Gambling vs. casting lots

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Helen, Dec 31, 2003.

  1. Helen

    Helen
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    I think these two things have been mixed up. I don't think they are the same at all unless casting lots is used as a form of gambling.

    Let me explain what I am trying to say... :D

    Gambling is an attempt to get something for very, very little: a nickle turns into a couple of hundred dollars at the pull of a lever, or a series of numbers you bet on for a dollar yields a million or so of the things. This is gambling. It is 'investing' extremely little (at least at any one time) on the chance that you will get an enormous return.

    It is a form of greed.

    Casting lots, unless it is used to gamble in terms of money or prizes or such, is not a form of greed. In the case of Jonah, for instance, it was a request for some higher power to provide an answer. In the case of the disciples trying to choose a replacement, it was trying to get God to choose between two THEY had already selected. In Jonah's case, all possible options were presented and in the case of the disciples only two were (and God had a third). However, in both of these cases, the implied request is that God choose. This is not gambling. At its most sublime, it could be considered a form of prayer. It is not asking for something for 'nothing', but rather that a choice be made by someone other than self, and far more knowledgeable than self, among options which have presented themselves or been selected somehow.

    Does that make sense?

    Therefore it is safe to say, at least in my mind, that while gambling -- being a form of greed and involved with enormous waste of resources -- is a sin. It is the sin of not trusting God, actually, with one's life. Casting lots, however, as we see it in the Bible, is not this at all, but rather a form of trusting God.

    So I see the two as very, very different.
     
  2. Jailminister

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    Casting lots is an ancient way of making certain kinds of decisions. The 'lot' involved can be the flip of a coin, a set of specially-marked stones (from which came dice), sticks wrapped with written words on them, or (in a modern version) slips of paper mixed up in a hat. The ancient stones or sticks would be thrown on the ground and then someone would figure out what it means based on rules agreed to beforehand or set by tradition. The ancients are said to have believed in the power of the throwing of lots, so much so that some (like the Mesopotamians) believed that even the gods were bound by them. (Actually, many of them were practical people with practical reasons to randomize many of their decisions. But we'll let the religious studies folk overblow the ancients' superstitiousness, and stick to the point.) There was a real belief that the gods (or just God) revealed themselves through random things, because ultimately nothing is random and all things are dictated by the gods (or God) or fate.

    Lots were used in two ways in the Bible :

    To select one person out of a group of people. For instance, in 1 Samuel 10:19-21, Israel's king was chosen by lot. Lots were used for choosing who got the job of supplying wood for the altar of the rebuilt Temple (Nehemiah 10:35). In Judges 20:9-10, warriors were chosen by lot. Luke 1:8-10 reports that it was the custom for groups of priests to use lots to choose who among them would offer incense to God in the Second Temple (this and other such uses of lots are reported in the Mishnah, in Yoma). In Acts 1:26, lots were cast to select a replacement apostle for Judas.
    To give out goods among the people in a group. This was the most common use of lots in the Middle East and in the Graeco-Roman culture. When armies conquered an area and took valuables that could not easily be divided, lots would be cast to determine who would get each item. It's a way to resolve what would otherwise be a source of conflict. It takes favoritism, nepotism, pressure tactics, and campaigning out of the allotment process. This use is found in Isaiah 17:14 and Nahum 3:10. The prophets used this image to describe divine punishment for evildoing : their land would be divided by lot to their enemies, as if it were the spoils of war (Isaiah 34:17; Joel 4:3; Obadiah 11). While Jesus was on the cross, the soldiers cast lots for his seamless robe (John 19:24; see also Psalm 22:19). When Israel conquered Canaan, they distributed the land by lot (Numbers 26:52-56; 34:13; Joshua 14:19; 21:4-12). When the Israelites returned from exile, lots were used for selecting who would get to live on land in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:1). Proverbs 16:33 shows a positive view toward the casting of lots : "The lot is cast onto the lap / but its every decision is from the LORD." While it's not clear as to what use of lots it supports, other similar ancient sayings tell us that we should be satisfied with the goods God allots to us.

