Evangelicals & the Lottery

We have just gone through one of those recent unique times when the lottery has reached an epic amount of money.  When this happens it creates a buzz and even the average person who would never play ventures out to put their name in the hat to gain instant fortune.  I would dare say many Evangelicals succumbed to the temptation and spent money.

Let me admit I sometime “daydream” about coming into a large fortune, principally through playing the lottery.  Most of the time I rationalize the thought with a premise that someone “donated” or gave me a ticket or it would be something like the Publisher Clearing House where you respond with an entry with the hope of striking it rich.  Anything situation short of me using my own currency and explicitly “gambling.”  It is pretty amazing the machinations we play in our head to rationalize our choices.  I am no different in that regard.

Yet, I do not know which is more troubling: citizens playing the lottery or the government sanctioning its existence.  Some have termed lottery as a “tax on the poor” because they are the individuals who can least afford it because the money they do have could be better spent on essential things.  Now, we have the very government instituted by God enabling its citizenry to embrace another idol: money.

The irony is even if one is financially able through their disposable income to play the lottery, it remains morally reprehensible that our very own government is the human agent which makes betting on the numbers permissible and legal.  The purpose of government, according to the Evangelical worldview, is the human flourishing of those under their authority.  You know: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Work and industry, as properly understood, is one of God’s good gifts to His creation.  Even as one contemplates what heaven will be like it is wholly inaccurate to believe we will spend eternity “floating on clouds at ease in Zion.”   Whatever Heaven will be it will not be one of inaction.  The curse of the Fall will be removed so there will be no thorns or thistles but we will be engaged in meaningful activity.  Thank God it will not be laborious or backbreaking but work is inherently positive and beneficial.  It is part and parcel of God’s good order.

Difficult and taxing work is a result of the fall.  Sweat and toil are necessary consequences of our rebellion.  But work, as originally designed, is part of God’s wondrous design for humanity.  It is important to note being rich and the trappings associated with it are not inherently wrong.  There have been some prominent people in Biblical history who became rich so being rich is not inherently evil. In fact, riches, are according to the Bible, the direct decree of God upon select individuals based solely on God’s sovereignty.

God has decreed some people will become wealthy and since God ordains both the ends and the means God has graciously granted some individuals the ability to become industrious and discover a need that means a demand in society.  Someone like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs are great examples.  These men developed a product that society understood was necessary or at the very least desired.  In either case wealth was generated through industry, not luck.  I would go so far as to say winner of the lottery and gambling are the unwitting pawns of Satan.

While there is no explicit verse in the Bible that says, “though shall not gamble or play the lotto” there are certainly plenty of verses that speak against laziness or attempting get rich quick schemes.  The hope of acquiring wealth through gambling is frowned upon.  If this is true one might say “what about playing the stock market?”  How is that difference?

It is difference because when you purchase a stock you are investing in some type of industrious enterprise that you hope will grow in demand.  The product is assumed to meet a human demand, part of human flourishing. So when the fortunate person was able to buy Apple stock when that company first came on the scene they were taking a chance that people would eventually consume a product they found indispensable.  This product would inevitably create jobs and stimulate the economy.  This would be risk associated with the investment but it would reflect the glory of God because ultimately we come to understand humans do not “really” invent things. No, they only “discover” things.

If something is found to be genuinely good for society it finds it source in God because the Good Book says, “All good and perfect gifts come from above.” I believe it would be nearly impossible for a right thinking Evangelical to envision a scenario where Jesus Christ would buy a lotto ticket.  In fact, from all we know about the life of Christ we understand Him to have worked in the same field as His earthly Father, Joseph.  Thus, it is proper to understand that Jesus understood the principle of good stewardship, a honest day’s pay for a honest day’s work.

Playing the numbers have been around for a very long time as well as some form of gambling even longer.  Shockingly, we now live in an age where the government legitimizes gambling.  Once the genie is out of the bottle it is virtually impossible to get it back in the bottle. Exhibit A: the Supreme Court has made legalized sport betting permissible.  This will surely increase the amount of people involved in this illicit enterprise.  As a passionate sport fan I have mused of my prowess to pick the “winning” teams on a regular basis and win some fast cash.  Tragically, man has taken a virtue and sullied it with its human conventions.  Even more tragic will be the result that more and more people will be taken captive by the enemy and enslaved by yet another idol.  Gambling does not draw us closer to the Lord and it is not neutral either.  Instead, it is part and parcel of the Adversary’s master design.  Christ came to liberate, to redeem.  Satan is using his wiles to keep those already in darkness descending deeper into the abyss.

I am persuaded that betting/gambling is not a proper action for an Evangelical to partake so I will govern my lifestyle according.  I posted on Facebook recently that regardless of “whatever billions” the lottery grew to I would not spend one penny.

Before anyone accuses me of self-righteousness I readily admit there are others virtue that are not so easily overcome by my moral compass so while gambling is not one of my weakness I have other areas that so easily beset me.  I will continue to work on those and implore Evangelicals to forsake playing the lottery as a accepted endeavor that Evangelicals are given liberty and license to engage without negative consequences, both temporal and quite possible: eternal.

As always I welcome your feedback.  Until then keep your hands to the plow.

4 Comments
  1. Well said my brother. To me, playing the lottery is telling God that I no longer believe or trust He will sustain me. As I already have enough things to answer for – I choose not to participate in the greatest losing game invented by man.

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  2. Ricky, excellent summary on the evils of gambling. Thank you also for explaining the differences in gambling and the stock market. As said last night in Bible study, even Christ chided the lazy man in not investing or making his money work for his master. The free enterprise system is a wonder, created by God (ultimately) to produce the greatest good for the greatest number. It has resulted in literally billions of people around the world being lifted up from poverty. There are spiritual principles ingrained in the system such as supply and demand, measured risks, the motivation to save and accumulated earnings. At the present time my 401K is not doing very well but I realize it is a cycle and patience is required (really the temptation not to be greedy and sell) . Great blog, Ricky! As usual, plow on brother!

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