Bible Study on Gambling with One’s Life

By Jerry Price
Dec 16, 2009

Documents

Bible Study Guide

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

1 Timothy 6:10

Teacher Notes

This is a suggested Bible study for any size group. The accompanying sermon notes, fact sheet, and PowerPoint presentation serve as resources as you prepare to lead this Bible study. Answers are provided with the questions when appropriate, but do not be too quick to give the answers. Allow the participants time to talk about the questions among themselves and offer their own thoughts and reflections.

Before class: Make a copy of OS2 in the Resources section of this guide for distribution to class members at the suggested time below.

Create Learning Readiness: If possible, provide copies of the Faith & Family Impact bulletin inserts focusing on gambling to class participants as they arrive (available from Lifeway Christian Resources at 1.800.458.2772 or http://www.lifeway.com). Ask them to begin looking over it while waiting for class to begin.

Say: Linda Selymes started gambling two years before her retirement as an executive at Boeing Aircraft. But after retirement, she began gambling more often. She went through $500,000 in retirement savings, fell behind on house payments, and hated the person she had become.

At the height of her addiction, she would draw out $500 from her credit union account and head for the casino. After losing that money, she would use her debit card to get another $500, then add $300 more to credit cards. On one occasion, she had in her purse $14,000 that she had won, but it was all gone in three days.

At first Linda’s husband did not know what she was doing since she managed the household finances. But after an all-nighter at a casino, her husband threatened to leave her-though never did. Finally, her husband, her son, and her doctor convinced her to get help. It took several months to eventually gain control and completely stop gambling. She now says she will never stop going to her support group meetings because she knows that if she gambles again, she will be on the fast-track to being back where she was. She says there is one thing she keeps telling herself: “At least for today I won’t give in to this urge. I don’t have to deal with my whole life all at once.” (See OS1.)

What a tragedy! Linda Selymes had been a successful businesswoman. She had amassed a large amount of money that would have provided her with more than enough for the rest of her life. But she wasted it all on gambling-an addiction that hooked her before she even knew it. Gambling not only did that to Linda Selymes; it will do it to anyone who thinks he or she can play around with it and remain immune from its lure.

Say: Maybe you know, or have heard about, someone else who ruined his or her life through gambling. Share that information with us if you can.

Ask: How many of you have seen any of the poker shows or gambling advertisements on television? They make it look and sound so appealing, don’t they? Are all of those people winners?

Say: Someone-actually many someones-must lose in order for someone to win. Understand something: when you see those advertisements for the casinos or the off-shore Internet sites, you never see the aftermath of people’s lives that have lost everything and their lives are in shambles.

Ask: Why would a person ever start gambling in the first place? (Write answers on the board.)

Say: The “love of money” is the root of gambling. Gambling is an attempt to gain what someone else has without working for it. (Ask a class participant to look up and read aloud 1 John 2:16. See WS1, WS2, CC1, CC3, CC5, and CC6 for supplemental information.)

Ask: John names three areas of sin in that verse. Which one (or ones) do you think gambling fits into?

Say: The word used by John translated “lust” in that verse refers to an inordinate desire for something. It is desire that goes far beyond normal. (See WS5, WS6, CC1, and CC3 for supplemental information.)

Ask: What do you think is the cause of a person’s desire to gain more through gambling? (Write answers on the board.)

Say: Let’s all turn to Matthew 6:25-34. Our Lord tells us exactly what the problem is-lack of faith concerning the future.

Ask: Even if a person could always-or even almost always-win at gambling, how much would it take to satisfy that lack of faith?

Ask someone to look up and read Mark 8:36 for the class.

Say: If a person amassed a fortune through gambling but never came to faith in Christ, what does our Lord say would be the end result?

Say: Rather than gaining more, the one who gambles usually loses what he already has-many times much more.

Hand out the copies of OS2 to the class.

Say: The page I have just given you is a list of some of the problems created by gambling. I want us to read each one.

Ask: That’s a rather ominous list of problems associated with gambling, isn’t it? What do you think about that? (Give time for class members to think about the list and make any comments before proceeding.)