    Lots As Divination
    In ancient times, just as today, it was common to use lots to find out what God wanted them to do. This and any other sort of divination is condemned in Deuteronomy. Yet there is a specific exception given in the Torah : the use of the Urim and Thummim (marked stones) by the chief priests (Numbers 27:21; Deut 33:8). This use is authorized by God for difficult situations. In I Samuel 14, lots were used to discover who had acted against King Saul's rash command; Saul was clearly not commanded or authorized to use lots, but he did, with a 'successful' discovery that was almost horrible. The Septuagint translation, which in this case is probably more accurate, makes the use of lots more explicit by referring directly to Saul's use of the Urim and Thummim. In Esther, lots were used by the Persians (not the Jews) for determining when to act. Hence the name of the Jewish holiday Purim, from Akkadian puru (='lot'). But the Jews were not above using lots to suss out God. In Joshua, Israel lost at Ai, and used lots to find out whose evil deeds caused it; the lots were used at God's command (7:14). In Jonah, the sailors used lots to (correctly) find out whom God was angry with; God did not command the lots, but used it anyway.

    Why Not?
    The casting of lots was not itself forbidden in Scripture. God uses whatever means are at hand to communicate the divine will when the crunch comes. But a warning is needed here. You are not the high priest, you are not a Biblical prophet. You have not been authorized by God to use lots to figure out what God is doing, so God won't be at work when you cast lots. Outside of the framework of God's commands, use of lots is just dumb luck. It tells you nothing. Using the casting of lots as a way of divvying up goods or adding randomness to a situation (like dice in a board game, or a coin flip) can sometimes be a good way of doing things. But using lots as a way of finding God's will is not. It is divination, and God has spoken clearly against that. It is also a lack of trust in what God has already given you : the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, tradition, your fellow believers, your mind, your conscience. We are in the same boat as King Saul, when in his pride he usurped high-priestly authority and almost had his son killed. It is far better to trust in truth than chance.

    This article was written by Robert Longman Jr.
     
  3. Johnv

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    Then, is it a sin to enter a "no purchase necessary" contest? Is it a sin to collect those "monopoly" pieces on my McDonald's drink? Is it a sin to bet my neighbor that if Michigan wins the Rose Bowl, I'll buy dinner? Is it a sin for some of the men of my church to get together on Saturday nights for penny poker?
     
  4. Debby in Philly

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    While those "no purchase necessary" contests are mostly a waste of time, I don't think they are sinful. The sponsor has chosen, as a advertising expense, to "give away" something at random. No different than children spinning to see who goes first in a game.

    But in gambling, when I win, I win at the expense of all of the others who paid the money, but lost. The winner steals from them, and the "house" takes from the losers and gives nothing in return, other than perhaps the "thrill" of the chance of winning. At the very least, you could argue that there are better things to do with money than potentially (and most likely) throw it away.
     
  5. Johnv

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    If a person enjoys playing poker, or blackjack, and understands that to play, it costs a dollar or two per deal, where is the sin, if the person has budgeted the money to play? The games rely partially on chance, and partially on skill.
     
  6. Johnv

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    Then the "it's a form of greed" arguement is moot.
     
  7. Ransom

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    Johnv asked:

    Then, is it a sin to enter a "no purchase necessary" contest? Is it a sin to collect those "monopoly" pieces on my McDonald's drink?

    No, because the cost of these sweepstakes are borne by the company as part of their advertising costs. You risk nothing, and in the latter case, you get the drink you paid for; the Monopoly pieces are a bonus. Anything you win is probably best thought of as a gift.

    Is it a sin to bet my neighbor that if Michigan wins the Rose Bowl, I'll buy dinner?

    Borderline, I'd say.

    Is it a sin for some of the men of my church to get together on Saturday nights for penny poker?

