Gambling is often portrayed as entertaining and intense fun in the media, effectively overshadowing a very literal, financially destructive addiction.
Even though alcoholism, pornography and smoking definitely can impact our financial situation, no addiction so blatantly puts our livelihoods on the line as gambling. Is there any way to get out of the hole for good?
Gambling centers mainly on money, a subject that the Bible covers thoroughly. Scripture often mentions how hard work and using the talents given to us can bring prosperity. It also contains many warnings about greed and squandering a great gift we are given by the Almighty: wealth. “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).
Many counseling agencies and organizations are available to help gambling addicts, especially those involved with online gambling. Sometimes the effort required to put these words into a search bar on the Internet and look for help seems almost paralyzing, so hopefully a loving accountability partner can help us find resources to help when needed.
The following four-step process for dealing with this addiction, while not detailed, will hopefully provide a fresh look on overcoming.
The four-step program
1. Stop rationalizing and call the addiction sin.
The things we tell ourselves about gambling allow us to view the blessing of monetary wealth in a very callous manner: “It’s just a small game between friends.” “I won’t bet that much this time.” “I have to keep going to get back what I lost.” “I’m on a roll … I know I’ll get it sooner or later.” “The money goes for a good cause.” “It’s just for fun.” “I can’t help it … I’m addicted.”
We should always ask, “If it is the game I love, then why am I not playing for fun instead of money?” Is it the thrill of taking other people’s money and acquiring more for ourselves? Or is it the thrill of possibly losing a large chunk of our money on a wild bet? Obviously, both the attitude of greed (Proverbs 28:22: “A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him”) on the one hand and decadence on the other (Luke 15:11-16—prodigal living) are sinful.
Money and thrills are both poor substitutes for a meaningful relationship with the Creator of the universe. He blesses us bountifully with amazing physical blessings, and we turn around and throw them away in a card game, or we try to “bluff” others’ blessings out of them.
2. Learn to hate the sin as much as God hates it and understand why.
Why would God hate gambling? Ask a gambling addict in bankruptcy who has lost his family, his house and any money to his name. Many times with addiction we realize too late that the price is always more than the pleasure.Why would God hate gambling? Ask a gambling addict in bankruptcy who has lost his family, his house and any money to his name. Many times with addiction we realize too late that the price is always more than the pleasure. God definitely does not want anyone to end up destitute and completely dependent on the next poker game, and neither should we.
Too often we forget just how strongly and deeply God loves His creation: us. He sacrificed His only Son so that our sins could be forgiven. More specifically, He sacrificed so that we could be mercifully forgiven when we fall into even sticky addictions, as long as we are committed to repentance and change.
Gambling is no exception. Addiction is no worse of a sin than any other sin; it is just one more destructive practice that God wishes people would turn away from so that they can find true peace and happiness in Him. Sin carries natural consequences, and unfortunately the consequences of a continual addiction to gambling could be loss of all material wealth. Though we are instructed not to be unhealthily attached to material wealth, we are also not to be callous with it. We need to recognize it as a gift from God, deserving respect and good stewardship.
3. Make whatever sacrifice is necessary to overcome.
When discussing sacrifices in the realm of gambling addiction, the main focus should be on who is in control of the money. We may need to relinquish control of any money or accounts, turning it over to a spouse or a close, trusted accountability partner (hopefully a family member). Someone must also make sure that online gambling sites are blocked, or that the accountability partner is able to monitor web activity regularly.
Sacrifices must be maintained for as long as deemed necessary by both us and our accountability partners. The reason we are making the sacrifice should always outweigh the inconvenience and embarrassment we are put through.
4. Replace the addiction behavior with positive behavior.
The opposite of greed is charity, so we should find as many opportunities to give to others as we possibly can. The opposite of rash waste is careful planning, so we can outline long-term goals, as well as short-term goals, for financial security and responsibility. Also, it will be important to study all that God’s Word reveals about attitudes regarding money and wealth, all the while praying that money and thrill will no longer be more important than serving our Creator.
For additional ways to get started in fighting any addiction, including gambling, please read the “Freedom From Addiction” article “The First Month.”