Jerry Jenkins, Gambling, Moody, and one of the last evangelical taboos.

You know Jerry Jenkins, the author and current chairman of Moody Bible Institute.

But do you know Jerry Jenkins, the professional gambler?

An article over the weekend at World Magazine focuses on Jenkins, who has admitted that he enjoys playing in professional poker tournaments.

Jenkins says he’s just a recreational player, but that he realizes that people have an issue with that.

(In August, Moody Bible Institute changed their policy to now allow staff members to use tobacco, consume alcohol and gamble while off duty… but the school says the change was not made because of anyone’s personal habits or lifestyle).

Jenkins says that he’s won a little over $8,000 at two casinos, but that he usually about breaks even.

He also says that he won’t gamble any more near Chicago (the home of MBI) because “It’s too close to Chicago.”

According to the interview and quotes, Jenkins doesn’t look at his poker playing as gambling:  “I don’t play for what I would consider significant amounts of money. And I wouldn’t gamble, either. I mean, I don’t play slots,” he said. “I consider poker a skill game.”

Here’s an interesting paragraph:  Jenkins, 64, declined to state his income on the record, but said he is a “high-income person” and has enjoyed a few “pretty flush years with the Left Behind series. … You can do the math. I’ve sold 70 million books. So to break even making $8,000 playing poker, it’s kind of pocket change for me.” He gives most of his income away, he said.

And here’s another paragraph from the article that asks some good questions:

Some evangelicals see no problem in playing for small amounts of cash. Others have tended to avoid poker because of its association with gambling. From the Westminster Larger Catechism in the 1640s (which criticizes “wasteful gaming” in its question 142) to the present, many have seen gambling as a violation of the 8th commandment, “You shalt not steal”—but debates about what is wasteful, what is gambling, and what is stealing have also raged. Does a particular game create hardship to losers and their families? What is the motivation involved? What is moralism and what contributes to human flourishing or diminishing?

So… what do YOU think?

1.  Is gambling wrong?

2. Is poker ‘gambling’?

3.  Is the evangelical taboo of gambling now becoming a thing of the past?

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment below.




  • LuLu October 21, 2013 Reply

    My brother-in-law gambled…. played poker just like Jerry Jenkins. Said he originally took “x” amount of dollars and never anymore than what he won. He passed away suddenly…guess what my sister found? He had taken a cash advance on his credit card during the last casino trip they took and she was left paying for the bill! Moral of this story: when the money runs out, think twice a about putting your hand in the cookie jar. Somebody else will end up holding the bag and there won’t be a royal flush inside.

  • Richard October 21, 2013 Reply

    I recently ran across another pastor who plays poker tournaments. The way I understood it, you pay an entry fee, you play the game and if you win you get a prize. Sounds a bit like golf (which I also do not play). However, I realize that others may view it as gambling and think that “if the preacher can do it, then so can I” – not making the distinction. I just find it interesting to run across two ‘ministry-types’ who do basically the same thing. Note that I’m neither endorsing or condemning. Seems this one falls into answering to God. The next question is do you buy raffle tickets or support cakewalks?

  • Bart October 21, 2013 Reply

    I’ve argued slippery slopes can be a bad spots to walk. Even if I negotiate them safely, someone else thinks they are safe to walk, and they fall.
    Mr. Jenkins may well be able to handle the gambling, but for me I need to steer clear, my greed kicks in way too easy and forces out any sound judgement and drowns out the quiet voice.

  • Andy's Grandma October 21, 2013 Reply

    It IS gambling, and it is interesting how one can “twist” the truth when it fits his or her needs. How about applying the “What would Jesus do?” principle here? I have worked with families of all kinds of gamblers over the past 40 years. Gambling takes time away from family, from employers, from doing good works, and eventually corrodes everything around the gambler–whether pathological or “recreational.” I personally would not attend a church where the pastor, priest, etc. gambled. In fact, I left the Catholic church because they support their schools on the backs of addicts who cannot and will not miss their bingo games. The poker tournaments–like casinos–depend on the losers to pay for the “winnings” of a very few. Sounds like greed to me! The person who called this a “slippery slope” is right on target!

  • Jerry Lounsbury October 21, 2013 Reply

    This is interesting. As I grew up in the church First Corinthians 8: 7-13 was often used as a warning to not abuse our liberty. I never hear it referred to now. Does it apply in this instance?

  • mark October 21, 2013 Reply

    Stewardship is really the issus here. Gambling by definition is what we do whenever we take a risk with our money in order to make a profit. (Starting a business, buying a house, etc.) Sinful gambling always results when we risk something we can’t afford to lose. Can you invite the Lord to join you in your gaming or is your so-called “recreational spending” off limits to God?

  • Dave October 22, 2013 Reply

    I think I heard Driscoll say once feel free to gamble if your house is larger than “The House.” Maybe Johnny Mac would agree. 🙂

  • marksimpson1953 October 22, 2013 Reply

    Dwight Moody was a dedicated soul winner. This is what we heard about when we heard from him. What do we hear from Moody’s school now? Gamble, smoke, drink; it’s OK. Anyone who read and studied the devotions and messages and life of Moody knows he would be turning over in his grave.