Say: Paul points out two results of this overarching desire to gain more that is evident in the person who gambles. The first is wandering from the faith. The original language indicates that this is in the passive voice. That means that the person is not the actor, but the one acted upon. This person is led astray by something or someone else. It might be through the influence of someone else or it may be by the lure of gambling itself. (See WS7, WS8, CC1, CC3, CC4, and CC6 for supplemental information.)

Ask: What are some things that the gambling industry uses to try to lure people into gambling? (Possible answers: cheap or free food, lodging, or drinks; free transportation to and from gambling sites; instant credit line; advertising; glitzy places to gamble, etc.)

Say: The second result that Paul mentions is the wounding of the one who gambles. The translation of “pierced themselves” means “to put on a spit” to be roasted over an open fire. (See WS9, WS10, CC1, CC3, and CC6 for supplemental information.)

Ask: What are some things besides money that a person who gambles may lose? (Possible answers: emotional well-being, physical health, self-respect, good name, standing in the community, family, intimate fellowship with God, life.)

Say: Not everyone will become addicted to gambling like Linda Selymes. No one knows who will and who won’t. What may start out as only “entertainment,” as some like to call it, may become much more-an addiction that will last the rest of their life, one that will control them and control their future. When a person chooses to gamble, he are truly gambles with his life.

Say: You may be asking, what should I do” Here are five suggestions:

  1. Determine now that, if you have never gambled, you will never start.
  2. Determine now that, if you have started gambling, you will do whatever it takes to stop.
  3. If you have started gambling, find a support group to help you overcome the addiction.
  4. Pray for anyone among your family or friends who is gambling-to whatever degree.
  5. Consider leading (or asking someone else to lead) the gambling recovery program Chance to Change, which is available through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s Web site at http://erlc.com .

What Can One Person Do?

  1. Determine now that, if you have never gambled, you will never start.
  2. Determine now that, if you have started gambling, you will do whatever it takes to stop.
  3. If you have started gambling, find a support group to help you overcome the addiction.
  4. Pray for anyone among your family or friends who is gambling-to whatever degree.
  5. Consider leading (or asking someone else to lead) the gambling recovery program, Chance to Change-available through our website at http://erlc.com .

Other Helpful Scriptures

Bible verses about Gambling:
Exodus 20:3, 15, 17; Proverbs 1:19; Proverbs 15:27a; Proverbs 21:25-26; Proverbs 28:25; Jeremiah 6:13; Matthew 6:19-21, 24; Romans 14:21, 23c; I Corinthians 10:24, 31; Ephesians 4:28; Philippians 2:3-4; Philippians 4:11-13; I Thessalonians 5:22; II Thessalonians 3:6-12; I Timothy 5:8

Word Studies (WS)

WS1 — love of money — “from phile_, ‘to love,’ and argyros, ‘silver,’ occurs in 1 Tim. 6:10 (cp. philargyros, ‘covetous, avaricious’). Trench contrasts this with pleonexia, ‘covetousness’” [Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 7 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)].

WS2 — root — “used (a) in the natural sense, Matt. 3:10; Matt. 13:6, 21; Mark 4:6, 17; Mark 11:20; Luke 3:9; Luke 8:13; (b) metaphorically (1) of ‘cause, origin, source,’ said of persons, ancestors, Rom. 11:16-18 (twice); of things, evils, 1 Tim. 6:10, RV, of the love of money as a ‘root’ of all ‘kinds of evil’ (marg., ‘evils;’ AV, ‘evil’); bitterness, Heb. 12:15; (2) of that which springs from a ‘root,’ a shoot, said of offspring, Rom. 15:12; Rev. 5:5; Rev. 22:16” [Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 7 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)].

WS3 — evil — “apparently a primary word; worthless (intrinsically such; whereas (poneros) properly refers to effects), i.e. (subject) depraved, or (object) injurious :- bad, evil, harm, ill, noisome, wicked” [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 7 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)].

