“But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12
As a part of the rise of materialism, a diminishing work ethic, and the continued expansion of professional sports – gambling is significantly on the rise all across America. Gambling and speculation are counter to a Christian ethic for many reasons. In the Bible we constantly see work being tied to reward, and steady work blessed by the Lord leads to the meeting of needs. All along the way the working person is prayerful and dependent upon the Lord. Their efforts result in needs being met and giving thanks.
Work leads to prayerfulness. Work and dependence upon the Lord leads to thankfulness. Work and thankfulness lead to a contentment with what has come through work and God’s provision. Work and contentment lead to extra (“I don’t need to spend this on me.”), and some should be given to those in need. This is a basic Christian outlook on work and money.
The opposite of this is the rising acceptance of income through gambling and speculation. Gambling is based on the idea of chance, and that possibly through your own cleverness, you can beat the odds and win a large sum of money. This is a self-feeding cycle. If you win some money, then perhaps you can win more. This fire is fed by greed and a lust to get rich quick apart from work. It is based on a discontent with one’s present situation and a wrong-headed idea that the way to financial stability is through games of chance. The most serious deception is that none of it is actually based on chance. First, there is nothing left to chance under the sovereign hand of God. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs16:33). Second, the house always wins. These “games” are put together for the profit of the company that hosts them. Gambling is expanding rapidly throughout America because it is incredibly profitable for the house.
As Christians, we should hear the words of the apostle Paul stated above to the Thessalonian church. May we be content with simple lives, work with our hands (earn your own income through work God has gifted you to do), and by honest contentment live upright lives before a watching world. A part of this steady Christian living is saving and trying to make provision for the future. “Go to the ant, o sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, o sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-11). The picture here is of the industry of the ant to gather in summer to have enough to make it through the winter.
We save for the future by work. As we earn, we pray for seasons of life where we do not have to spend all our income on the needs of the day. When there is extra, we set it aside for a difficult day that surely will come. I would like to speak here another word of warning. I argue that using your savings to enter into speculative stock trading is no different than gambling.
True investment of any sort is buying something, or a share of something, that has real inherent value. You purchase this item, or share, at the current actual value with good reason that over time the thing will increase in actual value. The thing can then be sold in the future for a profit during times of need. This is investment.
Speculation, is purchasing an item, or stock, that has little inherent value, but believing that through some chance or manipulation that item, or stock, will become very valuable over time. This is a game of “chance” played in the arena of the stock exchange, instead of on the casino floor. Again, the house wins every time. The companies that have created easy on-line platforms for this form of speculation even attempt to make trading stocks an exciting game similar to gambling. These sites profit tremendously off the cost of trading even if every person involved loses money.
Finally, it is disappointing to see state governments getting more and more involved in gambling. State governments known that gambling will produce tremendous tax revenues, resulting in new states permitting gambling every year. In this, the state is abusing the weak and vulnerable of society that do not have the self-control to stay away from these schemes. The state should be protecting the weak and vulnerable from economic predators, not encouraging them and profiting from their actions. Who would have thought just a few years ago that the two hottest new sources of state tax revenue would be gambling and selling marijuana?
I urge you brothers and sisters in Christ, stay away from casinos, gambling, and stock speculation. Work hard daily, give your work to the Lord in prayer, give thanks as your needs are met, be content with what the Lord has provided, give to the needy, and save for the future. Desire to live a righteous life, not to get rich. “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).
May the Lord bless the work of your hands,