Today we will look at the influence of religion on self-control with gambling. As counselors we must be prepared to counsel a client that struggles with some sort of self-control issue. It could be drug addiction, alcohol addiction, internet addiction, sex addiction or even an addiction to gambling. But when we look at gambling specifically, we learn that each approach to religion has a different approach of accepting or rejecting gambling addiction. If you look through the bible to see what it says about gambling, you will see no verse that directly says gambling is wrong. However you will find that gambling violates many biblical principles because it is founded in greed and covetousness. Kelley writes “The social consequences of gambling -- addiction, crime, bankruptcies and family disruption -- have led opponents to conclude that gambling goes against one of Christianity's fundamental principles…” Gambling is not only based in greed or coveting, but is an illustration of a problem with self-control.
Tochkov found in her studies of self-control that animals preferred a lesser reward in the least amount of time than a greater reward with a longer period of time. Her studies were applied to gambling because every person who gambles, believes that the “wining touch” can be just a few seconds away, and they keep striving for that greater reward. However as we know, in the process people end up losing more than winning because of the predestined odds determined by the casino. The impulses of the animals can be correlated to the impulses of the people. She writes “In summary, the concepts of self-control and impulsivity can be interpreted as a key link between biopsychological experiments with animals and clinical studies with pathological gamblers and substance abusers.” Although her study looks at animals, the desire to have immediate gratification is clearly demonstrated by humans.
This summer, Maryland Live!Casino opened in Arundel Mills Maryland. My friend and I went to check it out and see what all the excitement was about, and in the process I discovered I had a hurting heart for those with gambling addiction. As I walked through the building it was amazing to see how much money was put into the top of the line technology and how much money was being put into each slot machine, all 4,750 of them. (That’s over 6x the amount of computers on Liberty’s Campus.) It seemed people were mindlessly sitting there, and tossing one coin after another into the slots without an ounce of hesitation. I walked in with hundreds of thousands of other people into Maryland’s Live Casino excited to see the new tourist attraction, but personally walked out hurting with a burden for the gambling world around me. The casino was not filled with tourists, but everyday people, trying to make the millions. The gambling addiction starts with a few innocent rounds but then becomes greater when there is more greed. However one of the other major problems with gambling is the lack of self-control.
As people, we all struggle with self-control, but our faith in God plays a part of how we handle that struggle. Galatians 5:16 – 26 says
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[a] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
In the list of the fruit of the Spirit, self-control comes last. Some say this is because it is the hardest and takes the rest of the fruit to really influence the self-control. The Christian’s self-control is not quickly built, but is built over time. Self-control is not about the struggle, or the punishment of not having nice or fun things, but is about God’s love towards us and Him wanting the best for us. God wants us to have self-control for our benefit, not His. He really knows what is best for us, so practicing self-control is something we should try and practice, and get help if we can't do it on our own through accountability or professional treatment. When we are aware that our flesh is weak and we need God to help us with self-control, we really are more triumphant and ready to take on the temptations that come our way.
Here is a humorous video of children attempting to practice self-control with delayed gratification, or immediate gratification, with a small reward. Also, above, there is a link to an article on "internet addiction" that aired last night on Rock Center with Brian Williams. I highly recommend this for added discussion.
Kelley, D.K. (1998) Religions Disagree on Morality of Gambling; Some say it contradicts biblical principles; others say the key to reventing problmes is self-control; Gambling draws divided moral viewpoints, The Salt Lake Tribune, C1.
Tochkov, K. (2010) Self Control Deficits and Pathological Gambling, International Journal of Psychological Studies 2. (2). 65-69.