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08/20/12

Lotto and God: Can a Christian Buy a Lottery Ticket?

Author: Roger Barrier

Dear Roger,

Is it a sin for a Christian to purchase a lottery ticket?

Sincerely, T,

 

Dear T,

 

Once upon a time I played the lottery—just once, just one ticket. Our family was playing Yahtzee which is a lot like poker, only you play with dice instead of with cards. The goal is to roll more good poker hands than anyone else. Rolling five dice with the same number at the same time is called a “Yahtzee” and is worth fifty points.

The odds of rolling five dice with the same number at the same time are 3,125 to 1. In the first game I rolled a Yahtzee. We all cheered with delight.

In the second game I rolled another Yahtzee! 3,125 to 1 again!

We couldn’t believe it.

In the third game I rolled another Yahtzee. No one said a word. We were all dumbfounded. I grabbed my dad and said, “This is a sign from God. We have just enough time to get to the “7-11” and buy a lottery ticket before the lottery ends at 10:00 p.m.” As I recall, it was one of those power ball lotteries worth at least half a billion dollars. Well, not that much; but, it certainly felt like that.

 

I bought one ticket. One was all I needed to win. The check was already in the mail! Dad and I raced home to watch the drawing on TV. I compared the numbers on my ticket with the ones drawn on TV. By the second number I was out of the game.

My mother asked my dad if he’d bought any tickets and he pulled twenty losing tickets out of his pocket. She yelled at him for the next fifteen minutes for wasting twenty of their hard-earned dollars.

 

It is no wonder, T, that you’ve asked this question because gambling and buying lottery tickets are never expressly approved or condemned in the Scriptures.

 

We must be careful in deciding what to do with issues that aren’t expressly forbidden or approved in the Bible. Considering the issue of gambling and lottery tickets we must not turn our personal convictions into what we consider to be Biblical truths for ourselves and for everyone else (Romans 14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 8:1-12; 10:13-11:1).

 

Whether or not a buying a lottery ticket is a sin depends on our personal convictions. Personal convictions are the expressions of our inner conscience. If we think it’s a sin to buy a ticket and proceed to buy one, then we’ve committed a sin because we’ve violated our consciences. Violating our consciences is expressly forbidden in the Bible because a violated conscience impairs our ability to hear God speak. (Romans 10:23: “Whatever is not of faith is sin.”)

 

This is why the same behavior can be a sin for one person and not a sin for another. If you can buy a lottery ticket without breaking your conscience then buy the lottery ticket. You have not sinned. Understanding the relationship between sin and the conscience is the key to handling the “gray areas” of the Bible which are not expressly forbidden or approved—or not even mentioned.

 

By the way, always beware of Christians who try to make their personal convictions into biblical truth. They harm Christians.

 

My personal conviction is to not gamble. I used to pitch nickels and shoot marbles for keeps when I was a kid. I once played poker for pennies with the older boys down the street. Once I put a quarter in a slot machine in Las Vegas. I once bought a lottery ticket. I felt guilty for both last two because I was now old enough to know that I was breaking my conscience.

 

My personal conviction is that I do not buy lottery tickets. I’ve thought this through and have a number of reasons for refusing to buy one. Buying a lottery ticket may be all right for you; but it is not right for me.

 

I don’t waste money on the lottery because of the Biblical teachings about stewardship and management (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Not a single dollar that comes into our hands is ours. It all belongs to God. We are to manage it well.

 

I perceive that the Lord Jesus is not particularly excited to watch us throw money away. We have such slim odds of winning that we might as well drive by the “7-11” and throw money out the car window.

 

Here are the odds of winning some recent lotteries:

 

The Pennsylvania Match 6:  1 in 4,661,272.3

The New Jersey Pick 6:        1 in 13,983,816

The Ohio Mega Millions:       1 in 175,711,536

 

You can purchase a ticket if you want to. After all, Paul wrote: "Everything is permissible—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible—but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

 

God says that there are better things to do with our money than throw it away. Excess money should be saved for future needs or given to the Lord’s work, not gambled away (1 Corinthians 4:2).

 

Several other Biblical principles come into play regarding my conviction not to play the lottery.

 

The Bible clearly states that the lottery is a “get rich” scheme and “get rich” schemes are to be avoided at all costs. Solomon wrote from experience: “A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished” (Proverb 28:20). (See also Proverb 13:11; 23:5; and Ecclesiastes 5:10.) The principle is that if we spend the same amount of time planning and investing as we do trying to get rich quick we will come out way ahead in the future.

Get rich schemes often tempt us away from trusting God as the real source of our financial security. They can lead us to trust more in our money than in our God. They can mess with our minds regarding the real dangers of materialism (Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:10; and Hebrews 15:5).

