Jerry Jenkins has been criticized for his hobby of playing poker in recent weeks. Why such concern? Jenkins is the famous co-author of the “Left Behind” series, speaker, and chairman of the board at Moody Bible Institute. This concern follows after the change of policy at Moody allowing employees of the seminary to drink and smoke if they so please (drunkenness is still considered a sin and not tolerated).
This is a small statement by ministrywatch.com about this information. Read the statement and respond with your opinions. I will paste the statement as it is in its entirety and follow it with some questions of my own.
“Now the overseer is to be above reproach” 1 Timothy 3:2
Historically, gambling has been considered a sin by the church. Christian groups are regularly among the most vocal opponents to lotteries being established in their states or casinos being constructed in their areas. And there is good reason for this concern about gambling as most, if not all, pastors have had to help members of their congregations sort through the rubble of their families’ lives as a result of gambling addictions. Casinos are also known to go hand-in-hand with a rise in crime and prostitution. So it was sad to hear from World Magazine that the author of the massively successful “Left Behind” book series and chairman of the Moody Bible Institute’s board of directors, Jerry Jenkins, was listed on a public website highlighting winnings from poker tournaments taking place in at least two casinos. Moreover, Jenkins has one son who serves as media director of Harvest Bible Fellowship based in Chicago who is also listed on the site, and has another son who is actually employed as a dealer at a casino.
According to the interview in World Magazine, Jenkins claims his poker is a simply a hobby involving relatively small amounts of money. While a recent policy change allows gambling (as well as drinking and smoking) by Moody Bible Institute’s directors, students of the institute are banned from these practices. It may be that Jenkins’ activity is minor and not at all addictive for him, but who can know for sure? Even if his gambling hobby is just that, it still is disappointing to see a church and ministry leader engaging in a hobby that has led so many families to ruin. Would Jenkins not be a better witness for Christ if he took the small amounts of money he purportedly gambles and gave them to ministries that are helping the poor and needy? What he considers a “small amount of money” would no doubt be a huge blessing to those far less fortunate than himself.
There are no shortage of ministries helping the poor to be found at www.MinistryWatch.com. Would it not be best for the both him and the cause of Christ for him to never frequent a casino again? Is frequenting a casino wise stewardship of the wealth the Lord entrusted to him? By going there, is he helping sustain an organization proven to bring ruin to the lives of many, including innocent family members of those addicted to gambling? By his own admission, he has stopped going to a casino near Chicago in order to not bring harm to Moody’s reputation. Why not just stop altogether? And why not hold the Moody board accountable in the same manner as are Moody students? Moreover, with his wealth and position, Mr. Jenkins may be lacking in effective accountability himself, which is an environment where a “hobby” could turn out to be the first step on a slippery slope into bigger personal problems. We hope donors to Moody Bible Institute will make their voice known on this subject, demand the recent changes allowing board members to gamble be reversed and potentially save Mr. Jenkins and his family from future heartache. Other than this blemish, we have no reason to believe Jenkins’ life is not above reproach. Hopefully, he will now choose to eradicate even this small blemish so that no one would question his work or the work of Jesus in his life.
In Jenkins’ defense most of these charges are weak at best. For example,
1. Just because a view is “historical” does not mean it is valid. The same statement could be made for dancing among some denominations or the use of drums by others.
2. The author asks “Would Jenkins not be a better witness for Christ if he took the small amounts of money he purportedly gambles and gave them to ministries that are helping the poor and needy?” this again is a bad argument because that same accusation could be posed to every Christian alive. Don’t have that cup of coffee, it could be given to the poor. Don’t buy that house you want, that money could be given to the poor. Don’t buy your kids clothes for school, that money could be used for the poor. I imagine that the author himself occasionally takes his wife on a date, couldn’t that money, spent on entertainment, be better spent on the poor?
3. “Would it not be best for both him and the cause of Christ for him to never frequent a casino again?” Again a charge similar to this one was laid against the Lord of the universe as He spent time frequenting the places where prostitutes and drunkards hung out. I would say more Christians should have a presence where sinners do business.
4. “It may be that Jenkins’ activity is minor and not at all addictive for him, but who can know for sure?” Just because some people do give themselves over to gambling (or sex or food or any number of non-sin issues) does not mean that Jenkins should give up his hobby. Again Jesus enjoyed a good glass of wine on occasion despite the large number of individuals around the world who suffer from and addiction to alcohol.
Of course we have ignored the debate over the affect of casinos on communities, but this is only because I do not have the research in front of my to question or confirm such allegations. As a pastor my main concern, for this article, is to discuss the biblical arguments for charging Jenkins.
The reality is that we see games of chance used even by the disciples in the form of casting lots.
Doesn’t the bible say that when we cast lots, “every decision is from the Lord”?
Doesn’t the bible say that casting lots, “ends quarrels and separates powerful opponents”?
So it seems that leaving some things to “chance” are not inherently sinful, but what about when money is on the line? Maybe that is the problem. I don’t think so. We see in Acts that the disciples left the very important decision of who would become the final Disciple to the casting of lots. Of course we could immediately say, “That may be so, but God chose Paul.” and this is true, but the disciples are not rebuked for resorting to a game of chance to make such an important decision.
Despite the apparent fact that Christians have freedom (I don’t think too many people will contradict scripture and dispute this) and that Ministry Watch lacks the biblical evidence for an outright prohibition of gambling, is it prudent of Jenkins to engage in Poker, while serving as Chairman of Moody?
What do you think?
I love and respect the ministry of www.ministrywatch.com. I believe that 99.9% of the time they are spot on and I continue to pray for their ministry. Based on my limited knowledge; the author, his ministry, and his integrity are above reproach.