played Monopoly, but that was about all. And I never pitched pennies as a boy or participated in office pools as an adult.

 

My parents taught me that gambling was “not something good young men do.” I didn’t always like that much, but this lifestyle standard was really not that difficult to maintain because most of my friends’ parents, whatever their religious views, believed the same.

Years later as a middle-aged adult in the ’90s, I suddenly realized that gambling was going mainstream and few Christian leaders ever mentioned it, much less condemned or combatted it. Plus some Christians I knew seemed to be foating along quite happily in this stream with no reservations about gambling. Nor did they marshal a “theology of gambling,” either for or against the practice. It hit me that something had changed a lot since my parents had taught me to stay away from gambling.

Now we’ve moved into the 21st century, and it seems the Christian community is still largely asleep when it comes to gambling. Christians are gambling, and churches are even engaging in charity gambling events—not too surprising when you notice that gambling is no longer considered a moral problem.

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