THE LOTTERY: A Bad Bet
I want to begin this morning by answering the question I’m sure many of you are asking.
Why should the church be concerned about lotteries and gambling in general? Is this really a subject in which the church should be involved? Shouldn’t there be a separation between church and state?
The biblical answer is found in two places.
Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace (shame) to any people.
for it (Government) is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
God states two things clearly: Upholding God’s standard will exalt any nation and governments exist for the good of the people.
The Body of Christ is God’s spokesman to government officials regarding righteousness and holding them accountable to make decisions regarding what is best for its people.
Another question you may have about the lottery and gambling in general is where in the Bible does it say it is wrong. There are no verses that specifically speak directly to the issues lotteries and gambling being sinful. Then how can the church say lotteries and gambling are wrong? The Bible doesn’t speak directly to all issues such as movies, music, and the lottery but the Bible does give principles so you and I can determine what God would have us do regarding these issues.
Regarding lotteries and gambling, there are three basic principles regarding this issue. They are…
1. The Principle of Acquiring Income
2. The Principle of Financial Management
3. The Principle of Contentment
THE PRINCIPLE OF ACQUIRING INCOME
1. The major means of acquiring income is work.
2 Thessalonians 3:10
For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work (not those who can’t work but those who refuse to work – don’t give them government assistance), then he is not to eat, either.
Wealth (income) obtained by fraud dwindles (dishonest methods-easy come easy go!), But the one who gathers by labor increases it.
The chances of winning any state lottery based on six double digit numbers is 1 in 14 million and it never changes no matter how many times you play. Mathematically, your chances of being struck by lightening is10 times greater than winning at the lottery. Basic design of all lotteries and gambling is I will win the prize only if you lose! This violates the second great command of Jesus, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Do you wish to lose that others may win? If you do then you should have no problem in someone robbing you.
2. Another means of acquiring income is through interests and gifts.
‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
13 There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt. 14 When those riches were lost through a bad investment (some translations by taking chances) and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him (the son-inheritance).
What about gifts like going to the opening of a new store in town and you win a door prize. It is permissible because the owner is giving it to you at his cost his appreciation for coming to his new store. The rule of thumb is if you receive a ‘gift’ that is greater than your cost it is wrong. A new approach in this area by non-profit organizations is having you friends raising money for the organization and your friend is asking you to help pay their ‘bond’ so they can get out of jail. That is manipulation and that is always wrong. I personally cross those organization off; if they would have asked for a donation, I would have given but not if you are going to manipulate people.
In summary, when you and I desire to obtain income other than through work, interests on our monies, and gifts; we believe that God is not sufficient to meet our income needs, so we sin against Him.
The Second Principle: THE PRINCIPLE OF FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
1. All income (through work, interest, & gifts) is entrusted to you by God
In the 11 century before Christ, King David raised the resources for his son Solomon to build the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish people were asked to give voluntarily and the response was overwhelming. David offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God in the midst of an assembly.
1 Chronicles 29:10-17
10 So David blessed the Lord in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, “Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. … 13 “Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. 14 “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You. …16 “O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided to build You a house for Your holy name, it is from Your hand, and all is Yours (all of it belongs to you).
When you and I go beyond what He has entrusted to you through work, interests, and gifts; we have more than God intended us to have at the moment. In lotteries and gambling you have taken from God’s supply to you and chanced it on having more than God intended you to have. In principle, it is act of rebellion against God’s plan for your life. Achan is an example of this in Joshua 7.
2. All income is distributed by choice
You and I don’t have any monies of our own, it all belongs to God who has entrusted to us to use for His glory. But, we have the responsibility to choose how this money is to be distributed for God’s pleasure.
2 Corinthians 9:7
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Whether Christian or non-Christian, you are accountable to God for the way you spend God’s resources entrusted to you for His glory and pleasure.
Illustration: Let’s say you are a CEO and I’m a salesman for your company. You give me $1000 for expenses this week and on Friday I will give you an account of how I spent your monies. Friday comes, I hand you my expense account and on line item 15, you notice that I took $50 to play the lottery. I took your money and spent it so I would have more money for myself. I would lose my job; but many Christians do this everyday with God’s money; it’s call stealing.
The third principle is THE PRINCIPLE OF CONTENTMENT
The apostle Paul in writing a thank you letter to the Philippians in the first century spoke of the basis for our contentment.
1. Be Satisfied with what God has given you (through work, interests, and gifts).
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
2. You are to desire righteousness not money.
1 Timothy 6:6-12
6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
Illustration: Gambling will ruin your testimony. For us who play golf and we wager who is going to win. We say it is for entertainment, makes us play better; bottom line is I hope I take your money that has been entrusted to you by God to honor Him. Now let’s say after the game we are talking about the WV Lottery and gambling and our non-Christian friend says what is the difference between gambling and what we did today? We just lost our testimony so we decide never to bring up the lottery and gambling issue again!
