Fantasy sports gambling is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. And a young man, a listener to the podcast who wishes to remain anonymous, wrote specifically to ask about fantasy football gambling.
“Hello Pastor John, thank you for the podcast! I’m a big sports fan, and I absolutely love playing fantasy football as a hobby. I started out playing one free season in an online league, but as of late, I’ve been playing daily fantasy sports games on DraftKings and FanDuel, a form of gambling which costs money in entry fees. The bets I place are rather modest at $20–$50 a week. I have not found a lot of Christian resources on this topic. Is modest online sports gambling sinful?”
Sinning with Money
Yes, I think online gambling in general, little or big, is sinful — whether you call it modest or exorbitant. I’ve got seven reasons, at least, that I would encourage this young man to consider in order to rethink the way he spends his time and his money as a Christian.
It’s the cumulative effect of these seven observations that cause me to say that what he’s doing is sinful. But of course, he will need to judge according to the Scriptures and his conscience.
My words don’t make something sinful. God’s words make something sinful. So here are my reasons why I would like to see him rethink his ways and devote his life to something vastly more important and use his money differently.
One Life to Live
I would remind our young friend that he has one single life to live on this earth for the glory of Christ. Then comes eternity. He never gets a redo.
“Online gambling in general, little or big, is sinful — whether you call it modest or exorbitant.”
Every day is either invested well or is lost forever. Every breath you take, every minute of life you have, is a free gift of God and a trust, a stewardship, which God says should be lived for his glory, for the magnifying of his Son.
Innocent games can be helpful. They can be a helpful refreshment to the mind. They can sweeten relationships, especially with kids. It can be a taste of heaven and fellowship. But in themselves — in a fallen, needy, miserable, tragic, dying, hell-bent world like ours — they have very little significance.
Our friend calls himself a big sports fan. He says he absolutely loves fantasy football. He speaks of multiple avenues of playing. He talks about putting money on the line. I would say all this time, all this intensity, all this money shows things are out of proportion in his life. This to me looks like a tragic waste of a precious, God-given life.
Enticed by the Unreal
I would say that the degree to which a person is absorbed in an unreal world — to that degree he needs to give an account for how his living in an unreal world is making his real-world impact greater for the good of people and the glory of God.
I think our friend should reflect on the fact that the Bible refers to the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). That should send off alarms in his mind because deceit is essentially creating a sense that what is unreal is more to be desired than what is real.
I would ask our friend, “Are you not finding thrills by investing your time, your emotions, and your money into unreality rather than reality? Is that not a problem?”
Fifty Dollars a Week
It seems to me that there is good evidence that our young friend has already entered a seriously blinding fog. When he calls putting down $50 a week modest gambling, he’s lost touch with reality. This is not modest.
A nickel might be modest. This is serious. When we are talking about $50 a week, that is $200 a month, and $2,400 a year.
One half the world’s population lives on $2.50 a day, which is $17.50 a week, which is below what he’s gambling. Our friend is throwing to the wind up to $50 a week, calling it modest gambling. So there’s good evidence he has lost touch with reality, and I would plead with him, “Wake up, friend. Wake up.”
Falling into a Snare
It is very difficult to believe that gambling $20 to $50 a week is happening simply to add an emotional buzz to the entertainment. That would be bad enough, but in fact, it is almost certain that his motive includes the desire that he would win and thus get more money.
“You have no right to risk God’s money this way. Managers don’t gamble with their master’s money.”
The desire to get more money by putting other people’s money at risk and doing no biblically warranted, wholesome work is certainly a sign that there is at least an incipient desire to get rich, which the Bible says is suicidal.
Look at 1 Timothy 6:9–10: “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation” — that is what’s happening — “into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Our young friend needs to pause and remember that none of his money belongs to him, ultimately. It all belongs to God. Here is 1 Chronicles 29:14: “All things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”
I would say quite bluntly, forthrightly, and confidently that you have no right to risk God’s money this way. Managers don’t gamble with their master’s money — period.
Faithful trustees may not gamble with the trust fund. In the parable of the talents, Jesus says that he will take account for how we have handled his resources, which belong to him (Matthew 25:14–30). To gamble with God’s money on trivialities like this is a kind of embezzlement.
Gambling is a massive social sickness in our culture. It brings millions and millions of people to ruin, especially the poor. It sucks on the poor more than anyone else. The people who can least afford it take the biggest hit.
I don’t think Christians should be a part of any sort of lotteries, casinos, or online gambling. It is an entire structure of devastation for millions of people that has no biblical warrant.
Finally, and this relates back to the third thing I said, there is a vastly better way for our friend to find joy in how he uses $50 a week. The lowest form of the argument would simply be this: if at age 25 you put $50 dollars a week into a well-invested stock fund, you will, with almost no risk, have $237,000 in the bank when you are 50 years old. That’s a house owned free and clear for what you are risking every week on games.
But there’s a better argument. The sons of this age are smarter than the sons of light (Luke 16:8). But better than that would probably be — since our friend seems to have so much discretionary money — to find gloriously happy, helpful good deeds do in people’s lives. Creatively seek out how to use all that money in an excellent way. Imagine investing $50 a week, $200 a month, in the causes of justice and gospel spreading and the relief of the suffering.
Oh my, how much fun that would be. Believe me, friend, it is more blessed to give than to receive, or to risk. It is more blessed to invest creatively in the eternal joys of other people than to play with God’s money in the dream world of fantasy football.