the Spell of “the Lottery” has Bewitched the Nation

In today’s podcast (recorded Sunday night, January 10, 2016) we address the hymn, “Trust and Obey”, and pick up the cultural attraction with the bewithching notion that there is no harm in playing the Lottery, gambling, online gaming and fantasy sports.

Part One: John Martinez give a short history on the story behind the hymn “Trust and Obey”

Part two is my consideration to the biblical position on the lottery, gambling, online gaming, and fantasy sports. Primarily the issue of the Lottery.


The Largest lottery prize in American history is currently sitting at $1.3 Billion. I don’t share that as a helpful reminder to go purchase a lottery ticket, and no! the sharing of the winnings with all does not solve poverty. I site it because it is showing to be part of the national frenzy at hand.

A few quick passing facts: (source: www.erlc.com)

  • legal in 44 states, Washington DC, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
  • Powerball Jackpot is a government program
  • the majority of players have less than $20,000 US average household income. On average those in this “below poverty” level income bracket spend $550.00 per year on lottery tickets.
  • This is a legalized, monopolized promotion of political power.
  • Those who live within 10 miles of a casino have twice the rate of pathological and problem gambling.
    • Online gambling, lottery, fantasy sports (where money is being exchanged) is blurring this boundary because internet activity does not follow tradition commerce rules.

The government’s jurisdiction is primarily to look out for the welfare of the citizens and govern the commonwealth of all. The establishment of a government lottery has in fact betrayed the citizens.

Most have adopted a libertarian view of the lottery and find no fault, because it is legal, for those who want to participate. The libertarian view point has its merits, but is it the right view point on this issue? That is one of the questions I hope to address in the podcast.

I will also attempt to address my opinion that gambling in general is rooted in idolatry, greed and is a conscious choice to look to someone other than God for our needs and is robbing the church of both time and resources as many professing “Christians” give more of their time and money to the industry than the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The high school campus is a typical breeding ground for most gamblers. If you don’t believe me, call your local principle and ask him/her if there are gambling issues they are having to deal with.

Fantasy sports (where money is being exchanged) is quickly becoming a “starter drug” for serious gambler addicts. It is an intoxicating lie.

Common expressions from those justifying why they participate and their normal relationship with the church.

  • “When I win, I’m going to (fill-in-the-blank).”
    • I hear this a lot and witness it as that same person will rarely tithe or commit much of their time at all in Christian fellowship or causes that call for time and money. The excuse given is always about some day while completely ignoring opportunities God has given them right now.
    • The unfaithful tither (addicted to gaming) can’t afford to give because they are owned by their addiction.
    • You may be surprised by a few unscientific discoveries I’ve made over the years.
    • Not all, but many (most) who don’t tithe excuse it that they can’t afford to give to the church while ignoring their idolatry of gaming that they never resist.
  • “The Bible doesn’t claim gambling a sin.”
    • We don’t say the same things about pornography, computer hacking, grand theft auto… These may be more simple to see how Scripture fits; but does Scripture speak to all issue in life or not?
  • “I budget my gaming recreation and never spend more than I budget. The same way others budget their recreation. I’m a responsible gambler. After all, other Christians waste money on a lot of other things.”
    • Where it’s true, some Christians waste money on other things, the fact that some do this is a poor defense of another’s waste.
    • The “responsible” defense is seen as commendable on the surface and perhaps even closes the conversation. But it must be weighed in the balance of the whole of Scripture.
      • Yes, the soldiers gamble over Jesus’ clothes – that’s not permission to do so.
      • Yes, the apostles casts lots over the election of new disciples – that’s not the same.
      • Yes, Scripture explains that God is sovereign over all things, including the roll of the dice – we are better students of Scripture than to use a description of God as defense to participate in an activity.
  • “It helps build schools.”
    • This may be what gets a believer laughed out of town. The education system is ruined at many levels. Do you want the defense of recklessness to be the support of more recklessness?

Let’s be honest in our examination. The gaming industries, casino, lottery, fantasy sports (for money) are industries that prey primarily on the weak and the poor. It is a proven fact that government legislators lie about the pros of the lottery to cover the cons. Laws are passed without full disclosure, other laws are tied to lottery laws to negotiate passage.

But we are missing some biblical observations I want to leave on our minds.

  • the Bible, from start to finish, promotes a work force economy. Meaning; we are created to be a working people, a laboring people. We have honest jobs that contribute to the over all economy of the community. We exchange in this economy with other working people in the work based economy. Yes, some jobs are field jobs, labor jobs, administration jobs, education based jobs, science, medical, etc…
  • Gaming appears to be a violation of God’s character. Consider Galatians 5, Proverbs 21:25-26. There is no better provider for man than God and God has ordained man depend on God. The primary means, again, is to work for your income.
  • Gambling is largely a wasteful activity. No casino, lottery, gaming organization remains in business unless the overwhelming, super majority, nearly all, participants fail. It is an industry that thrives on the failure of willing participants. Studies show that the majority of participants in gambling and especially the lottery are poor, financially desperate, people placing their hope in something less than God to do for them something other than what God has ordained to be the norm.

Can a Christian, in good conscience, support and engage in an activity that preys on the weak and poor? Not in good conscience if he/she knows that God has ordained one of the functions of his church, his people, is to tend to the needs of the most vulnerable.

Further Reading: NOTE – these are none binding resolutions. They do represent historic patterns that many people in the history of the nation and Baptist specifically have held clear opinions on the matter. To ignore their warning is careless.

 

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