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The Stock Market: Is It A Gamble?

It only takes a second to ruin your life forever. All you do is buy one lottery ticket, and you win $5. Then you buy another. You lose. Not willing to stop there, you purchase another. Again another loss occurs. Once more, you tell yourself. This time you break even. and so the 400-year trend continues. Yet for 200 of those years, an exchange called the stock market has been running. Many questions arise concerning the social ethics of the stock market and its principles. Am I just wasting my money? Has this been proven to work effectively? Is the stock market gambling?

Of course, like many opportunities today, there are risks in investing via the stock market. However, these risks are generally promoting the bettering and growth of a company. The risks must be present, for the process is based on our world's business market. People often have a plan and a definite purpose before investing.

Many investors have two reasons for investing. "The two most common investment goals for investors are growth and income."1 These two goals, or rather, purposes for investing, lie at different risk levels. "Growth describes investment held for their appreciation in value rather than the income which they produce."2 Investing for income is not quite as bad as investing for growth. However, this approach does have its downside. When inflation soars, it causes many investing opportunities to fall behind in the race. Thus, the investor has an equal chance of losing the same amount when pursuing either goal.3

The present risks, though, do not cancel out the rewards of wise investing. Because stock prices fluctuate, their overall gain can not be measured. Even investing in one stock can boost your financial dreams into the sky. Overall, the stock market has been kind to investors over the years.4

One reward of investing could be the privilege of owning stock in a company whose standards and morals are as high as they can possibly be. When finding a solid company, the qualities of a healthy, involved environment should be present.5

These rewards will outweigh the risks, but only if careful, wise investing is held. It is wise to look to companies whose profits may not be as large as those which are well known. It is wise to ask other's opinions on where, and from where to buy stock. It is wise to invest while still maintaining a firm hold on your personal standards and ethics. This is known as ethical investing, and should be used when faced with investment opportunities.

If risks are so openly taken when investing in the stock market, how much greater than when gambling? Yes, the risks are taken, but the chances and odds of losing are rarely mentioned. Nearly subscripts on the back of a lottery ticket or advertisement, the odds of winning are often hidden to the consumer.

The grip of addiction is prevalent in our society today. Bets on nearly anything imaginable can be made. A bet could be described as "an amount or object risked in a wager."6 Yet when their money is gone, the people wonder how it all happened. How true the words of Paul as he spoke to the church at Ephesus many years ago. "Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness."7

Gambling is nearly totally focused on one's own personal benefits, and is not focused on the needs of others. As mentioned earlier, the stock market rides on the rise and fall of companies. Stocks that are bought from a company support that company and any decisions that the business makes. That clearly does not fit the definition of gambling, in which money is blown in a vain attempt to receive great wealth. One striking similarity between the two, however, is the fact that one cannot lose more money than what he spends in the beginning.

The rewards of gambling are often few and far between. How many times have you met a million-dollar winner who won through his state lottery system? In stark contrast, though, how many people have you met who have used the stock market to their advantage? Gambling could be compared to the get-rich quick schemes, which penetrate many magazines. The flashy, vivid advertisements appeal to man's sense of greed, forcing him to act hastily while pushing aside reason. The primary motivation for gambling is clearly money. The man who falls for the trap of gambling does not use his reason or conscience to make decisions.

The stock market could be defined as a business, whereas any form of gambling would have to be referred to as a game. As in every game, there is always a winner. Only one man, or one side, or one team can take first place. Unfortunately, for those participating in gambling, first place is often decided prior to the scheme, which is hatched later. Those participants fail to see the scam that they have taken a part in. Indeed, any form of gambling must involve total chance, and very rarely does it follow any path of rational methods.

Having defined the validity of the stock market and its co-existence with gambling, we can see that there is a line between the two. The stock market offers investors the chance to be involved personally in a business' development and growth. Many areas should be taken into consideration when investing. Assets, expenses, and income should all be researched carefully before planning too far ahead. Many questions are asked concerning the "why" and "when" of future financial decisions.8 On the other hand, gambling is a process that is rushed into headlong, often with little or no thought for the future.

The stock market would indeed be a form of gambling if it were not built on the foundation of companies. When you take away the morals, you will have nothing left. Of course, it is known that "every time you invest you take a financial risk. As a general rule, investments that offer higher possible rewards carry with them inherently higher risks."9 That is why a person must be wise in his decisions and choose to invest ethically.

There can be many advantages to being an ethical investor. With goals set prior to investing, one can have an open mind and a clear conscience. A stockholder has three basic rights if he has purchased common stocks. Voting in the company, taking a part in dividends, and having the right to share the leftovers from the company, are all the stockholder's privileges.10

The problems that many people have with the stock market are the questions on whether or not investing is "right." Without bothering to research the market themselves, these people become skeptics and turn their backs on the entire investing process. Yes, there will be times when the common citizen will bear the brunt of a terrible loss. The Great Depression arrived solely as a result of the stock market crash in 1929. People lost everything that they owned. They struggled to make a living and to support their families. Now, enter the year 2000. Once again, consumers have deposited millions upon millions in stocks, bonds, and banking accounts. What if another horrific crash occurs? What will the outcome be?

Many investors realize that good judgment must precede investing. "Determining value is the key to successful investing."11 Determining value must not only take place in the mind of the ethical investor, but must be expressed on the outer side, as well. The word gambling

is only found about two times in the average stock market reference guide. Even Christian authors, who approach the subject, associate gambling with some facet of the lottery system. The key to using the stock market is to invest ethically, holding fast to the much needed principles and standards of the Bible. Without a gap to creep into, gambling can never become a part of this type of investing. Only a man who has planted his feet firmly in the principles of right and truth, can become the investor who is complete and honest in his choices. The words of the Preacher sum the entire subject up best in one verse found in Ecclesiastes 9:18. "Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good."


1. Amy Domini, Ethical Investing (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1984), 31.

2. Ibid., 31.

3. Ibid., 109.

4. John M. Dalton, How The Stock Market Works (New York: NYIF Corporation, 1993), 8.

5. Hal Brill, Investing With Your Values (Princeton, NJ: Bloomberg Press, 1999), 98.

6. "bet, " The American Heritage College Dictionary, 1997-3rd ed.

7. Ephesians 4:19 KJV

8. Domini, Ethical Investing, 36.

9. Brill, Investing With Your Values, 170.

10. Dalton, How The Stock Market Works, 10.

11. William H. Pike, Why Stocks Go Up(And Down) (Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin, 1984), v.

By Tobias M. Gerber - *A.A. Accounting Degree*A.A. Commercial Writing with Marketing Minor  

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