Sunday, September 04, 2011

1 Timothy 6:6-10 - The Problem with Gambling

Opening thought
“On Christmas morning in 2002, Jack Whittaker of Mount Hope, West Virginia, woke up to perhaps the biggest gift imaginable. Whittaker had won the Powerball lottery jackpot -- a whopping $315 million. It was a made-for-TV Christmas story, and Whittaker's hardworking family became celebrities overnight. Whittaker, his wife, Jewel, and granddaughter Brandi Bragg would become TV personalities. But as Whittaker celebrated, he had no way of knowing the coming tragedy and the loss of everything he held dear.
Whittaker now says that he regrets winning the lottery. "Since I won the lottery, I think there is no control for greed," he said. "I think if you have something, there's always someone else that wants it. I wish I'd torn that ticket up."
Whittaker gave away at least $50 million worth of houses, cars and cash. Suddenly, the man who won a fortune at Christmas had become everybody's Santa Claus.
Whittaker’s construction company he started had been doing $16-17 million in building, but less than a year after winning the lottery, the company’s success eroded under $3 million dollars in legal fees fending off over 400 lawsuits, because "everybody wants something for nothing."
Whittaker began drinking heavily at the local bars to console himself, and getting in fights over money. The luckiest man in West Virginia was friendless and lonely. It seemed as if everyone wanted a piece of his winnings except the one person Whittaker wanted to give it to – his granddaughter Brandi.
Whittaker bought and decorated an elaborate home for Brandi and her mother, gave her about $2,000 a week, and bought her four new cars. But the cars and cash began to attract the attention of some "bad people," including drug dealers.
Brandi started to use illegal drugs. Whittaker repeatedly tried to get her help and sent her to several treatment programs, but she couldn't stay clean. "She doesn't want to inherit the money; she just looks for her next drugs," Whittaker said. "She said, 'Pawpaw, all I care about is drugs.' It broke my heart."
Almost two years after Whittaker hit the jackpot, Brandi disappeared. After a frantic two-week search, on Dec. 20, 2004, she was found dead, wrapped in a plastic sheet, dumped behind a junked van. The cause of death was listed as unknown. Whittaker believes that the Powerball win had become a curse upon his family. "My granddaughter is dead because of the money," he said.[1]
In 2009, Brandi’s mother Ginger was found dead, too, in Daniels, WV, and Whittaker is being sued by Caesars Atlantic City casino for bouncing $1.5 million worth of checks to cover gambling losses.[2] But you know,” said the West Virginia Powerball winner, I just don't like Jack Whittaker. I don't like the hard heart I've got. I don't like what I've become."
But you know,” said the West Virginia Powerball winner, I just don't like Jack Whittaker. I don't like the hard heart I've got. I don't like what I've become."[1]
Because of a lack of Biblical preaching in the churches on the subject, there are three schools of thought on gambling and the Christian faith. The first position sees gambling on a small scale as a harmless social activity. This is the position of the Catholic Church. The second position sees no great harm in gambling but opposes legalization on a major scale. Many mainline denominations take this position along with many individual Catholics. The third position views gambling as a moral evil and therefore opposes it any form, public or private. Most evangelicals take the third view.
Despite that, gambling is fairly popular among church members of all stripes. When asked, 8 out of 10 Roman Catholics classify themselves as gamblers. 77 percent of Jews gamble, 74% of Presbyterians and Episcopalians, 63% of Methodists, 43% of Baptists, and 33% of nondenominational conservative Bible churches. While that figure sounds low when compared to the denominations, it means that 2 of 5 Baptists and 1 of 3 more conservative Christians seem to have no problem with gambling.”[2] So count down your row five people. Statistically speaking, two of them gamble.
Some people say, “Show me the verse in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not gamble.” Well, there’s not one, but you can’t find “Thou shalt not take cocaine,” either. The Bible doesn’t say you shouldn’t drive 80 miles an hour in a school zone, either. The Bible does have a number of principles that teach us to stay away from gambling, and one of the most powerful is the warning Paul gives to Timothy about greed in 1 Timothy 6.
Contextual Notes:
In 1 Timothy 6, Paul continues finishes his advice to Timothy about relationships (1 Tim 6:1-2) and then launches into a blunt assessment of those who view religion as a way to get rich (1 Tim. 6:3-5), warning everyone against that desire to get rich. It is much better, Paul says, to learn the wisdom of contentment, because every kind of evil tens to spring up where money-love exists (1 Tim 6:6-10). Paul reminds Timothy to flee all this (1 Tim. 6:11-16), then reminds those who are already rich that money is a tool, a resource to enable those who are well off to do good with it. Wealth is a blessing when one is generous (1 Tim 6:17-19). Timothy is to focus on his mission and avoid the foolishness which has caused some to wander from the faith (1 Tim. 6:20-21).