    Would the game get as many players if the stakes were poker chips supplied by the host and put away again at the end of the night?
     
  8. Ransom

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    Johnv said:

    Then the "it's a form of greed" arguement is moot.

    Not at all. Gambling is a form of greed; it doesn't follow that every form of greed is gambling.
     
  9. Ransom

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    Johnv asked:

    If a person enjoys playing poker, or blackjack, and understands that to play, it costs a dollar or two per deal, where is the sin, if the person has budgeted the money to play?

    Paging HankD! "Jesuit casuistry" alert! [​IMG]

    [Edit: Sorry for piling up the posts! I should have been paying better attention; if I had known I was making three separate responses to the same person, I would have consolidated them in one long one.]
     
  10. Johnv

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    Then to say that gambling is a sin because it's a form of greed is indeed a moot point, if some forms of greed, like entering sweepstakes or contests, are allowable. The "it's sin because you're wanting something for nothing" arguement is thus baseless.
     
  11. Ransom

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    Johnv said:

    Then to say that gambling is a sin because it's a form of greed is indeed a moot point, if some forms of greed, like entering sweepstakes or contests, are allowable.

    Suppose I accept, for the sake of argument, that entering the sweepstakes is a form of greed.

    Does this therefore prove that gambling (also a form of greed) is legitimate? No, it proves only that I am inconsistent. But I could resolve that inconsistentcy easily enough by rethinking my position on the sweepstakes. However, you are still stuck with the need to defend the morality of gambling.
     
  12. Johnv

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    If the notion that sweepstakes, contests, AND gambling is sin because of the greed factor, then you'd indeed be consistent, and I would understand, though disagree with, that position.

    So far as gambling per se, I maintain the position that gambling in and of itself is not in and of itself sin, but abuse of it is indeed sin.
     
  13. Jailminister

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    Gamble: 1 a : to play a game for money or property b : to bet on an uncertain outcome
    2 : to stake something on a contingency : take a chance


    Why would a Christian gamble? Is God's meeting our needs not sufficient?
     
  14. Brett

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    That was a good informative article, thanks Jailminister.
     
  15. Johnv

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    If the "God meeting our needs is sufficient" arguement is to hold weight, then it is equally sinful for a Christian to collect Mc Donalds monopoly game pieces or 7 up bottle caps. Any free drawings, sweepstakes, and the like have the potential for sin. For that matter, one could make the same arguement for Christians trying out for tv game shows, since they're contests as well. No Baptists on Wheel of Fortune.

    Why would a Christian gamble, enter contests, go on game shows, and play McDonald's monopoly? Entertainment value, for one. Of course, on one hear argues the fact that there is potential for sin by way of abuse, but identifying something as having potential for sin and being sinful are two different things.
     
  16. Butterflies4mami

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    what about the stock market?
     
  17. Brett

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    The stock market is fundamentally no different than owning one's own business.
     
  18. Ransom

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    Johnv said:

    Why would a Christian gamble, enter contests, go on game shows, and play McDonald's monopoly? Entertainment value, for one.

    In that case, Christians should have no problem returning their winnings to their original owner at the end of the game, since the purpose of playing is not to win stuff, but to be entertained by the game itself.
     
  19. gb93433

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    There is a huge diference in several ways. A business is work. Not all busineses are dependent on the stock market. In fact the bsuienss I own seems to go up when interest rates go up and the economy goes down.

    One can make the stock market their job though. I have a friend who does and he makes a lot of money. He makes more off it than he does his actual business. His business is more of a holding tank for assets.
     
  20. I Am Blessed 24

    I Am Blessed 24
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    ( John: I use cheerios when I play cards. [​IMG] )

    As I stated in the other thread on this subject, in the Bible when casting lots, no one PAID TO PLAY.

    IMHO, today's gambling consists of spending money on the chance of winning. Hence it is a different form of gambling than casting lots in the Bible, although that was still a "gamble".

    God leaves nothing to chance; should we?

    [​IMG]
     

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