James Guy wrote:
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Here are some things to consider. Bear with me (it is a long article) and I will explain how we might apply them to the coon hunting / gambling issue.
WHAT MAKES SOMETHING WRONG?
There are at least three ways something may be wrong (or right for that matter). (1) God says it is. That’s good enough isn’t it. (2) It is against God’s principles He set for us, or violates the principles of righteousness. (3) It violates our conscience. That is, if we believe it is wrong, that it is wrong for us to do it.
The first one is obvious. If God says something is wrong, it is. We may try to find excuses for doing it, or try to “re-interpret” the Bible to fit what we WISH God said. For example, sexual immorality is a sin (I Corinthians 6:9). The difficult part sometimes comes when we do have to determine (apply) what is sexual immorality. Usually, this means we are going to try to find a way NOT to obey God, but there are circumstances where something may not be a sin even though it may be commonly taught that it is. For example, Jesus dealt with the Pharisees often and many of His conversations were telling THEM they were wrong for telling other people something was right or wrong that God did not say. In other words, they were making the rules FROM what God did say (see Matthew 15 – especially vs. 9).
The second one is a little more difficult because it requires more of our “interpretation” and “application” of something. The matter really is of the heart more than specific rules in that if we are trying to please God, we will do something, or not do something, based on what He wants. But, we still have to figure out what He wants. For example, the Bible does not tell us it is a sin to say “Sh—“ (cuss word). Some have said it is wrong to say “shoot” because it is a substitute for that word. These are rules man makes. But, God DID give us principles such as “letting your speech be seasoned with salt” and setting a good example for others, etc. There is also the principle that I’ll discuss next that must be considered. So, there is no command against saying a particular word, but certain godly principles may lead us to determine that it is.
The third thing that would make something wrong is because we believe it is wrong but do it anyway. This one is often difficult to grasp and apply. Especially since we tend to try to force others to believe what we do. Using the above example, if I think saying a particular word is wrong, I expect ever other Christian to believe that as well. This makes us the standard of righteousness and not God. No preacher, church, or anybody else has to right to decide for everybody else what is right or wrong in matters of opinion or conscience. That is what this really is. Some would suggest that this should not be a standard for right or wrong, but the Bible itself does teach us this. For example, Romans 14 (see especially verses 1-10. In this case, Paul uses the example of some who may believe it is wrong to eat meat, while others believe it is alright. He also uses the example of some who believe they should celebrate special days, while others may believe differently. The TRUTH is that it was NOT wrong to eat meat, nor to celebrate special days. But, if you did it believing it was wrong (not of faith), then you are being rebellious and violating your conscience in a way that says, “I don’t care if God thinks it is wrong, I’m going to do it anyway.” Another example is in I Corinthians 8:1-13. Here, the principle is much more clear. Some believed it was wrong to eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. Others just see it as meat. Paul clearly says that it was NOT wrong to eat the meat because it is just meat, and the idols are not real gods anyway (see verse 4 and following). He goes on to say what WOULD make it a sin is to do it in the presence of a Christian who did think it was wrong, and so influence him to eat something he thought was wrong. In this case, it was not wrong for EITHER of them to eat the meat, but it was wrong for the “weaker brother” to eat the meat because he THOUGHT it was wrong.
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO COON HUNTING?
There are also at least three questions that must be answered concerning if competition hunting where money is involved is a gambling and/or a sin. (1) Is gambling a sin? (2) Is competition hunting gambling? (3) Is there something that could make competition hunting wrong for me, even if it is not wrong itself?
First, there is no scripture that says gambling is wrong. Many preachers and churches have made hard and fast rules against it and told people it is wrong PERIOD! But, the truth is, God does not say that it is wrong. In fact, Judas’s replacement was chosen by “drawing lots” (not for money, and led by God, but still a type of gambling). However, we must apply the other principles where it may be wrong. Does it violate your conscience, but you do it anyway? Are there other principles that may be involved that would make it wrong? For example, I know some who go to the casinos and say they do it just for fun in the same way they would go to the movies. The fact that they may be able to win some money makes it more fun for them. Who am I to say they are not just doing it for fun? But, if they do it from a heart of greed, pride, selfishness, etc. then it would make it wrong. If they believe it is wrong, but do it anyway, that violates the passages discussed above. Then, we could not say gambling itself was wrong, but why and how we practiced it was wrong. Another example of this is giving to the poor. We would not say giving the poor is a bad thing. In fact, we would say it is good. But, Jesus taught to do it for your own glory WAS wrong (Matthew 6:1-2). The fact that somebody does it in a wrong way does not make the act wrong. It is only wrong for that person to do it in the wrong way. The same is true of hunting. We know God never says, “Thou shalt not competition hunt for prize money.” You won’t find that anywhere in the Bible. But, if we do it in a way that is for greed, ungodly pride, cheating, etc. then the WAY we do it or the REASON we do it would be wrong. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win a competition. But, if you cheat to win, or tear other people down when you win, those violate other principles. It is not a specific scripture that makes gambling, hunting, or giving a sin. But, there may be PRINCIPLES that would make pretty much anything a sin done in the wrong way or for the wrong reasons.
