Is playing the stock market gambling?

Questions & Answers November 24, 2017

Q: Is playing the stock market considered gambling and therefore a “no-no?” — Pat, from the United States 

A: Before addressing your question about the stock market, it’s helpful to mention some important Bible principles regarding finances.

First, it is important to seek God’s wisdom through Bible study and prayer in every area of our lives, including the use of money. The Bible has quite a bit to say about money and more than half of Jesus’ parables involved how we use material goods entrusted to us. Jesus tells us to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and the promise is that God will supply everything we need (Matthew 6:33), according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).

Sometimes we want things that we really don’t need. Jesus said, “beware of covetousness” (Luke 12:15) and we are specifically warned against the love of money and desiring to be rich (1 Timothy 6:9-10). A practical application of this principle is: avoid “get rich quick” schemes. This is really gambling, because, like casinos, they are promoted by people hoping to profit off other people’s greed.

The book “Counsels on Stewardship” by Ellen G. White has many wonderful counsels regarding how to use our financial resources. You can read it online here.

Here are recommended Christian financial principles that I recommend following regarding allocating income:

  • First, give to God (tithe and offerings)
  • Next, set aside savings for unexpected expenses and investments for long term needs
  • After that pay fixed expenses (housing, utilities, food, and other essentials)
  • Finally, use what is left for discretionary expenses (such as clothing, books, and gifts).

A budget is a valuable tool to make sure one has enough money for all of these things. Helpful resources, including a downloadable PowerPoint presentation on budgeting and an Excel spreadsheet to help you get started, can be found here.

It is important to remember that it is impossible to avoid all risk when it comes to investing or saving money. Banks can go out of business, losing one’s job or one’s health can result in lost income. Even if we put money under a mattress, it can be stolen or lost through a fire. All investments have inherent risk and it is up to each investor to understand the level of risks in every type of security and to invest accordingly. It is important to seek the assistance of qualified professionals when making investment decisions.

Church entities are very careful in how they handle the funds entrusted to them. They are kept in a variety of places depending on how the money is to be used. A portion of General Conference funds, designated as long-term investments, are held in a mixture of stocks and bonds that are considered appropriate for this purpose. Just as the church employs people knowledgeable in this area, some may find it helpful to seek out a reputable financial advisor for help in designing a financial plan based on their specific situation, income, and needs, because it is sometimes difficult to know how to choose wisely from the many investment choices available.

May God help us to be faithful in that which is least (money), that when Jesus comes we may be entrusted with “the true riches” (Luke 16:10-11).