WS4 — evil — “indicates the lack in a person or thing of those qualities which should be possessed; it means ‘bad in character’ (a) morally, by way of thinking, feeling or acting, e.g., Mark 7:21, ‘thoughts;’ 1 Cor. 15:33, ‘company;’ Col. 3:5, ‘desire;’ 1 Tim. 6:10, ‘all kinds of evil;’ 1 Pet. 3:9, ‘evil for evil;’ (b) in the sense of what is injurious or baneful, e.g., the tongue as ‘a restless evil,’ Jas. 3:8; ‘evil beasts,’ Titus 1:12; ‘harm,’ Acts 16:28; once it is translated ‘bad,’ 2 Cor. 5:10. It is the opposite of agathos, ‘good’” [Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 7 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)].

WS5 — coveted after — “middle of apparently a prolonged form of an obsolete primary [compare (oros)]; to stretch oneself, i.e. reach out after (long for) :- covet after, desire” [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 7 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)].

WS6 — coveted after — “Literally, to stretch out especially with the hands, to snatch. In the NT, only in the mid. orégomai, to stretch oneself, reach after something, and hence metaphorically meaning to covet, long after, desire, try to gain, be ambitious (in a benign manner) (1 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 11:16). By implication, to indulge in, to love (1 Tim. 6:10)” [The Complete Word Study Dictionary (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 7 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)].

WS7 — erred from — “from (apo) and (planao); to lead astray (figurative) passive to stray (from truth) :- err, seduce” [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 7 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)].

WS8 — erred from — “‘to cause to wander away from, to lead astray from’ (apo, ‘from,’ and No. 1), is used metaphorically of leading into error, Mark 13:22, AV, ‘seduce,’ RV, ‘lead astray;’ 1 Tim. 6:10, in the Passive Voice, AV, ‘have erred,’ RV, ‘have been led astray’” [Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 7 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)].

WS9 — pierced themselves through — “from (peri) and the base of (peran); to penetrate entirely, i.e. transfix (figurative) :- pierce through” [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 7 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)].

WS10 — pierced themselves through — “‘to put on a spit,’ hence, ‘to pierce,’ is used metaphorically in 1 Tim. 6:10, of torturing one’s soul with many sorrows, ‘have pierced (themselves) through’” [Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 7 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)].

Commentary Citations (CC)

The commentary citations contain Greek characters that do not render properly on the web. Please view the pdf verion for this content.

Other Sources (OS)

OS1-Linda Selymes started gambling two years before her retirement as an executive at Boeing Aircraft. But after retirement, she began gambling more often. She went through $500,000 in retirement savings, fell behind on house payments, and hated the person she had become.

At the height of her addiction, she would draw out $500 from her credit union account and head for the casino. After losing that money, she would use her debit card to get another $500, then add $300 more to credit cards. On one occasion, she had in her purse $14,000 that she had won, but it was all gone in three days.

At first Linda’s husband did not know what she was doing since she managed the household finances. But after an all-nighter at a casino, her husband threatened to leave her-though never did. Finally, her husband, her son, and her doctor convinced her to get help. It took several months to eventually gain control and completely stop gambling. She now says she will never stop going to her support group meetings because she knows that if she gambles again, she will be on the fast-track to being back where she was. She says there is one thing she keeps telling herself: “At least for today I won’t give in to this urge. I don’t have to deal with my whole life all at once” [Adapted from Marsha King, “Older Adults Vulnerable to Gambling Addiction,” Grand Forks Herald (North Dakota), December 3, 2005].

