Gambling may not be one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but it can become a dangerous addiction that can very quickly destroy someone's life, says evangelist Billy Graham.
In his syndicated advice column for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the 98-year-old evangelist explained that becoming addicted to gambling is like becoming addicted to anything else, including drugs or alcohol.
"Eventually it takes over a person's life and destroys them - something people who favor legalized gambling are seldom willing to face," he said.
However, Graham encouraged readers to remember that any addiction can be overcome, with God's help. After recognizing the problem, it's important for those struggling with addiction to understand they can't recover on their own.
"I urge you to talk honestly with your pastor or other professional who can suggest resources in your community to help you," he advised. "It won't be easy - but others have walked this road before you, and you can learn from their experience."
Finally, turn to God and commit this problem to Jesus Christ, said the Baptist minister.
"God loves you, and He doesn't want you to destroy your life. Not only will Christ give you a new desire to do what's right, but He'll help you overcome the greed and the yearning for excitement that are behind most gambling. One of the Ten Commandments says, 'You shall not covet ... anything that belongs to your neighbor' (Exodus 20:17)."
According to statistics from The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), 15 percent of Americans gamble at least once per week, and approximately two to three percent of Americans meet the criteria for "problem" gambling. That's around 6 million adults and about a half million teens. NCPG notes the annual cost associated with gambling (crime, addiction, and bankruptcy) is $17 billion.
In an earlier "My Answer" column on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website, the evangelist explained that Bible doesn't say much about gambling, it does tell us two important truths that one should keep in mind before gambling.
"First, it warns us about the dangers of greed," said Graham. "When greed grips our souls (as often happens with gambling), money takes over our lives - and that is wrong."
Second, the Bible urges us to use our money wisely, and to save all we can," the evangelist said, quoting Proverbs 10:4, which states, "Diligent hands bring wealth."
He also suggested that for the believer in Jesus Christ, there should be no appeal to take part in gambling.
"Gambling is nowhere approved in the Bible. Instead, the Bible stresses that the Christian should earn his living by honest work and effort, and this would exclude relying on chance (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)," Graham said. "The Bible tells us to 'abstain from all appearance of evil' (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Gambling has often done untold evil to people by making them lose money that could be used for good purposes or even the necessities of life. Money is given to us by God to be used for good, not evil. Anyone seeking to do God's will should not be involved in gambling."
He goes on to say, "Gambling is also wrong because of the motives involved. Some people gamble for thrills and excitement. Others gamble because they have a greedy and covetous attitude about money. Some gamble out of a false belief in luck. All of these motives are wrong for the Christian, for they are all self-centered and materialistic."