“With all of the current hoopla about the Powerball, I’m curious on your take scripturally on the lottery,” wrote Heidi, one of our regular readers.
Heidi adds her thoughts saying, “I know many Christians who don’t see anything wrong with it. I wouldn’t want to risk my soul on getting rich quick. I sure could use the money but even $450 million is not worth losing my soul over.”
Like many things, the Bible doesn’t specifically mention gambling. So we must consider scriptural principles to decide whether it is a good thing or not. I realize that some people consider playing the lottery and other forms of gambling as entertainment. It may be so for some. But I believe it is a risky form of amusement.
Here are 5 considerations that guide my decision not to gamble, including playing the lottery.
(1) It violates the laws of legitimate economy.
The Bible recognizes 3 legitimate means of transferring property to others–the law of labor, the law of exchange, and the law of giving and receiving.
We are commanded to work in order to provide for our needs and support our families (Eph 4:25; I Tim. 5:8). The Bible speaks of earning interest on money (Matt 25:27) or making a profit on selling a possession, or investing in real estate (Matt 13:44-45). In addition both giving and receiving is the result of our work and/or profits from investments (Eph. 4:28; Acts 2:45)
Gambling does not qualify as a legitimate area of economy in any of those three ways. Thus, I choose not to play the lottery.
(2) It appeals to greed and materialism. Jesus warned, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Lk 12:15). The Bible says that greed is “improper for God’s holy people” (Eph 5:3). In fact, Paul calls covetousness a form of idolatry (Col 3:5).
(3) It undermines faithful stewardship. Christians are to be good managers of their time, talents and treasure. This is taught in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-29). The Old Testament book of Proverbs is filled with exhortations to the wise use of money.
According to yesterday’s Today show, your chances of winning the powerball lottery are 1 in 292,201,338. Not very good odds I would say. In fact, the News Anchor said you have a better chance of being struck by lightning, becoming President of the United States, being bitten by a shark, or dying from an asteroid than winning the lottery!
(4) It sabotages self-control. Admittedly, not all gamblers are out of control. But it is a serious enough problem that even some lottery ads issue warnings and provide information on gambling hotlines.
The Mayo clinic website warns, “Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that can destroy lives.” These professional experts explain “Gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward system much like drugs such as alcohol can, leading to addiction. If you’re prone to compulsive gambling, you may continually chase bets, hide your behavior, deplete savings, accumulate debt, or even resort to theft or fraud to support your addiction.”
God’s people are to be self-disciplined, with their passions and desires under His control. (1 Cor 6:12; 9:27; Gal. 5:23).
(5) It potentially ruins lives. Lotteries often tend to victimize the most vulnerable with the lure of instant wealth to those who can least afford to lose money gambling. But even the winners’ lives are often ruined with the problems that come with unearned riches.
The tales of the unintended consequences of winning the lottery are so numerous that a simple google search will provide many sad stories of ruined lives after winning the lottery.
Many go bankrupt. Lose friends. Attract scam artists. Create friction in their families. Become addicted to other vices. And generally find that money does not buy happiness, peace of mind, or personal fulfillment.
I could list other reasons. But these are sufficient. If you think winning a big jackpot would improve your life and put you on easy street, don’t bet on it.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
13 responses to “5 Reasons Why I Don’t Play the Lottery”
Thank you! Those are basically the same reasons I don’t play. I’ve also heard many people who’ve won big jackpots say that it was one of the worst things that ever happened to them. I also know a lot of people who spend a lot of money every week playing the lottery. Money that could be used for other more useful things. A lot of people actually end up in worse shape than before. To dream of that much money & what you would do with it is sometimes fun but in the long run, it’s just not worth it.
I don’t think buying a lottery ticket is worse than buying stock in a company. Stocks is taking a gamble that a company could lose money.
Big difference in an investment in a blue chip stock where products and services are offered in an legitimate economy and a one in 300 million chance to strike it rich.
I bet that if the church had a $50,000 debt, they wouldn’t turn down a donation of $50,000 by a lottery winner.
I suppose it depends on the church! Where I preach, we take up a free will offering once on Sunday. The contributions are anonymous. And as far as I know no one is asked where their money came from.
