There are all kinds of good reasons to oppose the lottery. It is a terrible form of gambling that tends to appeal most to people who can’t afford it. I’ve heard it described as a tax on stupidity – you’ve better odds of being struck by lightning than winning the thing.
Then suddenly the Mega Millions (is that the right one?) jackpot reaches an estimated 1.6 billion (yep, that’s with a b) for the next drawing and suddenly even a Baptist preacher like me who has never played the lottery in my life finds myself tempted to buy a ticket. Sure, I know the one-time payout on the 1.6 billion might only be around a billion and then there’d be taxes. Who knows? I might not walk away with more than 600 million or so when all is said and done.
No, I do not plan to buy a ticket. But my ruminations started me wondering. “Back in my day” Baptist churches were among the strongest opponents of gambling there were and while as many of our members gambled as drank, it was not acceptable.
My view on gambling is that it is not inherently sinful since there is no scripture that addresses the topic. However, there are some biblical principles that make it unwise and undesirable. The lottery tends to exploit the poor and cause untold damage in families who spend money they don’t have chasing an elusive dream. Scripture would seem to militate against profiting at the expense of others – isn’t that kind of the sine qua non of gambling? Someone else loses so you can win? I don’t condemn someone as a child of the devil because they buy a lottery ticket, but I think it is our best choice not to do so.
I believe that if I won the lottery I would likely lose my job – don’t know for sure, but I believe I would. The 1.6 billion might soften that blow financially but losing the job God called me to because I chose to gamble is not something I want to risk. I would certainly have some folks who think less of me.
So, I have some questions.
1. What is your moral stance on gambling? On playing the lottery? Would you buy a ticket?
2. What would happen in your church if a pastor or deacon won the lottery? Would that be an offense that would inspire disciplinary action, or would it be overlooked in the hopes of a payday in the offering plate?
3. Would your church receive offerings from a lottery winner or any other form of gambling winnings?
4. What would you think of a Baptist preacher who won the lottery?