Should churches accept lottery winnings or winnings from gambling as offerings?
Gambling is Coveting
If gambling is not a sinful activity, why does it ruin the lives of thousands of families? We have a nearby casino that has wrecked the lives of dozens, sending them into bankruptcy, causing divorces, and creating gambling addictions that are nearly impossible to break. The Bible doesn’t expressly say, “You shall not gamble” but the concept is there in Scripture. Solomon understood the risks of pursing money as he asked God to “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Prov 30:8-9). The Apostle Paul said “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1st Tim 6:8). Why gamble with your future? Some come to the casino to spend a set amount of money and they do it strictly for entertainment purposes, but when the fun starts to turn to “I must,” it can become such a powerful addiction that it becomes an obsession instead of simply entertainment.
The Love of Money
Let’s be clear about this. Gambling institutions are in it to make money, meaning that the overwhelming majority are going to lose while only a tiny percentage will win. They make money from the fact that almost everyone who gambles will lose more than they win. Even if a person wins, is it really “free money?” Didn’t their winnings come at the expense of the vast majority who lost? Shouldn’t we be content with what we have (Heb 13:5)? The love of money can lead to all sorts of evil as the Apostle Paul writes, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1st Tim 6:10). Jesus once explained what money can do in the Parable of the Sower, saying that “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matt 13:22). In other words, money becomes their god. They serve it, they sacrifice to it, but ultimately, they are slain by it. And, it chokes out the Word of God so that it cannot take root.
They say that money talks. It talks to me but mostly says, “Bye bye,” as Solomon writes, “When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven” (Prov 23:5). Money, like gambling, can become as strong of an addiction as drugs, even though “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (Prov 13:11). What they discover is “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Eccl 5:10). What is even more criminal, in my opinion, is that some casinos offer inexpensive or free alcohol which only serves to encourage drunkenness, and a person that is drunk has a decreased ability to make wise decisions. Can you gamble and serve God at the same time? Read what Jesus said; “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt 6:24).
I had a friend who once said that “If I win the lottery, I’m going to give almost all of it to the church,” but should the church depend on lottery winnings or winnings from a Casino? Whose money is it anyway? Doesn’t the money from these winnings come from gamblers who lost? Gambling seems to be a desire people have to win money so that they can bypass working for it like most people of us do, and that’s as a diligent worker who brings wealth over time (Prov 10:4). When we desire to win money by not working or earning it, are we actually breaking the commandment that says “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex 20:17)? Our hearts are deceitful (Jer 17:9) and so we can deceive ourselves into thinking what we’re doing is not wrong. James wrote about coveting; “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Paul said “I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances” (Phil 4:11). Are we content in our own circumstances, or are we like most of the world that covets what they do not have? Should churches accept lottery or casino winnings as an offering for the church? Does God really need gamblers to support the church of Jesus Christ? God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (and in fact, He owns the hills too), so why would God condone the receiving of gambling winnings to support the church? I do not believe churches should accept winnings that come from unethical practices such as gambling because it’s dirty money.
Casting lots in the Old Testament was never about gambling or about acquiring money. The only reason they cast lots in the Bible was to find out God’s will on a decision that they were not sure about. Solomon tells us that “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Prov 16:33). The soldiers who cast lots for Jesus’ clothing were only trying to decide who would receive the clothing. They never put up any money to try to win Jesus clothing, so the use of casting lots is never about gambling but about seeking God’s will in a matter. The pursuit of money through playing the lottery, gambling, or in casinos only leads to ruin, and even if they win, they could still lose in the end (1st Tim 6:10), because they are in the business of making a profit, not to make sure that people win.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.