Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I'm taking an Ethics exam - Section C

9. Is gambling a sin?

In attempting to answer this question I will seek to distinguish “gambling” from “investing” as carefully as I can and from that consideration I hope the answer to this question will become clearer.

The desire for gambling grows from a desire to get rich, to do so quickly and without any exertion other than in the effort or activity involved in placing the bet. There is always an element of risk in gambling and so there is also always the prospect of losing what one has entrusted to the gamble. One activity that some claim is gambling is investing in the stock market since whether the price of an investment goes up or down is also as uncertain as the future.

Is investing in the stock market to be classed alongside playing poker or a game of dice or betting on the outcome of a football match?

First, from Genesis 1 when man is placed in the Garden right through to the Parables Jesus told, the Bible assumes and upholds a principle of good stewardship.

Second, being a good steward is a future oriented activities which may (it doesn’t always) involve an exchange: “ I give you my money and get something in return”.. The investor in a stock is purchasing a part of an enterprise that produces something of value for which it has customers who are willing to part with their own money to acquire. Therefore stock ownership is ownership of something of value and gambling is not since gambling always involves an exchange but the gambler gets nothing in return

Gambling is merely an exchange of funds for nothing but a stake in a pure mathematical possibility of outcomes. Although the outcome of loss or gain and the magnitude of any loss or gain can be observed in both gambling and investing this is where the similarity ends. Losses or gains in proper investing activity occur in the context of sowing and reaping of blessing or cursing on effort and activity. There is therefore an element of faith in investing. But in gambling sowing and reaping have no connection with the outcomes. While in investing there is trust in the guiding of Providence in the fulfilment of the cultural mandate of Genesis 1, gambling involves no such trust nor does it do anything to promote the cultural mandate. While investing can be an entirely selfish enterprise gambling always is.

Therefore, we conclude that gambling cannot be a godly activity and therefore is a godless activity and thus always a sin.


Bill said...

But suppose one gambles with full realization that it is simply a stake in a mathematical outcome, and has a set limit for loss. It is possible that it might be done simply for entertainment, e.g., spend $20 at the roulette tables,a nd when it is gone one is done. It takes about an hour at minimum bets to lose $20. During that time there may be social interaction, the excitement of an occasional win, and in some casinos, free drinks.

Your analysis specifically looked at the motive for getting rich without effort. But there can be other motives. Are these catagorically sinful by virtue of the actions?

Celal Birader said...

Dear Bill,

Thank you for your comments.

I was reminded recently from reading it on another blog somewhere that the first miracle Jesus performed was at a wedding “so that the party could keep going” as the blog writer put it.

Similarly after I had posted my response to this ethics exam I did wonder about the element of “playfulness” or “game playing” in gambling.

Surely God is not opposed to playing or entertainment or taking enjoyment in an activity.

I suppose then there’s maybe an element of degree involved in gambling: a bit like the difference between enjoying your food and gluttony.