 

People often ask, “Isn’t buying stocks like playing a long-term lottery?” No, investing in the stock market is not gambling. The difference is that in the stock market we actually own a portion of the companies that we invest in. We are buying something of value in the stock market.

 

Others ask, “Is it OK to play poker?”

 

Playing poker with friends is seldom a sin. We receive real value when we play poker with friends—the value of a good time and enhanced friendship. In one sense this can be the same as going to a movie with our friends. We buy a ticket and receive value in the form of enjoying the movie and in experiencing it together. We go to a good restaurant and pay more money for an expensive meal than we should. We receive value in the form of good food and a pleasant evening with our friends.

 

The danger here—whether it is the lottery, or the poker, or the casino is when someone gambles to the extent that they or their families can’t afford food, bills can’t be paid, children can’t be clothed, addictions begin, drinking to excess occurs, and on and on goes the list

 

I have another thought about buying tickets. When we buy a ticket we become participants in the wicked and immoral ways that our governmental leaders use a lottery to steal from the poor people.

 

The state government says, “We need more money for education (or whatever) in our state. How can we pay for it (get the money)?” Instead of admitting that we can’t afford it, or that we have to make cuts in other programs because of new priorities, the government officials decide: “Let’s have a lottery that the poor and stupid can play. The rub is that people who have money or who are wise don’t buy lottery tickets. The percentage of tickets bought by the people who can least afford it is out the roof.

 

The Bible has nothing good to say about entities or people who rob the poor.

 

He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty (Proverb 22:16).

 

Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them (Proverb 22:22-23).

 

People can go to Las Vegas and have fun. We have. The glitter is incredible. Excitement is all around. Good things for families to participate in abound. But there is more to Las Vegas than the “Strip”. The real city is two blocks away on the other side of the Strip. Here we find residential areas with real life people and schools and stores just like any other city.

 

The tragedy of Las Vegas is not the multitude of people who live and act in moderation while spending time in “Sin City—among other things. The tragedy is the poor people who will not win. After all there is a reason that the House always wins. All the games are rigged.

 

The sign at the First Baptist church loudly announces, “We have no money to give out.” I asked the pastor about it. He said, “We have three or four people every day come knocking at our door who’ve lost all their money and need help with meals, a place to stay, or a bus ticket home. We’ve helped all we can. We have nothing left. We must turn them away.

I am sorry for the church; but the church is not the problem. The gambling industry ensconced in Las Vegas is the problem. Their entire system from dark rooms with no clocks so people lose track of time to free food in buffet lines so people can eat and hurry back to gambling all entice the wasting of more and more money. The casino is designed to oppress the poor and to separate the foolish from their money.

 

You can have fun in Las Vegas without sinning? Sure, if your conscience is clear and you have balanced limits, keeping in mind the dangers and pitfalls, you can play the slots and receive the value of a fun experience. But, remember Paul’s advice: “All things are permissible, but not all things are profitable.”

 

Well, T, I suppose you will need to answer your own question. The Bible is silent on the subject. Discern what your conscience is saying and live accordingly.

I really appreciate your question. It is so timely and relevant in a society that has lost its way in using money wisely.

 