Second, is the often asked question as to whether or not competition hunting for money is gambling. The same has been asked for many years about other things such as investing in the stock market. If we decide that gambling itself is not wrong (except when violating some principle), then this question does not even matter. If it is not wrong to gamble, then it does not matter if competition hunting is gambling or not. But, we must ask the question because some do believe gambling is wrong (even if it is because of other principles). The answer depends on how you define gambling. Again, the Bible does not define it for us, and does not say it is right or wrong. So, we would have to ask, “WHAT is gambling and WHY is gambling wrong” (if we believe it is). Then we have to ask, “Is competition hunting for prizes or money wrong for the same reasons?” There are some differences in the two though. What we typically call gambling involves MORE chance, while competition hunting (as well as sports and other things) involves more EARNING / PARTICIPATING in the winning. That said, there is some strategy to gambling, and there is some chance to hunting (the chance you draw a cast with worse dogs or handlers than you for example). The same is true of investing in the stock market. You have to strategically choose your investments and manage them wisely, but there is also the uncontrollable chance they will lose money. Of course, you “take a chance” when you buy a car….you don’t know if it will break down or not. Life is full of “chance” decisions and actions. That does not make them wrong. I do not see competition (even for prizes, trophies, or money) as the same as gambling. The reason is they are done differently, for different reasons, with a different purpose, and because games of chance and games of competition are different in their nature. But, if you do believe it is wrong, then you should not do it (based on the principles of conscience) unless and until you learn that it is not. Again, this is the same principle as the eating meat sacrificed to idols.
The third question is probably the most important one in our sport though. Let us assume that we decide that gambling is not wrong, or that at least competition hunting is not gambling and is, therefore, not wrong. We have all seen things happen in the woods that ARE wrong. Does that make the hunt wrong? No. It makes those actions wrong. Just as giving to the poor for the wrong reasons does not make giving wrong. The pride of giving for the wrong reason IS still wrong. That does not mean we should not give. It means we must be careful of our own heart and actions that we give RIGHT. In hunting, we must be very careful not to do something that is right (or o.k.) in a way that we do wrong things while doing it. If competition hunting (even for prizes) is not wrong, but we cheat somebody else to get the prize, then it is the CHEATING, not the hunting, that is wrong. If we develop a greedy heart so that we take advantage of others, or just think pridefully of ourselves, then the hunting is not wrong. It is our own greed and pride that is wrong. If we have a problem with that temptation that we cannot overcome, then we may need to decide NOT to competition hunt for money. At least not until we can overcome that temptation. We would not want to do something that would cause us to sin.
THE BOTTOM LINE
What I suggest is that more Christians participate in competition hunting and set GODLY EXAMPLES in doing so. If you do believe the “prize” part of it is wrong, then give your winnings to the rest of the cast or donate it to charity. I have hunted with people that I wanted to leave in the woods (if you know what I mean). They may cheat, or just be mean spirited. I have also seen people throw a hunt, not for political / buddy reasons or to cheat, but out of kindness to bless someone else. Consider what Paul, Peter, and Jesus said about not repaying evil for evil, but repay evil with good (Romans 12:14-21; I Peter 3:9; Luke 6:27-36). There are so many ways that we, as Christians, can do GOOD in competition hunting. We can be the shining light and example of how it should be done. That will mean you will lose some hunts, often to those who do wrong. But, you may win more than a hunt in the long run. You can often be a good example when you do win. Demonstrate kindness to those who did not win, and thankfulness to God for the win. We may even win a few hunts and learn ourselves to be thankful to God for them. You may even win that sinner to Christ, or help a misguided Christian be reminded of what matters and how he should act. In ALL we do, give glory to God (Colossians 3:17), and that can make what could be a bad thing into a good thing.
So, is competition hunting, even for prizes or money, a sin? “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). But, do not let your own feelings, wishes, or preferences decide for you. Neither let preachers, well-meaning Christian hunters, nor any human beings decide for you. Rather, consider what God says (and does not say for that matter), and ask Him to lead you. And if you decide that it is alright to do it, do it in a way that glorifies God. I hope to see you in the woods….