OS2-Ramifications of gambling

  • “Gambling creates no new wealth. It redistributes wealth on an inequitable basis. It enriches the few and impoverishes the many. Gambling is non-productive. It performs no useful or necessary services. Gambling is parasitic.
  • Gambling depresses legitimate business, siphoning off money from the regular business community. It dislocates the purchasing dollar. Business leaders are reluctant to invest money in areas that sustain large gambling enterprises because of the ensuing bad debts, delinquent time payments, and bankruptcy. Gambling disrupts the normal checks and balances of a well-ordered community. Gambling restricts business.
  • Gambling increases welfare costs. Gambling weakens the stability of family life. Gambling lowers the standard of living and necessitates a larger welfare burden, thus raising taxes. Increased revenue from gambling means larger claims for welfare.
  • Gambling increases crime. Gambling always attracts racketeers and mobsters. Gambling increases the number of murders, assaults, robberies, crimes of violence of all kinds, etc. The underworld thrives on gambling. Police cost increase.
  • Gambling corrupts government. Gamblers always seek to increase their offers and to buy protection. Gamblers are soul-less in attempting to corrupt police, judges and legislators. Instead of the state controlling legalized gambling, the professional gamblers often end up in control of the state.
  • Gambling victimizes the poor. Gambling leads to embezzlement, bribes, extortion, treason, suicide, and corruption of college and professional athletes. Crime often results from victims trying to recoup gambling losses. Those who can least afford it usually gamble the most. Gambling exploits the weaknesses of individuals. Gambling and poverty go hand in hand. Inner-city residents are hurt the most by expanded gambling.
  • Gambling is a sophisticated form of legalized stealing. In winning, one obtains the wages that another person has earned without giving anything in exchange. The larger the winnings, the more someone else had to lose.
  • Gambling produces the wrong attitudes toward work. It promotes the idea that a person can live by his wits and luck without making any contribution to society.
  • Gambling contradicts social responsibilities. Mature adults try to minimize the risks in life. Gambling seeks to maximize risks. Responsible societies attempt to build security into life, gambling undermines security. Gambling deliberately creates artificial and unnecessary risks. Gambling militates against the highest values of human welfare. History shows that a major increase in gambling has signified the decline of a nation.
  • Gambling revenues violate all the sound theories of taxation. Gambling revenue is regressive, inequitable, variable and unpredictable. To make public service dependent upon erratic gambling ‘taxes’ is irresponsible. Public service should be soundly financed.
  • As a source of state revenue, gambling has a consistent record of failure. Proponents promise huge government income from legalized gambling, but only a trickle of money results. Even in Nevada, only about one-third of the state’s budget comes from gambling. Lotteries have been discredited as a source of school funds.
  • Gambling is socially disintegrating, politically corrupt and morally dangerous. Gambling is bad business, bad politics and bad morals. The State cannot gamble itself rich” [Excerpted from “Gambling Statistics,” http://www.gamblingwiththegoodlife.com/statistics.html (Gambling with the Good Life) Accessed March 2, 2006].

OS3-In December 2005, Lehigh University student Greg Hogan, 19, robbed a bank in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to pay off a $5,000 gambling debt incurred through online poker. Hogan was president of his sophomore class, played second-chair cello in the university orchestra, worked in the chaplain’s office, and is the son of a Baptist minister.

His world came crashing down because he got addicted to poker and started borrowing money to fund his addiction.

Texas Hold’em is the hottest gambling venue today. It is televised on several nationwide channels and played in all-night tournaments, campus fundraisers, dorm rooms, local poker clubs, and homes across the nation. Toy stores and major department stores now sell poker sets openly.

Edward Looney, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, says, “The word, conservatively, is ‘epidemic.’” Elizabeth George, chief executive of the North American Training Institute, which specializes in dealing with problems of youth gambling, says the popularity of poker is “absolutely phenomenal.”

The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenburg Public Policy Center released a study in September 2005 which stated that half of college men admit to having gambled on cards at least once a month during the year. That is a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Fifteen percent played at least once a week in 2005, up from 2 percent in 2002 [Wendy Koch, “It’s Always Poker Night on Campus; Internet Makes It Easier to Bet-and Get Hooked,” USA Today, December 23, 2005].

OS4-Jennifer McCausland, founder of Second Chance Washington, a gambling recovery program, describes going into a grocery store where she watched a mother handing her small children dollar bills to feed into a lottery ticket machine. When she approached the store’s corporate offices about the incident, she received a form e-mail and nothing more.

She also alerted the state Gambling Commission that teenagers were being admitted to nearby casinos during lunch-break from school. A sting operation revealed that she was correct. The casino was allowing teenagers to gamble and buy alcohol.

McCausland cites a Harvard Medical School study that found teenage gamblers are three times more likely to become addicted than adults. The study also found that the younger the age at initial exposure the higher the incidence of addiction. She further reports that other studies estimate that between 2.5 percent and 6 percent of teenagers are already addicted to gambling.

McCausland faults parents like the mom who gave her children money to feed the lottery machine with advancing the false idea that gambling is just a harmless game when it isn’t. She faults the gambling industry for making gambling appeal to younger and younger children-much like the tobacco industry did years ago to induce more cigarette smokers among the younger generation.