Love, Roger


Comments

It breaks my heart to see the media trumpet the stories of the very few who do win. They hold out this unrealistic hope that drives so many. I once worked with a lady who skipped lunch every day--going hungry--to buy lottery tickets each Friday on her lunch hour. She was waiting for the day when "her ship would come in." I hated to see her face fall every Monday when she skipped lunch yet again after she'd lost. It was just like a gambling addiction.
Brianna Engeler , 08/21/12 08:56 AM
I am very glad and thankful for the way you answer the question. I agree the issue is a sensitive one and it touch our society and government policy. Many thanks senior pastor and Be bless IJN !!
Hendrik Kerto , 03/12/13 02:15 PM
Roger
for it is the first time to hear someone of statue to confess the honest truth which many pastors downplay or burrying in the sand and pretend everything is rosy in our church.
I'm in total agreement with the fact that so many christians use their convictions on others and ended up harming them.
I don't pretend to know it all but i was commenting this morning on a christian website about the hostility shown to carlton pearson's preaching the gospel of inclussion by the christian fundamentalist.
Everybody is so happy about him stepping down over doctrinal issues when they should be grateful over his long service for the lord for he was not working satan in those decades.
Whether we like it or not i do believe in the salvation of gays,prostitutes without condoning the immorality that goes with it that's why God said to moses that whosoever,whosoever...looks at the snake.that on it's own is unbiased and all inclussive.
The truth of the matter we can not claime ownership of the gospel and judge others because of differences.
Why is it that there's a prodigal son story for us in how God saw a repentant soul before the masses would judge.
I therefore feel that the church has ended up harming and betraying the pastor's love for christ by making him step down from his office.
I don't know how the unbeliever would interprete this.
Is there no love and forgiveness in the church?
How come are they not following the master just like in the act of adultery wherein
jesus says 'neither do I condemn you.now go and sin no more.
It is pride that which judges the other to say that I own the gospel therefore i now show you the door.
What a shocker!
What's your comment sir?
Given Ngomane , 04/15/13 10:26 PM
Thank you for the insight. I have been wrestling with whether or not gambling is ok in the Lords eyes because theres no scripture condemning or approving it. I do believe that the Lord works miracles. I think that if the Lord sees fit for you to have or do something that he will put you on the path to make it happen for you. About a year ago, i was not a regular lottery player. I could count on one hand how many times i had played. But this one day when i had gotten off work, i was flat broke. I will never forget it. It was a Wednesday in late March. When i got home, i had finally received my income tax check. I was pleased & said to myself, this must be my lucky day. I think the check was for about $250. Anyway, i hurried to my bank to cash it. On the way home, i stopped at a local fish market. Next door there was a party store. On this day, i decided to play the Daily 4. I only spent $4, four different numbers, 2way. That evening, i almost fainted when the last number i played came out straight. I won $2708! What mademe play that number on that day, especially since i didn't play every day? What made the income tax check come on that day? What made me decide to play only those four numbers? To this day, i believe that something divine occurred on that day. And since then, other similar experiences have happened. I am not naive enough to think that i am just lucky. The lord sees you, he knows what you are going through and always finds a way for you. I believe in my heart that he did that for me.
Christina Webster , 05/29/13 02:44 PM
If you did win you would be told alot of things to make you feel guilt. I had turn my back to the church as through seeing alot of people giving there time are over run by those that can buy there way to in.

I am sick of going to church and being told we are not good christians for having time and dissapointing donations while the people with

questionable morals are praised for paying there way to acceptane.

Buy a ticket. I bet if you won, the first one's to accept you would be the one's to make you guilt ridden at the moment.

Alot of things are not right in the chruch.
chris chafg , 07/05/13 07:21 AM
I agree with Rodger on the gambling thing. I believe that because it is not expressly spoken on we must listen to our conscience. Unfortunately the bible tells us that in the last days mens' consciences would be as it were seared with a hot iron. I have this rule. If it's questionable and Im not sure if its right or wrong; for reverence of the fear of god and the fear of falling into damnation for the lack of knowledge when I could have just choose the safe way and not done something, I just don't do it.
darrell fraise , 09/20/13 10:07 PM
What if you believe God let you have a dream where you win the lottery? Should I keep buying the tickets?

Thanks in advance.
Jonathan Cho , 10/28/13 02:41 PM
i want to win lottery
boakye ebenezer , 12/21/13 12:16 AM
I am on the fence on the lottery issue.

I would like to see stats on who buys the most tickets. I think the middle class buys a lot.

The biggest problem with money, is that people want to steal, kill, or abuse you to get yours. This occurs with/without the lottery.

Additionally, if one were to use the lottery, and its winnings, for charities that preach Jesus, then is it not better to feed people,clothe them, and share Jesus.

Why just let them get the charity from the government, which is non-Christian, but instead from believers ?

The money on the lottery, could have been spent on sins like alcoholism, prostitution, pornography, gluttony, materialism, excessive leisure(movies,music,video-games,concerts,vacations,etc.)

Nobody is saying all these things are definitive sins and yet I can see potential evil in them as well.
Truly Annonymous , 01/21/14 04:36 AM
What an interesting perspective and read. I have been enlightened considering I play the lottery. I must admit there was a time when I felt rather stupid (guilty) for the sums that I was spending; however, I do not spend that type of money nowadays. Yes, I have won a few times though nothing to big. I thank you for your wisdom regarding the matter. I probably will continue to play but no more than a couple of bucks here and there. Consequently, I do believe that if one should be so blessed as to win....don't forget to tithe. Again, thanks for a very thoughtful perspective. God bless you.
E J , 01/22/14 12:23 PM
Strangely enough, if the article suggests not pursuing wealth so why then religious organizations are all about money? And why should one assume that winning lottery is bad for you? It could help you get a new degree, new opportunities for growth. It could make you feel safer and more grateful. And if you struggle financially you cling to God out of despair not choice. And those who preach indifference to financial matters are plain hypocrits.
alicja b , 02/02/14 08:11 AM
Thanks God I came across this page,I am a christian and eddicted in playing Lotto,I just wanted to know whether is it right or not,after reading these comments, I can see that I can do better things in the Kingdom of God than playing Lotto,Thanks I will never ever
zinhle nhle , 02/02/14 10:01 AM
Im 18 and ive been playing the lottery a couple of times,even before i was 18.ive got 3 numbers correct on several accounts and i sometimes get the right numbers on different lines.its just that i got no job and ive spent maybe $25 in 1 year since last year and i could have donated the money to beggars or bought myself some clothes.its just sad that i think i can win each week and yet i dont.i even pray to win but it hasnt worked.so i think it is best to just save your money and do something meaningful with it
Clarence 96 , 02/17/14 06:01 AM

