Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Gambling And Pyramiding Christians: No Problem?

Last week's Powerball draw in the US had left at least three winners extremely happy, but millions of others heartbroken who had hoped for a windfall of wealth at the blink of an eye only in dreams possible. No backbreaking exertion, no big amount to take the risk but a few dollars coupled with the help of lady luck and voila, all this world can offer comes running to you.

The three winners from California, Florida and Tenessee are estimated to be dividing the incredibly huge amount of US$1.5 billion among themselves. Very few people in their lifetime have actually gone from rags to riches and zero to hero courtesy of the Powerball so one can easily understand the excitement and hope it gives bettors given the staggering amount of money to be won.

Gambling in general, is big business, and for some cities like Las Vegas and Macau, obviously it has been for many good reasons: their economies revolve around gambling revenues that in turn create employment opportunities and enhance tourism - all because people spend lots of money to get rich quickly and be entertained. Unfortunately, most people tend to get poorer instead of richer when gambling. This is not a shocking statistic as it is how the world operates. Throughout history, gambling has been a constant fixture in the lives of people - ordinary and great - both as a form of entertainment and as a passage to accumulating more wealth.

For Christians, is Gambling a Sin?

Of course, you will hear blunt reasoning left and right from biblically "smart" Christians who are into some not-so-obviously evil form of gambling saying the word gambling per se does not exist in the Bible hence, it is not considered a sin. True enough, the Scripture is silent on this subject as it is with other similarly interesting ones such as drug addiction, arson, pornography, etc. But does it mean to say when the Bible doesn't roar about them we Christians automatically get a free pass to get involved in such things? Certainly not!

Last year, a North Carolina single mom with four children said that the first person to get a cut of her $188 million Powerball lottery win will be the Lord "because I wouldn't have any of it if it wasn't for God". Last year, Marie Holmes was beaming with joy as she announced she will pay her tithes first to her church and the rest will be set up for college funds and the future of her four children.

It's not shocking that this single mom of four is a Christian for acknowledging God by her tithes. And she's not alone who frequents a Christian church, and probably serving God through a specific ministry. Statistics show that a lot of professing born-again Christians play the lottery and have no qualms whatsoever frequenting casinos for "entertainment" while many others pin their hopes on winning a Powerball so that they can be a blessing to others and their church. Sounds very alarming.

Gambling is inconsistent with biblical virtue. It is fueled by - and it fuels - covetousness, greed, and materialism. It is associated with crime, vice, and corruption, so that wherever gambling exists, crime rates rise. And it is contrary to the biblical work ethic because it is an attempt to gain wealth without working for it. Gambling violates a number of biblical principles and therefore, ought to be avoided in all its forms.

There is a sinister principle that underlies all forms of gambling: that for every winner, there are losers. And the winners' gains come at the losers' expense. There is no other way to gain money through gambling. When you win, you are taking that which belongs to another. The winners' profit always comes directly from the losers' pocket.

The following quotes from Scriptures can be taken as serious warnings for anyone who is into gambling:

"Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it." ~ Proverbs 13:11

"He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity." ~ Ecclesiastes 5:10

"A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished." ~ Proverbs 28:20

"A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him." ~ Proverbs 28:22

One of the biggest problems with gambling is this: It's win-lose. True wealth should be win-win, not win-lose. In gambling, millions have to lose for one to ultimately win. This is not God's design. God wants win-win. When a person creates a product, another person buys it. The customer gains something (the product), and the seller gains something (income). It's win-win. In gambling, it's the opposite. It's win-lose. Millions will lose, only one (or few) will win.

What is your reasoning for wanting to gamble? Is it to get rich quick? The Bible commands we should labor and earn wealth honestly - not by some luck of the draw. Being a compulsive gambler is certainly just as sinful as being drunk, drug addict, or being greedy. If you gamble to get rich, you may be loving money more than God (a sin). As the Scripture admonishes: a person who sets his will to work patiently and steadily will find his prosperity steadily increasing because God oversees the well-being of those who keep His commandments.

Equating Pyramiding Scheme with Gambling and why it thrives among Christian churches

Obviously, the two are distinctly poles apart - in form, in dynamics, and in methods by which they operate, but clearly the motivations are certainly the same. Online multi-level marketing plans aka pyramiding scheme per se cannot be classified as a form of gambling because in here you invest your money for unbelievably higher returns, sometimes yields are too-good-to-be-true that it can get addictive which drives investors even harder to enroll more recruits into the scheme. But as recruiting quickly multiplies and becomes impossible, most members are unable to profit; as such, pyramid schemes are unsustainable and often illegal. Some multi-level marketing plans that we always see being aggressively promoted in social media have also been classified as pyramid schemes.