Although I’m not a proponent or player of the lottery, I don’t quite agree with the attempt to make scriptural points while at the same time saying the Bible does not condemn gambling. If it’s not condemned in the Bible, then it’s up to individual Christians to use their own common sense and exercise self-control, and not up to others to try and create and bind man-made “laws” on other Christians. When someone wants the Bible to condemn something that it doesn’t, they often attempt to create something the scriptures do not teach and then say that God condemns it. It’s fine if this is our personal conviction or opinion, but if there is no scriptural authority to bind this on other Christians then we should be very careful about declaring it to be sin when it is never called that in the Bible. “Principles” are subjective and not the same as God’s commands.
“It appeals to greed and materialism.” There are many things we do in life that appeal to greed and materialism, but that does not by default make us greedy or materialistic. If it did then most Christian women would never be able to walk into a mall again! And most Christian men should stay away from auto dealerships!
“It undermines faithful stewardship.” This could be applied to many decisions and purchases in life. Does this rule apply to going on a cruise or buying a pair of unneeded shoes when I could have donated that money to missions or the poor? How much is my pleasure worth to me? Will God be okay with me spending anything on fun or things I enjoy? Who determines how much a person can spend on personal entertainment? Is going to a baseball game or football game being a “faithful steward?” Again, I believe these are personal decisions and choices we must each evaluate and make decisions about.
“It sabotages self-control.” So does Thanksgiving dinner! So does having a hobby. So does shopping too much! Again, what is our motive in life as Christians? Are we filled with the fruit of the Spirit, one of those being self-control?
“It potentially ruins lives.” I love the word “potentially.” So does driving a car. So does parasailing. So does overeating (Christians never want to discuss gluttony!). This is the same argument that many use about drinking wine. “I know someone that ruined his life or destroyed his marriage.” Just because some do that does not make the action wrong or condemned by scripture, It makes the one without self-control a SINNER.
While some may consider it foolish, unwise, or stupid to play the lottery, again this is their opinion not based on scriptural authority. The argument could be made that money was wasted by someone willing to spend large amounts of it on overpriced tickets to Disney World or buy a dozen overpriced roses that are going to die. If their purchase provided them with some form of enjoyment, fun, etc., is that a waste of money? Maybe not to them. Who decides what is and what isn’t a waste of money?
I believe from studying God’s Word that we need to be personally led by the scriptures and convicted by His Spirit, and not bind things on others because we personally feel they are wrong for us. We veer over into the arena of legalism when we do this. We must each obey our own conscience in these kinds of matters.
Tami, thanks so much for reading my blog and taking the time to offer such a thoughtful and thorough reply. Just a couple thoughts and observations. My post was a simply, personal answer to a reader’s question. Thus, the title of the post. While I agree that principles can be twisted to be subjective they should be applied objectively. And, in reality, there are many things we deem as wrong that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible but violate principles–X rated movies, internet porn, certain jobs or activities that compromise one’s influence, vacationing at a nudist resort, and many others. I do agree with you that we may be guilty of violating each of those principles in many other activities besides gambling. But, if we do, that would not justify either gambling or our weakness in that other area. Not asking for any reply to this. Just wanted to thank you for your response and add a couple thoughts for your consideration.
I appreciate your response. However, I would have to disagree with you about X-rated movies, internet porn, or vacationing at a nudist resort not violating scriptural commands to be pure in our minds, thoughts, and actions. That’s a far cry from buying a lottery ticket! Again, the scriptures do not condemn gambling and to me that’s the bottom line, even though I don’t personally gamble or play the lottery. I am new to your blog site but saw it posted on a friend’s page. I do appreciate that we can discuss scripture and our beliefs without it becoming a personal name-calling game. I have left other sites because of that. Too many Christians are afraid to discuss the scriptures and be real about it. Thank you.
Good discussion held in a mutually respectful manner, presenting though provoking ideas to ponder.
Thank you gentlemen.
My relative won a million dollars in the Lottery. She was born on 7/11. She has a PHD in Music, and was head of the Music Dept. at USC. Did it change her life, yes! She quit work to stay home with her three small children. Her husband kept on working and is past 70, he is a CPA. She lives a very down to earth lifestyle, and doesn’t buy expensive cars, clothes etc.. She is a responsible person.
I personally have never ever bought a lottery ticket, and never will. It is not my cup of tea!
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Reblogged this on ThePreachersWord and commented:
This January post was not only the 8th most read of 2016, but was shared over 100x on facebook and generated a lot of discussion both pro and con. What’s your view?
Ken, Thanks again for a reasoned post about gambling. I continue to appreciate the good work you do. — David