My sister and her husband patronize the gambling casino's at least 2 or 3 times a week. I mentioned to them that I feel that gambling is a sin. My brother-in-law's answer was, "anything you do in moderation is not a sin." I do not believe this to be true. I still believe that gambling is a sin. What are your views on this subject?
A portion of the problem you ran into is the way you addressed the situation. You stated that you felt that gambling was wrong; thus you made the moral decision of whether or gamble or not based on your personal judgment. This left matters wide open for another person to express their personal opinion to the contrary. This leaves you in an unresolvable state because one person's opinion generally equal to another's.
Gambling is wrong, or sinful. It is based on covetousness (greed). It is the desire to take what belongs to someone else without fair or just compensation in return. Some will justify it by claiming "it is just a game." If so, then why not play those games without money? The fact is, the appeal of greed is what gives people interest in gambling.
Gambling is also wrong because it is an attempt to profit without effort. The taking of another person's possession is based on a random event that neither controls. The Bible teaches us that people can gain wealth by:
- Labor - Ephesians 4:28; II Thessalonians 3:10-12
- Exchange (bartering) - Acts 5:3-4
- Investing - Matthew 25:14-30
- Giving - Acts 20:35; Ephesians 4:28
Gambling falls into none of these categories. Instead of giving, gambling is an act of selfishness. Giving makes you feel good about releasing your possessions to another (Acts 20:35). A gambler isn't happy about losing his money.
But what I find interesting is the idea that anything done in moderation isn't a sin. It makes me wonder just exactly what is your brother-in-law's concept of sin. John stated, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4). Therefore sin occurs when a person breaks a law, but your brother-in-law is stating that sin is based on quantity. There are several lists of sins in the New Testament, let's take one: "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). Let's use murder. The statement was that anything done in moderation is not a sin. Does this mean a person can commit murder, so long as he does it moderately? Perhaps he decides that if he only commits murder once every ten years or so, then that is not going overboard. I think we would be hard-pressed to find decent people agreeing to that one. "Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man" (Genesis 9:5). What if we change that from quantity to type. What if a person almost killed someone, does this make it not a sin? No, it is still an assault. But God takes it even further -- you don't even have to make an attempt to commit the sin of murder. "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (I John 3:15). Therefore, it is not the quantity or the quality of the action involved that causes it to be a sin; sin occurs when a law is broken.
What your brother-in-law is advocating is a form of situational ethics. Situation ethics is the denial that there is a strict right or wrong. There are no absolutes. Instead, the situation determines what is right or wrong. Different situations will result in different ideas of what is right and wrong. But once we go down that path, ask yourself, "Who is determining what is right or wrong?" There is no appeal to God or His law; instead, each individual makes up his own mind. When the appeal is made that anything done in moderation is not a sin, the obvious question is who determines what is moderate? The only answer is that it becomes an individual judgment based on personal feelings. Such was the downfall of Israel. "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). It is anarchy of the worse sort because man doesn't possess the ability to determine the morality of an action. "O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).
Where can a person find a passage where God asks men to just reduce the amount of sin in their lives? I know of none. God always tells us to eliminate sin, not reduce it. Let's look at the points Paul makes in Romans 6:
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2).
"Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin" (Romans 6:6).
"Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:11).
"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts" (Romans 6:12)
"And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God" (Romans 6:13).
"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!" (Romans 6:15).
Sin is not to be flirted with but shunned. Gambling is sinful on many counts. A gambler will not make it to heaven. But to help others see this, stick to facts and avoid feelings.