By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
February 9, 2024
Just weeks away from legalized online sports betting in North Carolina, Lifeway Research has released a study showing that most pastors agree that gambling is morally wrong, but few are sharing that conviction from the pulpit. More than half of pastors polled say they haven’t felt the need to address the issue in the last year, a fact that reveals a significant shift from what surveyed pastors reported in 2018, shortly after a Supreme Court ruling opened the door for states to legalize sports betting.
“Pastors are still not supportive of sports betting, but their plan for responding has changed in the last six years,” Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, told the Biblical Recorder. “Pastors’ 2018 intentions were to fight to keep our culture from hurting itself by lowering a standard. Now that most states have legalized sports betting, pastors appear less interested in focusing on this behavior. Many will likely follow through on their intentions if a specific need arises, but the reality is that intentions are easier than actions.”
Nearly 9 in 10 pastors polled in 2018 said that they would offer counseling for those struggling with gambling addiction and 33 percent said they would use sermons to discourage people from placing sports bets. But within the last year, just 44 percent of pastors reported counseling anyone about the matter, and only 7 percent said they have preached against sports betting.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, says pastors should not turn a blind eye to what is essentially “a false religion that will fleece the flock and their communities.”
“Gambling is rooted in covetousness, which the Bible considers idolatry. ‘Lady Luck’ is its deity,” he wrote in a 2020 editorial. “Beyond the serious social and moral implications, gambling replaces faith in God with trust in money, diverting attention away from spiritual matters toward material gain.”
The Lifeway poll, conducted between Aug. 29 and Sept. 20, 2023, shows that evangelical pastors are more likely than other ministers to see sports gambling as morally wrong, with Baptist and non-denominational pastors most likely to acknowledge it as sinful.
Miles Mullin, vice president and chief-of-staff of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told the Christian Post that even though the words “Thou shall not gamble” are not among the Biblical commandments, Scripture illustrates the ripple effect of sin that harms the participant and those around him.
“This seems particularly true for addictive behaviors, and gambling is no different,” Mullin said.
Creech said the social costs of gambling always outweigh any of its perceived benefits and that gambling profits come at the expense of the psychological and financial well-being of individuals.
“Gambling is not merely a voluntary matter, for its success in billions of dollars is dependent upon enslaving millions, robbing them of their psychological and financial freedom. It draws money away from businesses which provide a better return for the economy than what they take out of it,” he said. “Legalized gambling doesn’t reduce corruption but supplies it with respectability, and thereby enables it, increasing law enforcement and welfare costs. And while it may provide jobs, it also works as a disincentive to industry, a strong work ethic, and personal savings. Worse still, whether one is a winner or a loser, gambling dissuades one from a life of faith in God.”
Creech said this is why pastors should do something about it now, especially with the March 11 kickoff for sports betting across North Carolina looming.
“Their silence or lack of passion against it is an indictment of their passion for Christ and the victims that gambling will leave in its wake,” he added.
For more information on the harms associated with sports betting, check out this list of 10 concerns.