How comfortable do you feel about being a part of the cause of your friend’s argument with his wife over the lost money? We are called to build each other up.
The same is true of office betting regarding sports games. Same selfish thinking is involved here. Basic desire is that I hope you lose so I can have your money.
Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life (quality of life) consist of his possessions.”
When the lottery and gambling are put to the test of God’s Word, the biblical principle of acquiring income, financial accountability is violated and the principle of contentment is violated. The lottery and gambling do not stand the test of scripture.
The state lottery is a form of gambling because the value of the prize is greater than the cost of the ticket, and no skill is involved in winning.
How has the lottery been viewed through the course of our nation’s history?
The Continental Congress in 1776 voted to establish a lottery to raise funds for the American Revolution.
By the 1850s, because of so many abuses by private organizers, U.S. states began passing anti-lottery laws. An 1878 Supreme Court opinion held that lotteries had “a demoralizing influence upon the people,” and by the 1890s most had been eliminated.
The Encyclopedia Americana stated in its 1948 edition…”At other times governments tempted by the ease of sharing in the dishonest gain have openly and shamelessly encouraged gambling by instituting lotteries under their own authority, but though lotteries provide a ready mode of replenishing the public treasury they have always been found to exert a mischievous influence upon the people. The poor are invited to participate rather than the rich. The poor are diverted from persistent labor and patient thrift by the hope of sudden and splendid gains.”
In the mid-1960s; many state governments seeking revenues instituted officially sanctioned, independently audited lotteries. West Virginia began in 1986 and in 2006 $1.5 billion in sales.
The Compton Encyclopedia stated in its 1999 edition…
“One of the ways in which governments raise money without adding new or higher taxes is the use of lotteries. A lottery has long been a procedure used by governments, churches, fraternal societies, and other organizations to raise money. A lottery is a form of gambling in which a large number of people buy chances, called lottery tickets, in the hope of winning one or more prizes. Prizes offered by organizations may be goods--such as automobiles, television sets, or other appliances--or they may be money prizes.”
You want a practical, modern day example of
Where there is no vision (revelation from God), the people are unrestrained (man does as he pleases), But happy is he who keeps the law (knows what pleases God).
The lottery is advertised to keep us from paying higher taxes and the monies will go to fund education, senior citizens projects, and tourism. Only 40 cents on the dollar goes to these three funds and the government establishes how much each fund receives. 60 cents on the dollar is for administration, advertising companies, and promotions. State tax received pays 99 cents on the dollar and 1 cent to administration. Taxes are biblical (In Israel it was called a tithe); lotteries are not.
The social impact of gambling is often hidden from the citizens who decide to legalize gambling. But later these costs show up in the shattered lives of individuals and their families. One study in The Journal of Social Issues found that as gambling increases, there is an increase in …
(a) proportion of divorce and separation;
(b) disagreement about money matters with one’s spouse;
(c) lack of understanding between marital partners; and (d) more reported problems among children of gamblers
I’m extremely disappointed in our state government and Christians who participate in legalized gambling and lotteries. All that lotteries promote are the winners; you don’t see the losers in spouse abuse, broken marriages, children going without necessities. West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Starcher, wrote an article in 2003 regarding the use of lotteries to fund the government…
“Regardless of one’s ultimate position on the wisdom of this course, it is beyond dispute that West Virginia, as a result of this decision by the Legislature, does now and will in the future increasingly suffer a substantial amount of tragic harm and injury to individuals, businesses, and communities.”
Researchers calculate that for every dollar the state receives in gambling revenues, it costs the state at least three dollars in increased social costs (for criminal justice and social welfare).
Historian John Ezel concludes in his book, Fortune’s Merry Wheel, “If history teaches us anything, a study of over 1,300 legal lotteries held in the United States proves . . . they cost more than they brought in if their total impact on society is reckoned.”
The next time you are tempted to play the lottery, stop for a moment and consider the fact that you hope everyone in the state that plays loses and that everyone in the state is going to pay higher taxes to compensate for your ‘so called’ entertainment. Finally, consider what you are about to do violates God’s command to love your neighbor as yourself. Stealing what God has given to your neighbor is wrong!
It is proven that the
lottery does not promote righteousness in a nation;
it does not cause the government to do good to its citizens,
it provides an environment that is destructive to families.
If the lottery is a form of entertainment to you; I don’t understand why you entertainment causes your fellow citizens harm.
Lottery odds are 1 in 14 million but I will share with you another gamble you are taking which the odds are worse than 1 in 14 million its 0 in 14 million. The odds of you going to heaven apart from repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is 0 in 14 million.
Christian, you and I are called to influence our society for good not to take from others in order to have more. This is not entrainment in any form of the word – it is robbery and doing our neighbor harm!
There is a half sheet in your bulletin that I would like for you to consider this morning. It’s an opportunity for you and me to influence our state and country for righteousness.