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Is Gambling a Sin? - by Dr. Wilhelmus a'Brakel (1635-1711)

Articles on Christian Stewardship

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Wilhelmus a’Brakel deals with this in a short excerpt from his systematic theology “The Christian’s Reasonable Service.”

Guidelines for Manifesting Compassion

Having been moved to be compassionate, it is therefore needful that you conduct yourself wisely in exercising compassion. To that end the following needs to be noted:

First, the persons who are to be compassionate are the rich, people of moderate means, people of limited means, as well as the poor—no one is excluded. Everyone must inwardly be moved toward compassion, which is to be accompanied by a ready inclina­tion to render assistance. The gift varies, however; the one gives much, the other less, and another little. Each is to give according to his means and consistent with the authority he has over certain possessions.

Someone who is subordinate to no one gives in a certain way, and someone who is married, having children, in a different manner. Children may give of that which their parents give them to buy something nice or delectable. They either save it fully or partially, giving that which they have saved with a generous heart to the poor. This is pleasing to both God and man. Married persons must each give alms individually without informing each other about this. One may not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. It may, however, not be to the detriment of the family. Instead, one should eat a little bit less, make one less garment, or wear a certain garment a bit longer so that the routine of the family is maintained. If, however, a greater measure needs to be given, this needs to be discussed mutually. If no agreement can be reached, the gift must either not be made at all, or it must be reduced until the resistant party agrees. If the one party is as Nabal, the other party must give in the manner stated. In these matters the husband has more authority than the wife. He who cannot share any goods must render assistance to whomever is in need, and he who cannot even do this must pray with a compassionate heart that the Lord may help the poor.

Secondly, the persons to whom we must be generous are first of all the godly — and then the unconverted among the citizenry, as well as widows, orphans, and the homeless. We must particularly be generous to those who are in exile, or those who must flee for the sake of true religion. The common vagrants are generally rogues who would be better off in a house of correction than on the street. If they are healthy, hunger may perhaps teach them how to work; or if they are invalids, we are obligated to give them a piece of bread.

Thirdly, the gift must proceed from that which is ours and be given in a righteous manner. To give liberally while being deeply in debt is theft. It is an abomination before God to give a portion to the poor from that which we have obtained through un­righteous means or by way of gambling, doing so to quiet the conscience somewhat or to atone for one’s wrongdoing. This is no more pleasing to God than “the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog” (Deut. 23:18), God forbidding that such funds would come into the treasury.

Fourthly, the manner in which alms are to be given is:

(1) With a simple heart: “…he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity” (Rom. 12:8). Thus, this is to be done with a truly compas­sionate heart, a gentle hand, and without seeking one’s own honor, so that the engagement of the heart and hand, as well as the objective, be in harmony with and characterized by sincerity.

(2) Joyfully: “…he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom. 12:8); “… not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). This means that we shall rejoice in having such a good opportunity, and therefore shall engage our­selves toward the poor with a happy and friendly countenance, The giving of our alms will then be doubly delightful.

(3) Wisely; that is, in respect to ourselves, in a manner in which we neither give everything away at once, nor shortchange our family. Rather, we are to give in such a manner that we shall be able to continue to give. However, in extraordinary times some­thing extraordinary needs to be done. Wisdom must also be exer­cised as far as the persons are concerned to whom we give. Some of the poor do not manage their affairs well and are not diligent enough. Such need to be taught to be prudent by way of an exhortation or a rebuke. It is better to hire them and teach them to work; they will thus earn what we otherwise would have given them. It is to no purpose to give others money, for they either cannot save well, or they have so many debts that they are immedi­ately without money again, and thus will remain equally poor. In such cases it is sometimes the most prudent course of action to allow them go to the baker once a week to get some bread, and to the grocer for a weekly quantity of grits, flour, peas, and butter. Here we must make a distinction between poor and poor. Some are too proud to admit poverty and nevertheless suffer want. However, for such we can become surety by giving them money so that they can pay their incurred debts. For others we may have them obtain the goods while paying for them ourselves. We are to proceed in like manner as far as clothing is concerned. The most prudent approach is to personally buy strong linen and wool, have the clothing made, and then forward it. This will be much more efficient.

(4) We are to be steadfast in our generosity. We must not do so in a rush which immediately dissipates, while it all ends in remorse over having given so much. Our giving must always be commensu­rate with the present need, doing so in accordance with our circumstances, and without it being detrimental to our own situ­ation. We must not be weary in well-doing, for compassion culmi­nates in receiving the crown. “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Mat. 5:7).

God Acknowledged as the Giver

Since you pray to God for daily bread, it is thus essential for you to believe that all good gifts and the blessing upon that which you have, come from God, and that you acknowledge God as being the origin of all good things. Such He truly is: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). All that exists is God’s; whatever anyone possesses he has received from God. “I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold,… my corn… my wine… my wool and my flax” (Hosea 2:8-9). Man is but a naked entity and all that he has does not proceed from himself. All that he has proceeds from another source—he has received it from God alone. “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7). The Lord causes food to come forth from the earth; the Lord grants to each his peculiar portion; the Lord renders the food efficacious unto nourishment; the Lord maintains man and beast; He even provides the cattle with their food and the young ravens when they cry to Him. Since all is the Lord’s and He communicates to everyone that which is His, one must invoke the Lord for all that we stand in need of and acknowledge Him as the origin and giver. We must not do so, however, with the disposition of a creature, but as a reconciled child in Christ and with a childlike heart. If we receive something, we must receive it as out of the hand of God as being our Father. We must be satisfied with that which the Father gives — be it much or little, it will be enough. Therefore we ought not to waste it, but with a joyful heart make use of it. We must then always lift up our heart on high to the Giver, doing so with a grateful heart and with a mouth filled with the praises of the Lord. “Praise the LORD, 0 Jerusalem; praise thy God, 0 Zion. For He hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; He hath blessed thy children within thee. He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat” (Psa. 147:12-14). God requires and expects this, He is pleased with it.

Gambling and Lotteries are sin: No opportunity ought to be given for subjects to squander their goods, for God has forbidden this.

Wilhelmus a’Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 4 (125-27); Volume 3 (Page 552-553)

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