Previously, we have written an article about certain churches whose members and even elders are into pyramiding scheme (rampant of which is the Emgoldex/Global Intergold). These churches aggressively teach that if you're generous in giving (and tithing), you will be tremendously blessed. They love to quote their favorite Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) as it strikes a chord with those whose goal is to scoop up all the favors that the generous God of the universe supposedly loves to rain down on them. They are oblivious to the fact that many lives and relationships have been ruined as a result of a church-sanctioned greed which they conveniently and shamelessly describe as "an exercise of faith or faith in action" in the context of "faith without action is dead".

The aggressive pyramiding activity within Filipino Christian churches especially in the Middle East goes unhampered and blatantly thriving because even pastors and leaders themselves are active players in what they call "an opportunity from God to be blessed abundantly". Note that to them the word abundance equates with financial prosperity. 

While society quickly labels gamblers as immoral, the social media savvy pyramiding warriors are conveniently called investors or online entrepreneurs. But just the same, the motivation is to get rich real quick and at the expense of the poor and gullible. Remember, it is the poor that play lotteries so that winners get their winnings from these bets. Likewise with those on the top levels of the pyramid who feed off the money and effort of those at the bottom level who most of the time do not necessarily share the luck of those above them and oftentimes are unable to recoup their hard-earned money when the pyramid collapses. Other schemes such as Emgoldex have produced sob stories of countless "investors" who were not able to get their rewards much less their investment money that led some of them into depression, broken relationships, and worst, suicides.

Wanting to get-rich-quick has proven repercussions

Just recently, we got to help a guy who survived a suicide attempt (of all places in the Middle East) and the backstory behind his attempt was a failed investment in Emgoldex that resulted in a complex series of problems that led to severe depression. His recruits demanded that their investment money be returned back as they could no longer wait for the supposed rewards or return of investment promised to them. But he could not do so because he had already remitted their investment money to their group leader who is in another country. He spent sleepless nights as a result of their constant bugging and jail threats. One thing leads to another, and before he came to his senses he had already flirted with death, and that episode leaves him mentally and psychologically scarred for life.

God indeed is good that even in this grave circumstance when everything seemed hopeless for this man He allowed us to minister to him throughout his ordeal until he had recovered and got reunited with his loved ones in the Philippines. During his month-long hospitalization, we were privileged to have shared the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to him and taught him the importance of contentment by which all men should live with. He aimed to get his hands on instant wealth yet found himself on the opposite end, but in his miserable state, he came to know the true meaning of being rich in life - that is, of having contentment in life and getting to know the One who gives genuine abundant life.

Despite serious warnings, lure of earthly riches proves to be some Christians' Achilles heels

The "parable of the rich fool" in Luke 12:16-21 conveys God's thoughts on man's foolish quest for more riches and His disdain for man's arrogance and discontentment. It is a serious warning that most people should heed. Sometimes it is convenient for us Christians to say, "okay, this is not me, only unbelievers and the godless tend to be like this rich man. I work hard, I invest my money, maybe a few dollars for a Powerball ticket won't really define me as a Christian, or maybe if I encourage people in our church to invest in Emgoldex it would be a great help for my brethren's financial status and consequently our church's finances". The moment you get your hands on your first goal, the bigger your next goal becomes, and suddenly the goal you've set for yourself becomes boundless.

This is exactly what motivated a brother in Christ when he encouraged us to enroll in the pyramiding business he was into - that he would set up funds to build a church in his home province and at the same time help us augment our incomes. Sometimes our "noble plan" to help our church and our brethren becomes a convenient facade behind that sinister motive to get to our goals, that is to enrich ourselves, because whether we admit it or not we dread being poor and struggling. We believe that God is rich and generous, and being the legalist that we are, we cleave to the principle of "rightful inheritance" so that we stake our claim to all that belongs to God.

Contentment and Obedience constitute true riches

Jesus in His sermon had urged His followers to choose to store up riches in heaven rather than on earth. Yet  this gem of an advice does seem to be unpopular among many Christians in favor of the Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) which proves to be very popular yet taken out of context as this verse refers to those who were in captivity in Babylon. (This verse is hardly quoted in its King James version as it sounds very different from the ear-tickling NIV.)

The apostle Paul had long predicted that "in the last days people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, arrogant, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power". (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. ~ 1 Timothy 6:6-10

An important lesson of life to learn is that wealth is a means, not an end itself. Get-rich-quick schemes, cutting corners to get more for oneself and taking unfair advantage of another's ignorance will, in the end, destroy the perpetrator. Those who do these things to get rich are in reality seeking death because they are breaking the spirit of the eighth commandment that says "thou shalt not steal". But if we place God first rather than the accumulation of wealth, then we will use whatever He allows us to have, no matter how little or how much, to glorify Him (1 Cor. 10:31)


  1. The stuff written in the blogs have allured me!!! gamblingwebsites.org.uk

  2. the Scripture is silent on this subject as it is with other similarly interesting ones such as drug addiction, online casino


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