Key Truth: Paul wrote 1 Timothy 6:6-10 to warn believers about the benefits of contentment and the dangers of greed.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about gambling.
Key Verse: 1 Timothy 6:9
Pray and Read:  1 Timothy 6:6-10
Sermon Points:
1.   Godliness is contentment and great gain (1 Tim. 6:6-8)
2.   Greed found in gambling is a temptation and trap (1 Tim. 6:9-10)
Exposition:   Note well,
1.   GODLINESS IS CONTENTMENT AND GREAT GAIN (1 Tim. 6:6-8)
a.   Notice how Paul picks up on the last line of verse 5 and contrasts financial gain with the gain of contentment.
b.   Contentment (autarkeia) is a satisfaction with the situation God has ordained for you. This word occurs only one other time in the NT: 2 Cor. 9:8 where NIV says “having all that you need.”  The verb root is used by John the Baptizer to urge his listeners to be content with their wages (Luke 3:14), by Jesus who warned, “Guard against every form of greed” (Luke 12:15) and Hebrews which contrasts greed with contentment (Heb. 13:5-6)
c.   Then the reasons for contentment follow like a proverb (1 Tim 6:7) reminiscent of Job 1:21; Prov. 30:8; Eccles. 5:15; Luke 12:16-21. First, it is futile to concentrate so much energy on something that is of only such a temporal nature. Second, contentment really only requires the minimum of things – food and clothing (and we add shelter, 1 Tim 6:8). The Lord made the same assurances (Matt. 6:25-33). Third, greed and covetousness (wanting something somebody else has) has tragic results. We see in verses 9-10
d.   APPLICATION: Chuck Swindoll gives some of the benefits of contentment. First, contentment allows enjoyment now rather than constant striving. Because it flows from the heart, it allows us to enjoy those around us here and now and doesn’t rely on wishful thinking or circumstances.
e.   Second, contentment gives us the freedom to recognize and applaud others’ achievements without being eaten alive by envy. Contentment relieves us of unhealthy competition and comparison. When we are content, we can celebrate someone else’s successes without falling into jealousy.
f.    Third, contentment allows us to develop a genuinely grateful spirit. The uncontented do not know what thankfulness is all about. They lose sight of their many blessings because they are too focused on what they do not have. And thankless people make poor Christians. Ungrateful believers are embarrassing in their witness (1 Thess. 5:18; Heb. 13:15).[3]
2.   GREED FOUND IN GAMBLING IS A TEMPTATION AND A TRAP (1 Tim. 6:9-10)
a.   1 Tim 6:9 - Whenever we desire anything other than or more than a desire to follow God’s will, we create an awful conflict. Only by abandoning our desire for riches can we be free of the danger of making wrong or sinful choices in the hope of obtaining it. The lust for wealth is what is dangerous, not the wealth itself. Nothing at all should distract us from our commitment to God’s will.
b.   Gambling is wagering money on the uncertain outcome of a game, contest, or other event, whose outcome is dependent either wholly on chance or partly on chance and partly on skill, with a prize offered to a winner at someone else’s loss.” Therefore, there are three key elements in the definition of gambling: First, the betting of money or something else of value. Second, the winner is determined by a chance or uncertain event. Third, the gain of the winners is at the expense of the losers.
c.   Have you been in the gas station to pay for you fill-up and seen a line of people purchasing Lotto tickets? Have you looked at the people in the line? Do they look rich to you? Do they look smart to you? How many people have you heard just built a house with money they won at the sweepstakes in town? How many people do you know are going to vacation in Hawaii off their winnings on video poker? Why do you think those places stay open? Do you think they would if they were LOSING money? No. Rich people and smart people would be in the lottery line if the lottery was a real wealth-building tool, but the truth is that the lottery is a rip-off created by our government.
d.   "But Pastor, our state says the money is going to scholarships!" Yeah, as much as 33 cents on the dollar, they say, but guess who's getting the scholarships statistically? Kids in middle-class and upper-class ZIP codes—so poor people are sending middle class kids to school. How stupid is that?
e.   “But Pastor, someone has to win!" Do you know who’s winning? The divorce lawyers and bankruptcy lawyers are the ones winning. Did you know the divorce rate among Lottery winners is four times the national average? Did you know that 65% of Lottery winners are bankrupt within 15 years? Now who is winning and who is losing? I sure don't like that, and I bet you don't either.