  • Richard October 22, 2013 Reply

    My car is 12 years old. I paid $14,000 for it. No Christian needs to be driving a car worth more than $ 20,000. What would Jesus drive? Think of what that money could go to. And what about eating out? There’s no reason for a Christian to eat anything but home cooked meals made from the least costly ingredients. And I have bought clothes at Good Will. Christians have no business buying clothes new. And then there’s vacations and fancy colleges and cable television and more than one pair of sensible shoes and I could go on and on…

  • James Thompson October 24, 2013 Reply

    Paul was leader, an as a leader he knew his life effected everyone under him or around him. He wrote in Rom.14:21 that he would do nothing that would cause a brother to stumble. If Jerry is a leader, will there be those who will be tempted to follow? I believe MBI is on the wrong course! If a pastor who drinks and party’s on the side, come on Sunday to preach, will God blessing be with him? Nadab & Abihu offered profane fire, in Lev.10, but in Lev.10:9-10 says, Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go in the tabernacle of meeting, least you die…that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.
    I believe that MBI will begin to go down hill. And I believe that Jerry should step away from his position least he causes someone to stumble or fall or even die. Jerry should get another job, and leave the offices that are holy to them that are holy.

  • Bill Ellenberger October 30, 2013 Reply

    Some people could say, “I ‘ll bet any money that some Christians gamble.”

  • Andy's Grandma October 30, 2013 Reply

    The percentage of Christians who gamble is pretty much the same as any other group of people, and at least 7-10 percent of them will be pathological gamblers. Addictions do not honor any special group of people. Why would you want to bet on any group of people anyway? Just as we have sex addicts, drug addicts, and all kinds of addicts who are Christians, so do we have gambling addicts. This kind of sick humor minimizes the horrors that families, friends, employers, and even strangers go through when they are involved with a gambling addict. The issue here is whether a “religious leader” should blatantly gamble and call it a skill! Talk about denial!!!

  • Jay November 1, 2013 Reply

    I’m glad you swerved into this one…I grew up in conservative evangelicalism and was taught christian liberty by my then hero Chuck Swindol (Grace Awakening etc.). He and most everyone around me (and it is apparent that Mr. J. is also) embraces a “just don’t do it around those who may stumble”…this is exactly the opposite of what Paul taught in both I Cor. 8 and Rom. 14-15:4 (approx). Both times Paul ended his teaching without implying that we should just do it in the privacy of our homes or away from “weker” (notice “weaker” not immature) believers…I Cor. says “then I will not eat meat as long as the aion (age)” and in Romans he correlates Christ’s behavior on earth by giving up His rights for others, as we should also. Pray seriously and then try really hard to scrub all of the poor teaching we all have been exposed to over the years and don’t stop mid way through these passages like I did for so many years…study them to the end and see just how we were deceived. It gives me empathy for Jerry some seeing how I could navigate for so many years being totally deceived by my own lusts or by the enemy…either way deception is a frightening thing thus we need each other to come along side and point these things out.

  • Tom Dooley November 4, 2013 Reply

    Sounds like Jerry Jenkins could use a good dose of First Timothy chapter 6 that warns those who are rich about the temptations that come with those riches. It is very disappointing to me that Moody has in my opinion compromised with the world. What happened to the church being salt and light in the a decaying, dark culture. Again very, very sad. Getting harder all the time to tell the church from the world. Maybe Moody will vote that being conformed to the world is ok now…too.

  • Priscilla November 8, 2013 Reply

    Wow.. I can’t believe I’m writing this. That this is even an issue needing to be addressed. I totally disagree with Jerry’s viewpoint. I think it is unbiblical and he not true to the faith and what Christ came to do. We need to be a light and salt in this world with love. What Jerry is doing is becoming like those he should be trying to reach. it’s one thing to try to connect and love on people and share the gospel with them. It’s another to just throw it all out and become one of them in ways that are harmful.

  • Rick Duncan December 11, 2013 Reply

    Wow. I feel that the board of a ministry has the responsibility to uphold the guiding principles of the founders, in this case, D.L. Moody himself. Do we think Moody would endorse gambling or drinking?

  • Dr. Dick Mohline December 30, 2013 Reply

    Let’s face reality.The Scriptures are the same today as when I was a student and later the Dean of Students at MBI..I am not the Judge, but three principles are involved as I see this situation. !. Does the behavior edify or contribute to a better relationship to the Lord and/or others. 2. Is the behavior clearly contradicting the Word of God.. 3 finally, does my behavior hinder or hurt a brother or sister in the Lord.These have been my personal guidelines for over 60 years as a believer. I cannot determine this for everyone else.

  • Irv Spielberg March 4, 2014 Reply

    James Thompson is right! Jerry should be forced to resign in disgrace! Let’s bring back public whippings like in Puritan days. I’m willing to bet (pun intended) that if an undercover team tracked Jerry they would find him doing more than gambling. That’s how Swaggart was found out; a fellow minister shadowed him and got the goods on him. Jerry has already seared his conscience with his mass promotion of a pretrib rapture which was never part of any organized church or official theology before 1830 – and Jerry has to know this since “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” “Famous Rapture Watchers” and “Pretrib Rapture Stealth” etc. are on Google. Jerry (and LaHaye) had better have tribulation hideaways ready because when thousands find out soon how inhumanly they’ve been deceived by money-mad rapture traffickers, they’ll want to do more than give Jerry and Tim some free facelifts – what’s happened in other countries after date-setting fizzles! It’s time for the rest of us to express, in tangible ways and face to face, what some of us think of latter-day Laodicean leeches!

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