Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Christians and the Lottery

The lottery has come to North Carolina. We were the 42nd state to start playing the game and the last state on the east coast to do so. The lottery commission says that the goal for the state is $1.2 BILLION in sales this year. About $420 million of that amazing amount will supposedly find its way to our public schools.

To meet this goal, they need to sell
$3.3 million in tickets PER DAY. The Charlotte Oberver noted that after the first 22 days, $80million had been sold. This amounts to $3.6million/day. North Carolinians have caught the fever.

I do not want to argue the political, economic or educational benefits/detriments of the lottery. That was all hashed out in the fight to bring the lottery to the state. We lost that fight. Now the question for Christians is "Should I participate?" I do not think Christians should play the lottery.

Borrowing from John Piper and several other resources, here are reasons why a Christian should not participate in the lottery:

1) The Bible teaches us not to want to be rich.

Paul wrote in I Timothy 6:9-12 that “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. 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. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

This passage teaches us to use our money in a way that will bring us the greatest and longest gain and help us pursue our full and lasting pleasure. John Piper wrote that “The evils in the world come not because our desires for happiness are too strong but because they are so weak that we settle for fleeting pleasures that do not satisfy our deepest souls but in the end destroy them.” The root of all kinds of evil is that we are the kind of people who settle for the love of money instead of the love of God (v.10).

Christians are not to be motivated by greed or a desire for money. Christians live for a GREATER gain – CONTENTMENT is the WAY. If your godliness has freed you from the desire to be rich and has helped you be content with what you have, then your godliness is tremendously profitable (1 Tim. 4:8). Godliness that overcomes the craving for material wealth produces great spiritual wealth. So what verse 6 is saying is that it is very profitable not to pursue wealth.”

The desire to be rich is SUICIDE for your spiritual life. The heart that is focused on money is not focused on God. The Bible says if ever so clearly: THE LOVE OF MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL KINDS OF EVILS.

Proverbs 23:4-5 says “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.”

2) It is wrong to wager with a trust fund.

Suppose I had to go away for six months on a mission trip. During that time, I gave you access to my funds to pay my mortgage, pay my bills, kids’ tuition, etc. Suppose you then you decided to take MY MONEY and play gambling games with it. Would you say that is RIGHT OR WRONG?

Good stewards do not handle their master’s money in that way. They have NO RIGHT. Christians believe that EVERYTHING we have is a trust from God. Paul asked in I Cor 4:7 “What do you have that you did not receive?” He stated again in I Cor 6:19 that “you are not your own. You have been bought with a price.”

3) It is wrong to support something that preys on weaknesses and cultivates sinfulness.

Many of you begin daydreaming when you hear about the lottery. You start thinking of what you could do with $200,000 or a million dollars. If you had not read this, that thought would still lie dormant. That greed and covetousness would lie latent in your heart.

The lottery is a system that preys on your human sinfulness and cultivates within you sinful thoughts and desires that otherwise would not be active. The sins the lottery brings to the surface of your life include the following:

i. The lottery encourages the breaking of first commandment, which says we are to have no other God in this world. It is possible that the lottery will take over your mind and be all that some think about. Matthew 6:24 says that “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

ii. The lottery encourages the breaking of the tenth commandment, which tells us we are not to covet. However, coveting is exactly what we do when we hear about the lottery. We think “She won $100K, I wish I could win $100K” Luke wrote that we are to “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

iii. The lottery encourages foolish financial decisions and life soon spirals out of control. On the radio and television you hear only of success stories. You only see the guy with the giant cardboard check. What of hundreds of thousands who don’t win? What of those who lose control? It’s like the beer commercials on television. The beer companies only show young and fit 20somethings enjoying a life of activity and leisure. They do not show the alcoholic hitting on his wife and wasting his money. The desire to be wealthy and to spend the newfound wealth is a recipe for disaster. Proverbs 13:11 tells us that “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.”

iv. The lottery encourages people to dream of laziness and slothfulness. What do most people say when dreaming of winning lottery? They say (and you’ve probably said), “I’ll never have to work again.” Nothing fosters sin as much as IDLENESS. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23 that “Whatever you do, work for the Lord – serve God.” Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonaisn 3:10 that “If a man won’t work, he won’t eat.”

v. The lottery encourages people to look for unrealistic solution to very real problems. You might have very real problem of DEBT. You might have very real problem of SPENDING. It took a while to get into debt – it will take a while to get out of debt.

vi. The lottery encourages people to think unbiblically that they can “give a little” and “get a lot.” In the lottery, it is possible to spend a dollar and win a million. However, the Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:6 that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

vii. The lottery encourages people to count on LUCK instead of GOD’S PROVIDENCE. People spend average of $150/year on lottery tickets. The odds of winning the Mega Millions are 1 in 135,145,920. Buying two tickets bumps your odds only to 2 in 135,145,920. If you bought 10 tickets per week, it would take you 259,000 years to purchase enough tickets to WIN ONCE. To save that $500,000 nest egg, you'd have to tuck away a little less than $100 a month starting at age 21. What's more likely: that you can find an extra $100 a month -- or that the 1-in-several-million odds of even the smallest seven-figure jackpot suddenly tilt in your favor?

viii. The lottery encourages thinking “It is better to receive than to give.” The backers of the lottery want to make you think you are “helping education.” That’s not true. YOU want to win a million dollars. If you really want to help education – GIVE TO EDUCATION. Give to the PTA. Buy supplies for your school. Perhaps you think that if you win, you can give it to your church. If you go to our church, WE WILL NOT TAKE IT KNOWINGLY. As Piper said, we will not salve your conscience by taking your plunder or assist you in your spiritual suicide. We will gladly accept and use the widow’s penny! God doesn’t need it and it doesn’t HONOR him anymore than giving money from a drug sale or bank robbery.

ix. The lottery encourages discontentment. Iinstead of thanking God for what they do have, lottery players often complain about what they do not have. Hebrews 13:5 tells us to “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

1 comment:

Jim Pemberton said...

Outstanding post, Jeff.

I'm not a big risk-taker, so gambling has not been a problem for me. If I had the funds, I would set Lois' parents up for retirement (my folks are taken care of) and head to the mission field. Aside from that, I'm happy to say that I'm content with what God provides. I live high on the hog compared to most in this world. Why would I want more?

On the other hand, Jesus tells us the parable of the talents. As far as money goes, I may be the poor sap who hides his talent in the ground realizing that I tend to lose money to more saavy individuals. The parable is not about money directly, but God uses godly people who have the ability to take financial risks and rake in the cash to support churches and missions.