(Psalm 118:8)

Football and gambling. The new college and pro-football seasons are upon us. All across this nation, it is football season. It is a time for fans of the game to root their favorite team on to victory (go Ohio State Buckeyes!). Sadly however, it is also a time for millions of people to gamble on this great sport. From now until the Super Bowl next February, BILLIONS will be wagered legally and illegally on pro and college-football games. Over the next 5 months, lives will be destroyed by people who are in bondage to gambling on football games.

Over the past 5 years, by far the fastest growing form of sports gambling, especially on professional football, has been “fantasy football.” In fantasy football, a predetermined group of people get together, make up fantasy teams from the existing pool of players, and are rewarded when the players they select have productive statistics in the games they play. It sounds like fun and can be. However, in most fantasy leagues there is an “entry fee” and a financial reward for those who do well, which also means a financial loss for those who do poorly. You can call it whatever you want, but if you are playing fantasy football and there is money to be won or lost, YOU ARE GAMBLING!

The appalling thing to me is the hypocrisy of the National Football League in regard to fantasy football. While the league takes a zero tolerance position regarding gambling on its games, they fully endorse and support fantasy football. They have taken this position for two reasons. First, they view it as an entertaining way for more people to watch and be involved in their product. They are 100% right since not many people would be worrying about the number of yards a running back on a bad team gained in a meaningless game late in the seasons, unless that player was on your fantasy team. Second, they claim to only endorse fantasy leagues where no money changes hand, knowing full well that 99% of fantasy leagues have entry fees anywhere from $10 to $100,000.

The reality is, the NFL as well as the NCAA that oversees the college game, fully understands and tacitly accept the fact that billions are wagered every season on their games. Pick up ANY newspaper during the season and in the back of the sports page are the Vegas lines. My friend, there is only ONE reason they are printed…for GAMBLING. The explosion of interest in college and pro football has been primarily driven by gambling. People can wager in Vegas, with the local bookie, with their friend, or at offshore bookmakers online, and then sit back and watch the game they have bet on.

Football and television are a match made in gambling heaven. The “line” is broadcasted and openly talked about in regard to EVERY game without any hesitation by the announcers. Programs geared to people who gamble are all over TV and radio during football season. You can now sit at home and watch virtually every college and pro game that is played. I can assure you, the ONLY reason someone is up at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning watching Hawaii play TCU, other than those who went to Hawaii and TCU, are people betting on the game. The ONLY reason someone is watching two pro teams with 2-9 records on a Sunday afternoon, other than the fans of those teams, is because they have a bet on the game. Gambling has driven the TV ratings, which in turn has put millions in the pockets of the NFL and NCAA schools, which is why they say they are against gambling with a wink and a nod.

I am often asked whether it is a sin to bet on a football game or to buy a Lottery ticket. I am going to tell you up front that there is no verse in the Bible that says, “thou shalt not gamble.” However, let me give you a Biblical basis why gambling is a sin. Gambling involves an element of risk. Ultimately, you are putting your faith in something other than God for the outcome. Therein lies the foundation of why gambling is a sin. Instead of trusting God, instead of putting your faith in God, you have chosen to put your faith in luck. You are hoping to beat the odds and it is putting your hope and faith in something other than God that makes gambling a sin. Let me outline for you three additional reasons why gambling is a sin.

First, it can cause you to lose sight of your priorities. Never forget, anytime something is more important than the Lord in your life, it is a sin. We are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart and He MUST be our first priority at all times. Second, it can be a poor use of God’s resources that He has entrusted to you. Many people I have counseled are in financial difficulties, not because they have not been blessed by God, but because they have misused and mishandled their blessing. Lastly, it can be a stumblingblock to your brother or sister. Many people have a compulsive nature, could end up in total bondage to gambling. So while it may not be a problem in your life, your involvement may cause someone else to have a problem with gambling.

Let me make an important point. When I talk about gambling, I am referring to the lottery, sports gambling, casino games, private card games, but I am also talking about the financial markets. Having been involved heavily in the financial markets in the 80′s, I can tell you that many people use the word investing, when in fact they are literally gambling. When you are taking a financial position in the outcome of something that is unknown, that is gambling no matter what words you want to use. You have as much control over the stock price of a particular company as you do over the performance of your favorite football team.

***This is NOT an indictment against having stocks and bonds. Prudent, reasoned, well strategized investment plans are encouraged in God’s Word. I am talking about those who are simply rolling the dice hoping to get lucky in the stock market.

The Bible teaches us to be wise stewards with the resources God has entrusted to us. I am a strong advocate of investing a portion of our resources in well researched, fundamentally sound opportunities that have the real potential of giving us a reasonable return. That is wise use of God’s money. God encourages this type of prudent investing. The line is crossed into gambling when you are just “hoping to be right,” or entering into a situation with greed as your motive. No prayer, no research, simply taking a chance you might win. For the above-outlined reasons, that is a sin my friend.

I love you and care about you so much. I will be praying for you today, praying for those who have been caught up in the bondage of this addiction to gambling, especially those caught up in gambling on football games. If you, or someone you know is addicted to gambling, know that I will be praying today for those who are in this bondage. God is a God of deliverance and He can deliver someone from the bondage of gambling. Never forget that there is hope in Christ, and no matter how bad someone has destroyed their life, God can help them put the pieces together if they are ready to surrender to Him.

Gambling is a sin, since inherent in the nature of gambling there is a reliance on chance instead of faith in God. But never forget that Christ died on the cross to wash our sins away and give us victory. If you are in bondage to gambling on football, it is no accident you are reading this message today. God is speaking to your heart about STOPPING. Don’t spend another season without sleep, worrying about an 18-year-old student at a school you can’t even pronounce making a 53-yard field goal to cover the spread or watching a meaningless Monday night game trying to get out of the hole from your losses on Sunday. There is FREEDOM in Christ, and He can set you free from the bondage of gambling!

In His love and service,
Your friend and brother in Christ,

Bill Keller

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