f.    What gambling really is – it’s a tax on the poor and people who can't do math. Don't get mad. This is not even a moral statement. It is a mathematical, statistical fact. Studies show that the ZIP codes that spend four times what anyone else does on lottery tickets are those in lower-income parts of town. One recent report found that families who make under $12,400 spend about $645 a year on lottery tickets.[4]
g.   John MacArthur says “the success of gambling is based on certain sins.  If those sins didn't exist, gambling wouldn't either.  The sins that support gambling are materialism, greed, discontent, exploitation, laziness, distrust of God's provision, disdain for the virtues of labor, irresponsible stewardship and indifference to those in need… nothing frankly is more indicative of the corruption of our government than legalizing gambling.  And nothing is more characteristic of organized crime than illegal gambling.  Both provide legitimacy and availability to a sin that is very destructive of moral character and even of the fabric of a nation.  Our declining moral character, our dissolution as a nation is manifest through this epidemic of gambling.”[5] MacArthur gives five reasons that gambling is wrong:
h.   Because it denies the reality of God’s sovereignty (by affirming the existence of luck or chance) (Isaiah 65:11-12; cf. Baal-gad “Lord luck” Josh. 11:17; 12:7; 13:5; Num 13:10; God is sovereign. Psalm 103:19; 74:4). Isaiah 65:11-1211 “But you are those who forsake the LORD, Who forget My holy mountain, Who prepare a table for Gad, (Fortune, a pagan deity) And who furnish a drink offering for Meni (Number or Destiny, a pagan deity). 12 Therefore I will number you for the sword, And you shall all bow down to the slaughter; Because, when I called, you did not answer; When I spoke, you did not hear, But did evil before My eyes, And chose that in which I do not delight.”
i.    Because it is built on irresponsible stewardship (tempting people to throw away their money) (Psalm 24:1; 50:10-12; Deut. 8:18; Parable of the stewards, Matt. 25:14-30; 1 Cor. 4:2).
j.    Because it erodes a biblical work ethic (by demeaning and displacing hard work as the proper means for one’s livelihood) (Gen. 3:19; Prov 12:11; 13:22; Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:10; 1 Tim 5:8)
k.   Because it is driven by the sin of covetousness (tempting people to give in to their greed) (Exod. 20:17; Deut. 5:21; Luke 12:15; Prov. 30:7).
l.    Because it is built on the exploitation of others (often taking advantage of poor people who think they can gain instant wealth) It violates the 8th Commandment not to steal. It is fundamentally a violation of our Lord’s command to love your neighbor.  It takes money from others.  It strips families of resources.  It increases debt.  It leads to poverty.  It leads to suicide.  Twenty percent of addictive gamblers have attempted suicide, and the suicide rate of the spouses of compulsive gamblers is 150 times the national average.  Forty percent of white collar crime in America is caused by compulsive gamblers.  Gambling is pursuing prosperity at another's expense, exploiting the poor and the undisciplined.  It teaches greed and covetousness. It attacks the ethics of hard work, saving, self-denial, capital accumulation. It  exalts hedonism and on-demand gratification. Gambling is seductive.  It lures people in. Gambling destroys individuals.  It destroys marriages.  It destroys families.  It destroys society.[6]
a.   APPLICATION: Gambling on a slot machine is greed masquerading as entertainment. Gambling on a sports event is greed masquerading as team spirit. Gambling on card games is greed masquerading as friendship. Gambling on state lotteries is greed masquerading as good government. Gambling on charitable lotteries is greed masquerading as charity or community involvement. Some would say, “But it’s only a little money, and it is for a good cause. Is that such a big sin?” The issue is not the amount of money involved. The issue is the principle involved. Gambling is based on a set of pagan presuppositions, all of which are contrary to the Christian faith. At the very least, you are acting in a manner inconsistent with the Christian faith you profess to believe. The same is true for spending a dollar to buy a lottery ticket. In both cases, the money is not the issue. Great principles are at stake whether you spend a lot or a little.
b.   Greed is always involved in gambling, even in the nickel and dime variety. Good motives can’t remove the element of greed because greed is inherent in the system. When you decide to buy a raffle ticket, or when you bet twenty dollars on a round of golf, your motives may be noble and true and you may not feel greedy at all. But greed is always there. It’s built into the system every time you gamble. Take away the temptation to make some easy money and no one would ever gamble again. Proverbs 16:8 says, “Better is a little with righteousness than a great income with injustice.” This means that some things which a government might do in order to raise additional revenue would be better left undone because of the harm those things might do in society. It is a fundamental principle that the role of government is to uphold the welfare of its citizens. Legalized gambling is theft of the poor for the benefit of those better off.[7]
c.   Illustration: Dave Ramsey says that the odds of winning a lottery are literally about one in 125 million. You are 66 times more likely to die from a snake bite. You are 2,001 times more likely to die in the electric chair! You are 2,201 times more likely to die from a hornet, wasp or bee sting. You are 1,488,095 times more likely to die in a car wreck on the way to the gas station to buy the lottery ticket.[8]
d.   ILLUSTRATION: Russell Moore, one of the deans at Southern Seminary, a native of Biloxi, Mississippi, writes that “Every time I return to my hometown, I grumble as I drive down the beachfront. I grew up there on the Gulf of Mexico, and spent my life on those waters, under those stars. Now, however, the place is aglow with neon, as casinos dot the landscape, as far as the eye can see. I also remember trying to minister there, with so many people addicted to the casino life, throwing their earnings into that vortex.
