Counsellors Go Back
Gambling in one form or another has been a feature of people's daily life or even their culture.No one dares to say that one has never been affected by the good or bad effects of gambling during one's life process.Even though one never gambles, one will also be influenced by the gambling advertisements from the media, the indebtedness of one's family members, relatives, friends or colleagues, the gambling policies of the government as well as the adverbial consequence due to gambling activities, such as fraud, theft, depression, suicide, etc.
Thus, gambling, an angel or a devil, depends on what views you hold on and persist.As a Christian and a Social Work Supervisor of a problem gambling counseling centre, I would like to examine the secular worldview and the Christian worldview on gambling and attempts to draw up practical principles in facing the little monster of gambling.
Gambling : Secular Worldview vs. Christian Worldview
Gambling can be defined as risk-taking activities involving financial or valued transactions on the uncertain outcome of a future event (McMillen, 1996).Based on this definition, people participating in gambling activities are taking risks of gaining or losing money or economic values by chances.
From the economic perspective, gambling has facilitated the economic transactions which lead to economic growth.The enhanced tourism, job opportunities and most of all, the revenues generated from gambling industries such as lottery, casino, horse-racing, football betting, etc., has created great attraction and temptation for the policy makers of governments.In addition, it also contributes financial supports to the social welfare in which lots of people are benefited.
From the societal perspective, gambling has also promotes the interaction among people who have the same topic and interest to be argued and discussed.Above all, gambling is a kind of entertainment which gives joy and satisfaction to its citizens.For many countries like America, Australia, England, Hong Kong and Macau, gambling is now one of the most popular forms of recreation for their citizens and tourists.The Mark six, Horse-racing and mahjong playing are well-received by over half of the population in Hong Kong.
From the governmental perspective, the revenues generated from gambling activities are tremendous.About 75% of the total income of the Macau government comes from the benefits of the casinos. And, a certain proportion of the tax of the Hong Kong government comes from the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
As a matter of fact, the monetary contributions from the gambling industries have its positive function which enhancing the economic, social and welfare growth.However, the negative effects of gambling are also coexist with the positives.The satirical epitaph celebrating the termination of the British lottery in 1826 has vividly described the negative effects of gambling:
"In Memory of
The State Of Lottery
The last of a long line
Whose origin in England commenced
In the year 1569
Which, after a serious of tedious complaints.
Expired on the 18th day of October 1826.
During a period of 257 years, the family
Flourished under the powerful protection
of the British Parliament;
the Minister of the day continuing to
give them his support for the improvement
of the revenue.
As they increased it was found that their
continuance corrupted the morals
and encouraged a spirit of Speculation and
Gambling among the lower classes of the people
Thousands of whom fell victims to their
Insinuating and tempting allurements
The negatives of gambling not only harm the gambler's physical, psychological and mental health but also create disruption on family functioning.The wife of an addicted gambler has described:-
"We live through our own hell of stress, lies, and uncertainty...... the rest of summer was hell...... He was distant and irritable......"
(Williams (ed.) 1999)
In sum, the worldview on gambling has both the positives and the negatives.No matter which view is dominating, gambling plays a very significant role in history as well as the contemporary post-modern society.
The Christian worldview on gambling seems to be simple and concise in comparison with the worldview.The main purpose of gambling from the worldview is gaining money, but, the path to gain money is by luck and chances.It inevitably gives the soils of planting greed.Greed in the biblical context is negative in nature.The Proverbs says:
"A greedy man brings trouble to his family."(Proverbs 15:27)
"Ill-gotten treasures are of no values."(Proverbs 10:2)
Jesus in his teaching says:
"......You cannot serve both God and Money."(Matthew 6:24)
Hence, gambling with the purpose of gaining money is contradictory to Christian teaching.
However, some Christians hold the view that if they participate in gambling only for the purpose of recreation and without money involvement, it can be acceptable.Though the Bible has no description of gambling, the essence governing Christian behaviour is implicitly written in the Bible.
"Everything is permissible" - but not everything is beneficial.
"Everything is permissible - but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others."
(I Corinthians 10:23-24)
Under this Biblical context and perspective, Christians should put in their mind: "beneficial", "constructive" and "good of others" when they participate in "justified" non-monetary gambling activities.
A Christian Gambling Counsellor's Reflection
I have been in the Social Work Supervisor position of a gambling counseling centre since 15 October 2003. The past experience and perception about gambling have broadened my knowledge in perceiving gambling as a little monster from the sociological point of view and a make-up devil form the theological perspective.
In fact, all the gamblers believe gambling can brings fortune, good luck, happiness, materialistic returns, status and self worth to them.Their goal of life is striving for this purpose.Even though they lose their money, relationship or dignity, they go on gamble and gamble again.To understand the reasons behind their gambling, "Win Big Money" is the priority of their bets.
In spite of the personal needs that people gamble, I must confess that gambling itself is a very exciting form of activity.It can bring satisfaction to the gambler during the process of gambling.And, people tend to accept that gambling is a part of their culture especially for the Hong Kong people who buy the Mark six regularly.Gambling can also attract Christians in a post modern world.As the post modernists claim that there is no absolute truth and value, everything is situational and relative.Thus, Christians are even confused by the doctrines of post-modernism.Some of the gamblers receiving our counseling are Christians too.It seems that the truth of God's words cannot resist the temptations of gambling.
Deep down in my Christian belief, I firmly believe the sovereignty of God.Though the temptations of gambling are prevalent, God is still there to safe-guard His people and put this sinful world under His control.I also believe the unchangeable and powerful of God's words.His words have written clearly in the Bible and explained to the world.God speaks and God acts in the vamping of gambling. (Street 1999)
The worldview on gambling is predominant by its positives on economic, social and welfare growth.Many a people refer the gambling activities as their daily life and culture.However, the Christian worldview regards it as the breeding ground of greed.Greed in the biblical context is a choice between money and God.Christians are easily tempted by the ambivalent value of participating in gambling especially under the influence of post-modernism.Firmly rooted in the belief of God's sovereignty and words can Christians resist the seductive power of gambling.
Ashton, J. (1898)A History of Gambling in England, London: Duckworth, p.238.
Braniff, Brenda. "My husband's Secret Addiction." in Williams, M.E. (ed.) (1999) Legalized Gambling, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc. pp. 76-77.
McMillen, Jan (ed.) (1996)Gambling Cultures: Studies in history and interpretation, London and N.Y.: Routledge, pp.6-7.
Street, R. (1999)Called to be God's people, International Headquarter of Salvation Army, pp. 15-18