The National Lottery is now well embedded within our culture. Millions each week participate in the lottery by choosing their numbers. But should the Christian participate in the National Lottery? Before we get specifically to answering that question let us attend to two matters which bear upon our subject.
The first is a question of definition. Is doing the lottery gambling? The word gamble means “to risk something of value on an outcome that depends on chance.” Given that definition and the fact that the outcome of a lottery “depends on chance” and playing it involves “risk,” we can conclude that playing the lottery is gambling.
The second involves the practice of casting lots in biblical times; was this gambling? Very often in biblical accounts lots would be cast so that the people knew what to do in a certain instance. In Acts 1:21-26, for example, we read of the use of lots so as to help in deciding who would replace Judas as an apostle. Lots, though, were cast simply to make a decision. And the fundamental principle was The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. (Prov. 16:33). It had nothing to do with risking something on an uncertain outcome. Therefore, it was not gambling.
Having considered these preliminary issues let us examine whether or not Christians should be doing the lottery.
The Way Of This World. The way of this world focuses on money. The general mantra is that the more money you have then the better things are for you. This thinking is expressed in Ecclesiastes 10:19 like this: A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything. That is how the world operates. So what better way to get to “the answer” in the fastest and easiest way than by doing the lottery. This is the way of the world; it is not the way of God.
Covetousness. The tenth commandment of our God says that ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.’(Ex. 20:17). However, the lottery feeds covetousness and covetousness drives the lottery. The two have an unpleasant union glued together by greed. It is all built on the lie that I will be happy when I have a hefty bank balance and plenty of possessions. This is not the way of God.
Focus On Eternal Riches. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle (Prov. 23:5) is the pertinent observation of Solomon. As Christians we are to be focusing on eternal riches. Our Saviour said: ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-20a).
Hard Work. The principle of Scripture is for us to gain our resources through hard work ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ (2 Thess. 3:10). is how Paul expresses it. Our resources come as a legitimate reward for work this is the general principle of Scripture. They do not come through the risk of the lottery.
Love the Poor. The lottery is known to take most money from those who can least afford to spend it. Christians are to love the poor and do good to those in need. There is a sense in which the lottery exploits the longings of the poor. And then you must remember that if you do win that most of that money has come from the poor. The lottery exploits the weakness of the poor.
Stewardship. Proverbs 31:10-31 tells us of the wise woman who takes care of her household well. Her attitude towards her resources is summed up in v 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. There is no thought of bolstering her income through risk and chance. Rather she is working hard, acting shrewdly and giving generously. And in all this she is honouring the Lord.
We Do Not Live By Chance. The Lord’s hostility to us living by chance is seen when he says ‘But as for you who forsake the Lord and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will fall in the slaughter; (Is 65:11-12b). The Lord detests us casting our resources out to the gods of luck and chance. We need to take heed to this because it does not just apply to the lottery.
Misery. Some of the most miserable people are those who have won the lottery. Winners tend to leave their jobs and hence lose structure to their lives. Winners realise that life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15b); they have seen that the possessions of this world do not bring lasting pleasure. All the happiness they envisaged that they would enjoy through a lottery win has not materialised.
Satisfaction. The lottery thrives off dissatisfaction with my lot and estate. The Bible says though that we should cultivate an attitude of contentment. Paul puts it like this. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs ( 1 Tim. 6:9-10).
So let us shun the lottery and get on and live trusting in the Lord who kindly provides for His children. We are not a people who risk our resources to the gods of this world. But we are those who believe and thereby trust our sovereign Lord to work all for the good of His children.
Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of March 2016