Question: What should the Christian’s attitude be to lotteries, sweepstakes, etc.?
Answer: In Scripture we read of various ways of being enriched materially.
1. INHERITANCE: where one benefits from the material possessions of another. Here, the death of the testator is involved (Psalm 49:10; Hebrews 9:16).
2. INVESTMENT: where money, instead of labour is put to work and various measures of appreciation are enjoyed (Matthew 25:14-18 etc.) Here stewardship is involved.
3. GIFTS: where a benefit is freely received from another (Philippians 4: 16-17; James 1:17). Here simple faith to receive is involved.
4. REWARD: in recognition of services rendered (Matthew 10:41). Here an evaluation is involved.
5. PRIZE: won in contest with others (1 Corinthians 9:24). Here strenuous effort or skill developed by discipline is involved.
6. WAGES: earned by honest toil (Luke 3:14). Here labour is involved.
7. BENEFICENCE: where one simply enjoys certain benefits of ones circumstances (Ruth 2:1,10; 4:13; also Luke 15:31, etc.). Here it is relationship that is involved.
Nowhere does the Word of God condone or even consider “chance” as a means of approved enrichment. In Ecclesiastes 9:11 (A.V.) we do read that “time and chance happeneth to… all.” The word translated “chance” here is the word “pega.” This Hebrew word means “impact,” or an unexpected occurence. It has no connotation of luck.”
There is an interesting verse in Jeremiah 17:11 (A.V. marg.). “As the partridge gathereth young which she hath not brought forth, so is he that getteth riches and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.”
Gambling, games of chance, and lotteries have ruined many a life, destroyed many a home and corrupted even nations. In Britain today, football pools, lotteries, sweepstakes, and bingo have eroded the work ethic from the masses. Canada and the U.S. are on the same slippery path.
The questioner may also have in mind the casting of lots in the Bible. How this worked we are not clear. When the ephod was used, with its breastplate, David Baron suggests that the Lord illuminated certain letters of the alphabet from the names inscribed there, to spell out answers. However, we have no certain knowledge of this. It did seem to work however (1 Samuel 14:41; Jonah 1:7, etc.).
One thing we do know is that God sovereignly overruled, and no “luck” was involved. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33).
If not the “million dollar draw,” what about the small lotteries at every shopping centre? The two dollar bet, the lucky draw for a car or groceries?
If a principle pertains for a million dollars, then it persists for a bag of groceries. Only the degree differs, the principle abides.
Scripture teaches that the Christian is to “provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17). He is to “labour, working with his hands the things which is good, that he may have to give him that needeth” (Epehsians 4:28). He is to ever seek the enrichment of others and not personal gain (1 Corinthians 10:24). He is to recognize the sovereignty of God in his circumstances, station in life, in poverty, provision or plenty (Ecclesiastes 5:19; Deuteronomy 8:18)
He is to place the emphasis on spiritual enrichment and leave the Lord to add to him what He deems best (Matthew 6:19-21, vv. 30-34). He is to be diligent in his secular employment, not lazy nor slothful, but doing his job as unto the Lord, and for this he will be rewarded as though it had been a spiritual service (Colossians 3:22-24). The Principle of his life is to be “faith” (Romans 1:17), not “fortune.”
When large sums of money are involved, as in national lotteries or sweepstakes, the “winner’s” sudden change of fortune and wealth has proven for many to be devastating (Proverbs 19:4). The writer knows personally of one case where a believer “won” a sweepstake prize, and sometime later committed suicide.
The Worchester Gazette of September 29th, 1977, carried a report on the million dollar winners of the Massachusets State Lottery. An M.I.T. professor had made a study of their lives since “winning.” It was a sad record of once-happy homes, now broken, divorces and social pressures, punctuated by appeals for help from relatives, strangers, organizations, etc.
“He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 28: 20).
— J. Boyd Nicholson
(Please send all questions to Dr. James T. Naismith, 1121 Hilltop St., Peterborough, Ont. K9J 5S6)