by Rev. Dr. Jerald C. Joersz
Gambling is a popular thing today, and more casinos are going up all around us. Why doesn’t our church take a stand against gambling?
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has, in fact, addressed concerns about this issue. For example, at its 1998 convention, our church adopted a resolution calling attention to the potential dangers to individuals that accompany the practice of gambling. At the same time, it encouraged pastors and lay leaders to provide education to the members of their congregations regarding “proper stewardship of the resources entrusted to them by God” and to provide assistance to those who need help in overcoming gambling addictions (Resolution 326 “To Address the Issue of Gambling”).
The Synod has also encouraged pastors and lay leaders to study a February 1996 report on Gambling prepared by the Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR). This report was distributed to all congregations, pastors and other rostered workers of the Synod soon after its publication. The CTCR addressed, from a biblical perspective, “moral concerns about gambling.”
In the Gambling document, the Commission first observed that the Holy Scriptures do not specifically address the question of gambling. But this does not mean, the Commission stressed, that the Scriptures are silent about moral questions that arise in connection with the practice. The Bible does have much to say to those who are gambling or are thinking about engaging in the practice, and to those who promote it. The CTCR discusses in some detail, on the basis of scriptural teaching, six principles that speak to the potential dangers confronting those who engage in the practice of gambling promoted all around us. These are the principles (without the commentary in the report itself):
- Gambling encourages the sins of greed and covetousness.
- Gambling promotes the mismanagement of possessions entrusted to us by God.
- Gambling undermines absolute reliance on God for His provision.
- Gambling works at cross purposes with a commitment to productive work.
- Gambling is a potentially addictive behavior.
- Gambling threatens the welfare of our neighbor and militates against the common good.
In a concluding “Pastoral Perspective,” the Commission reminds us all that the Gospel of Christ has the power to renew hearts and minds and to help individuals develop a sense of personal responsibility in using the gifts God has entrusted to them. Such responsibility includes examination of personal motives, proper management of time and possessions and faithfulness in vocation and family life. The Church’s ministry to persons troubled by the problem of gambling, says the Commission:
must be centered in the Gospel of forgiveness, for it is ultimately only the grace of God revealed in His Son that is able to liberate them from the temptations that so easily beset those who gamble.
In Christ, God also forgives our sins of greed and lovelessness toward others. By His Spirit, the Commission writes, He “helps us to open our hearts in love and kindness, for He is at work in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure’ (Phil. 2:13).”
About the author: The Rev. Dr. Jerald C. Joersz was formerly an associate executive director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations.
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