Some thoughts on the lottery

I have encountered Christians with differing views on the lottery. One pastor I spoke to once, told me of an occasion where he was offered money from one of his congregants who had won it playing the lottery – and had refused on the basis that it was ‘dirty money’. I also, have meet at committee meetings where a church had to decide whether or not to accept funding from the National Lottery for a children’s project. The debate got quite heated.

I myself have been given lottery tickets from Christian family members and friends. I can even remember finding a winning scratch card under my bed from Christmas one year, that I exchanged for £20 at the shop to buy my groceries one week as a student. It came just after I had prayed to make ends meet (which is one of the crazy times, I think God answered my prayer)

When I read the Bible, I see occasions where God’s people turned down financial help from certain sources (e.g. David to build the altar, Ezra to build the temple, Nehemiah to build the wall), and also when they accepted (e.g. Nehemiah to build the wall, Solomon to build the temple, the Israelites when leaving Egypt.) Did the Church end up accepting the money that Ananias and his wife Sapphira donated even though they lied about it (in Acts 5)? I don’t think it says. We know that on occasions Paul refused financial aid (1 Corinthians, 2 Thessalonians) and at other times he asked for it (2 Corinthians) from the Church).

  1. Godliness with contentment is of great value (see 1 Timothy 6:6), I feel like the lottery rather promotes the opposite of this value. But maybe I speak for myself here, but I find when I play, my mind whirs with what I would buy, how much my life would improve by having so much money. The warning in verse 9 is also quite severe.
  2. Better investments? As Christians we are told to be shrewd and good stewards of what we have been given. If you take the time to read the small print on the lottery pages, you will find that the odds of winning are very very slim. I think I saw it is like 1 in 8 million. If we have such loose change lying around or able to spend, why not invest it in something that will see surer rewards.
  3. A lot of people are negatively impacted by gambling. By playing, I wonder if I am supporting such an industry to grow. Or what impact am I making. I think it should go without saying, that if we do not have enough money to provide for our families, we should not be using what we do have on gambling.
  4. There is also the issue of weak/strong consciences at play here. Which probably is the biggest determiner of where I fall on the issue. I wrote a really good summary blog post on this blog, called: ‘To engage or not to engage…that is the question‘.
  5. I think Christians who strongly oppose or judge others for playing this game, would do well to examine their own use of money. It is easy to judge people for ‘wasting’ money, but it is harder for ourselves to acknowledge that we don’t always use our own money well. Often times we do not know how to do this.
  6. I think some people can play it in good faith, with clear consciences.
  7. I don’t doubt that God can use the lottery for His purposes. The comment from my pastor friend about it being dirty money. Did not make much sense to me. For is not God in the business of using dirty people to display His transforming power and grace. I think of Paul, who was the worst of sinners, yet God chose Him to display the greatness of His grace (1 Timothy 1:16). God loves to use crooked sticks to draw straight lines. This is the definition of redemption. This is the good news.

I know this doesn’t really offer an answer on yes or no. But I hope I have communicated some thoughts on it, if you are still making your mind up.

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