e.   “Gambling isn’t merely a values issue or primarily a moral issue, in terms that we usually classify as moral values. It’s a social justice issue. Gambling is a form of economic predation. Those who offer gambling are economic predators, thieves really. Gambling grinds the faces of the poor into the ground. It benefits multinational corporations, governments, and the mob while oppressing the lower classes with illusory promises of wealth low-wage, transitory jobs that simultaneously destroy every other economic engine of a local community.
f.    “When the money’s gone, the casinos will leave. And they’ll leave behind a burned-over district with no thriving agricultural, manufacturing, or tourism economies. In the meantime, they create the wreckage of “check-to-cash” loan sharks, pawn shops, prostitution, and divorce courts, and more welfare. Most of the “market” for gambling comes from those in despair, seeking meaning and a future.
g.   We must understand that gambling is an issue of economic justice. We can’t really address the gambling issue if we ignore the larger issue of poverty. Evangelicals who don’t care about the poor can’t speak adequately to the gambling issues. Not simply caring about individual poor people but about the way social and political and corporate structures contribute to the misery of the impoverished (James 5:1-6). We will never get to the heart of the gambling issue if we don’t get at a larger vision of poverty and the limits of corporate power.[9]
h.   The church has to be faithful to address this disturbing sin.  The Church has stood against it in the past. The fourth century North African theologian, St. Augustine said, "The devil invented gambling."  John Calvin outlawed gambling in the entire city of Geneva.  Martin Luther said, "Money won by gambling is not won without self-seeking and sin."
i.     APPLICATION: You might wonder, “Pastor, what would our church do if someone put lottery tickets in the offering? Or someone gave their winnings to the church? Or someone tithed their winnings? Is it tainted money? Dwight L. Moody said the problem with tainted money is there tain’t enough of it, and many would agree, but this would be an issue the congregation should decide before the Lord. I would counsel our church to tear up lottery tickets since they exploit the poor and many negative side effects come with it. Deut. 7 and 1 Sam 13 & 15 teach us that there are some things that are so tied to the dark world that they should be destroyed, and lottery tickets fall into that category in my opinion. I would counsel the church to refuse lottery winnings, the bigger the more it would oppose them, because deciding what to do with the money would cause many more problems than not having it all. If someone tithed their winnings and did not tell the church, then it is their money to do what they want with it. But the church for principle and spiritual darkness that is connected to it.
j.    The early church certainly preached against it.  We have an anonymous sermon from the second century – the 100s AD – that was preached during the time of the Roman Empire in Latin in North Africa, probably near Alexandria, Egypt. The sermon goes like this, "Satan's temptations are numerous,… and of this number is gambling. The game of dice is an obvious snare of the devil.  He presides over the game in person, bringing to it the deadly venom of the serpent and even inducing ruin which when it is seen to be nothing, a great let down is brought about in the players.  I ask you, O Christians, why is the former the case?  This hand has been purified from its sins which were committed prior to conversion and the same hand has been admitted to the Lord's Table, having received by God's mercy that which concerns the salvation of the soul.  The same hand that rolls the dice is lifted up to the Lord in prayer.  What shall we say when the very hand with which we make the sign of the cross on our forehead and with which we consume the Lord's table is involved again in the devil's noose from which it formerly had been delivered?  I speak of this hand which is always given over to gambling, causing its own ruin and damnation.  This hand is accustomed to the unbridled passion of gambling because gambling is like the devil's hunting sphere and those who play the dice are wounded with an irresistible allurement.
k.   "I tell you, it is at the gambling table where one loses his possessions and enormous sums of money.  The loss leads him into court battles and insane passions of theft.  The gambling board is the devil's snare and the enemy's trap which indices greed but in actuality brings utter ruin.  By gambling men become poor, squandering their own riches.  Stop being a dice player and start being a Christian before Christ beneath the gaze of the angels and in the presence of the martyrs, cast your money upon the altar of the Lord, distribute your money to the poor before you allow it to be squandered by your unruly passions and trust your stakes to Christ who is always victorious.  Break away from these unruly customs and pursue being a self-controlled Christian.  Apply yourself to wisdom and teach yourself in the counsels of the gospel.  Lift pure hands to Christ, no longer look upon the dice.  Amen."[10]
Invitation:

[2] Tom Watson, Jr., Don’t Bet On It (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1987), 64, quoted in http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1991-07-25-Dont-Bet-On-It-Gambling-And-The-Christian-Faith/
[3] Charles Swindoll, “Contentment . . . and How to Miss it,” Excellence in Ministry: A Study of 1 Timothy (Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living, 1996), 130-7.