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. Are Christians allowed to gamble?

Question: Are Christians allowed to play lotto? And if they had to win the lotto is the church allowed to accept money from this?


Answer:
The Lotto has become big in the life of many South Africans, and sometimes you hear statements like ‘if I win a million through the Lotto, I will give half to the church’. It reminds me of the story of the KGB agent asking his communistic friend: ‘Stefan, if you had 1 million roubles, would you give it to communism?’ Ya sure he answered.  ‘Stefan if you had a farm, would you give it to communism?’ Ya sure, he answered again. ‘Stefan if you had wife and 3 children, would you give them to communism?’ His answer again was affirmative, and then the last question came. ‘Stefan if you had a donkey, would you give it to communism?’ This time Stefan disgustingly responded, ‘comrade you are now unfair, you know I have a donkey’.  It is so easy to give from what we do not have.

Before we discuss the lotto, the real issue when it comes to giving is that we give from the riches we have and not from the riches of our dreams.

The best way to answer this question is maybe to address gambling in a broader sense as the Lotto is just a much cheaper form of exactly the same thing.

What does the Bible say about gambling in general? Now I know there are some verses that opponents to gambling will use, but we need to be honest with Scripture and not force Scripture to say what we want it to say. The Bible does not specifically condemn gambling or the lotto. Warnings however in Scripture are clear regarding the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5). Scripture also encourages us to stay away from attempts to “get rich quick” (Proverbs 13:11; 23:5; Ecclesiastes 5:10). For many people gambling and the lotto is just that, namely the love of money and a desire to get rich quickly. There are however those who might play the lotto or participate in lighter forms of gambling for the fun of it and just hoping that maybe they can get something out of it. There are those who can afford to play and then there are those who cannot afford to play, and sadly it is often the second group that is most active in playing the lotto or other forms of gambling.

What is wrong with gambling? Gambling is a difficult issue because if it is done in moderation and only on occasion, it is a waste of money, but it is not necessarily evil and therefore sin, unless the laws of the country forbids gambling. People waste money on all sorts of activities. Gambling is no more or less of a waste of money than seeing a movie (in many cases), eating an unnecessarily expensive meal, or purchasing a worthless item. At the same time, the fact that money is wasted on other things does not justify gambling. Money should not be wasted, as that is just not good stewardship. Excess money should rather be saved for future needs or given to the Lord's work, or a good cause and not be gambled away.

At the end of the day Christians should make responsible decisions in every part of their Christian walk. We all are well aware that while there is the slight chance to win, there is every chance to loose. If you do not play, what you have remains yours and you can spend it in a responsible way. If you play and you lose, what you had is gone, and now the question is, can you afford to release more of your hard earned money to try and recuperate what you have lost? We must also take note that gambling can become an addiction.

Think about Casinos, on-line gambling, the lotto etc. and why they exist?

Casinos use all sorts of marketing schemes to entice gamblers to risk as much money as possible. The architecture and atmosphere of casinos are very luring. Everything in a casino is perfectly rigged for taking money in large sums and giving nothing in return, except for fleeting and empty pleasures. The sounds of the bells that indicate that somebody has just won are adrenaline enhancers that encourage people to try again and again, because surely some are winning and it might just be me. By law casinos have to give a percentage of their takings away, and some fortunate person will win. However, their business is to make money, so most are guaranteed to loose.

The Lotto again portrays itself as a way to fund education and/or social programs. However, studies show that lottery participants are usually those who can least afford to be spending money on lottery tickets. The allure of “getting rich quick” is too great a temptation to resist for those who are desperate. The chances of winning are miniscule, which results in many peoples’ lives being ruined. We must always remember that the winnings of one are at the loss of others, even of some who maybe cannot afford it.

Can part of gambling proceeds be given to the church? Many people claim to be playing the lottery or gambling so that they can give the money to the church or to some other good cause. While this may be a good motive, reality is that few use gambling winnings for godly purposes. Many more actually recuperate some of their losses against the church, because it is an easy place to cut.  Studies show that the vast majority of lottery winners are in an even worse financial situation a few years after winning a jackpot than they were before. Few, if any, truly give the money to a good cause. Proverbs 13:11 says, “Dishonest money (and we are not saying that the lotto or gambling is dishonest, my focus is on the part to follow) dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” God is sovereign and will provide for the needs of the church through honest means. Can a person therefore give from their winnings? Sure, as long as it is legal money and honest. I do believe that it can be deemed dishonest to be an unfaithful giver, and not to give according to the grace we have received, and to plead lack, but yet at the same time to have money to gamble. It is like borrowing from God to gamble, and in so doing you become God’s debtor. The same goes for those who claim lack, but always have money for tobacco or alcohol.

First Timothy 6:10 tells us, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”. Money is not the root of all kinds of evil, it is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil, and some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and reaped a harvest of grief. Hebrews 13:5 declares, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Matthew 6:24 proclaims, “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.”

Personally, as pastor of Logos I do not gamble, I have never bought a Lotto ticket in my life, but I cannot judge those who do as I do not know the motives of their heart, or the things taking place in their lives that are beyond my sight. There is not a one size fits all in this scenario. I do believe that my counsel will always be to point people away from gambling, because there are dangers involved and it is better to err on the side of caution.

 

Remember, whatever you do in word or in deed, do it to the glory of the Father.

 

"I would rather you hate me for telling you the truth, than you loving me for lying to you."