Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gambling or Investing?

This morning I received this great question by e-mail:
Is investing in stocks considered gambling? If so, should we not do so?
A very interesting question indeed!

(Proverbs 16:33) "The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord."
It is possible to argue that there is no such thing as gambling - because everything is controlled by God.

The problem with gambling is that it is poor stewardship of what God has entrusted to us. Generally, gambling appeals to our sinful and foolish nature with the promise of instant riches. The riches it promises are not the kind of riches that Jesus tells us to pursue, and by pursuing them they become an idol. We are focused on those things instead of on serving Christ.
(Matthew 6:19-21) ¶ “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(Matthew 6:24) ¶ “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
On the other hand, investing is certainly not a problem in the Bible - it is considered good stewardship. Remember that the parable of the talents says that the servant who did NOT invest what was entrusted to him was lazy and wicked!
(Matthew 25:26-27) ¶ “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.
27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
The servant, in his own defense, said that he didn't want to risk the master's money by investing it. The master, however, expected him to do exactly that and take the risk with the expectation that he would probably be careful WHAT he invested in.

It is one thing to invest in relatively safe investments with a reasonable expectation of a return on the investment. Sometimes that doesn't work out, but usually it is good stewardship. It is another thing entirely to spend God's money buying lottery tickets or stocks that have about the same chance of profitability. That is just foolish and a waste of what was entrusted to you.

The most important question is the heart. If we are doing whatever we are doing because of our covetous love of material things and that is taking our time and energy that should be given to God - it is sin.

Are we motivated by sober hopes of good stewardship or by feverish dreams of earthly riches?

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