McCausland lost a son in an automobile accident due to mechanical failure. But she said the mechanical failure was due to her son’s spending his money on gambling rather than fixing his car. Her son, Ben, even said before his death, “Kids don’t realize they are not only gambling with money, they are gambling with their lives.” Prophetic! Tragic! And true! [Jennifer McCausland, “Teens Are Gambling with Their Lives,” The Seattle-Post Intelligencer, December 8, 2005].

OS5-“Henrietta Rundell’s gambling addiction led her to rack up $20,000 in credit card debt, file for bankruptcy and even spend a night in jail after she returned to the casino despite agreeing never to go back. Yet, the 72-year-old former Army medic who lives just outside Omaha can’t seem to silence the almost-constant calling from those three casinos in Council Bluffs. She never knew she was addicted until the slot machines became so easy to visit. She knows she shouldn’t go back, she even knows that if she does she’ll probably lose and could be arrested again.

“But when the feeling comes, none of that matters.

“‘I haven’t robbed a bank yet, but I’ve thought about it,’ said the tough-talking, thinly-built senior citizen. ‘It’s like a drug. When I get that feeling, I’d do almost anything to play.’

“At night, the crowd at Council Bluffs casinos represents a mix of the city’s adult population, but during the day those rows of slot machines are frequently occupied by women like Rundell, some older, some younger. Most sit at their favorite machine and play what they can afford, treating their losses like another form of entertainment comparable to bingo or going to a movie.

“But a few, like Rundell, just can’t stop. With every win Rundell feels a buzz of satisfaction she described as comparable to shooting drugs. And with every play she feels a mini-buzz of anticipation that quickly subsides when the slots fail her. So she sits on the chair hour after hour, repeatedly pushing the spin button with fingers twisted by arthritis, searching for that feeling that seemingly becomes a little harder to reach with every time she gambles.

“Not all of the problem gamblers are women squandering their Social Security checks.

“Fred Cappellano of Omaha was a 32-year worker in the Pottawattamie County treasurer’s office, with a lake house, a collection of classic cars and an infectious personality that almost everyone liked. He’d always enjoyed visiting Las Vegas a few times a year, but when the casinos came to Council Bluffs he was able to gamble two or three times a week.

“As his thirst to gamble became more insatiable and his losses began to mount, he started to embezzle money from the treasurer’s office, where he’d risen to become deputy director of motor vehicles.

“When auditors in July told him his scheme was up, that he had embezzled nearly $100,000, he was shocked it was so much, but he knew there were times when he’d gamble after work nearly until it was time to go back to work the next day.

“Like Rundell and many addicts who fall into debt, Cappellano . . . is considering bankruptcy. Personal bankruptcies have increased statewide since the casinos arrived, compared with non-casino states, according to a study by Ernie Goss, a professor of economics at Creighton University in Omaha . . . ‘I never realized that I was ruining my life,’ said Cappellano, a family man and longtime bingo caller at his church. ‘I’ve lost my job, my health insurance and my reputation. I just never took the time to think about how many people I could be hurting’” [Excerpted from Matt Assad, “One City’s Jackpot is Neighbor’s Bust; Decade of Casinos Shows Host Town in Iowa Reaps Benefits but Region Shares in Gambling’s Woes,” Morning Call (Allentown, PA), November 6, 2005].

OS6-An addiction to gambling, large gambling debts, and access to large sums of money often lead to embezzlement. That was apparently the formula that led to the downfall of a Wisconsin fire chief. His attorney has reimbursed the city of Mequon $30,000 and said that the chief is undergoing treatment for a gambling problem. The chief had used a city credit card on two previous occasions to fund his gambling venture but reimbursed the city both times. He finally came under suspicion when it was discovered that $30,000 was missing from a fund established to assist catastrophically ill firefighters and to purchase fire prevention equipment.

Since 2003, at least eight Milwaukee-area people have been convicted of crimes related to gambling. The thefts ranged from $5,000 to more than $500,000. Sentences imposed ranged from two years probation to 10 years in prison [Tom Kertscher, “Embezzling Blamed on Gambling Addictions,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 6, 2006].

Further Learning

Learn more about: Family, Addictions, Gambling,

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