Do you believe that most of this lottery winners, Win with luck? if so tell me about someone who has been playing lottery for 24years and still haven't win anything. Should we say it because he or she has a bad luck? To me there is a big secret that people do not know about winning lottery. There is a man called Dr. Soula with the email drsoula_b@live.com this man practice voodoo and he gives out lottery numbers that can never fail. He use voodoo and that is the secret to win lottery that some people do not know about, contact this man today and you shall be forever grateful for he is the best when it comes to lottery.
banks ahhs , 03/06/14 07:11 AM
While I believe that consistently gambling away your money as a christian is not worthwhile especially when you haven't paid your tithes or offerings to God, I also believe He is a God that can work in mysterious ways and can direct His children to do certain things at certain times.There was a time in my life when I didn't have any money to even buy food nor buy a bus ticket to church. Was thinking and praying about what to do. Suddenly I had an idea to use the birth dates of my siblings on the lottery with the last coins I had. Guess what? 4 numbers were drawn and the money I had was enough for me to get a bus ticket to church,paid tithe on the amount I won and had some to buy food as well that w lasted me the entire week. Considering the fact that all my entire life I hadn't bought a lottery ticket before made me to believe this was God who directed me to do that to provide my need for that particular week.I had a job the week after that to provide my subsequent needs as well. So my take on this subject is that let's not limit God, but unless God gives you a vision or a dream of lottery numbers or directs you as in my case, please don't do it! Else you will be addicted to it for sure. If God wants you to get rich by lottery, he will definitely show you the numbers or prompt you to do it at a particular time but not all the time. Don't forget the bible says he will lay up the wealth of the wicked for the righteous, and he can do that through lottery but be directed. Cos I know a christian sister who dreamt about lotto numbers and did nothing about it cos she though it was a sin and missed out on a reasonable amount of money. So please folks don't limit God, be directed and don't get addicted. Thanks
sharky Norris , 03/21/14 07:30 AM
I have something interesting to say. IF the world favors you then you can buy lotto tickets and gamble successfully. BUT if you are in Christ you have NO favor with the world and cannot gamble or buy lotto tickets. Also satan gives you the gift of faith as when when you gamble. He gives you faith in yourself, chance, and the evil one. From my experience of rejection and failure in life DO NOT ever gamble or buy lottery tickets. Trust fully in Christ and pay tithes, save money and WISELY invest your money in ETF's and sound stocks in the market with the guidance of the Lord.
Paul Fishman , 03/24/14 08:02 AM
Beautiful beautiful message! Thank you for this! God used you to speak this truth. God bless you more! :)
joey dumalaog , 04/15/14 08:57 PM
This was great to read. I often think about this same question, but not so much as whether or not gambling is a sin. I have several relative that open praise The Lord but then turn around and participate in pyramid schemes, gambling and chain letters. So I've always been confused as to whether or not their belief was genuine. I would love to make an easy pile of money but I guess my conscience is always telling me that trusting The Lord is more than enough.
jenn cruz , 04/28/14 02:56 PM
They won't deceive us anymore with their winning numbers. i have been playing lottery for years and i have never won a dimme for almost 8 years. But i was lucky to be informed about dr. oye a very skillful spell caster who give out winning numbers for any type of lottery. i used his voodoo and i won in the lottery. It was $450,000 and so grateful, abuyespelltemple@gmail.com is the only way to win this lottery if not you will continue to waste money on ticket
Hoey Simler , 05/28/14 03:37 AM
Right now I'm with cancer and really don't have the strenght to go to services every Sunday. How do I be able to get a lottery ticket then you ask, well when I'm on way to chemo services my wife drives me and she has her own battle with Bipolar Manic Depression which is a fight also, but I have to keep my eyes on her, so that's sbout the only time I can find to stop for a lottery ticket. I don't see playing the playing the lottery as a sin like in Vegas, but who am I to question a lottery. If we happen to go by a store I might be able to get a ticket, if we don't I don't play at all. I'm in a tight situtation on both sides and it's very hard on both sides.
Bobby McDowell , 06/01/14 06:13 PM
Once I was broke went to Walmart had my lottery checked and bought a ticket called Bucko. I only bought it because I felt guilty not spending anything while the man checked my ticket. To my surprise the next day, I won $100. Never since.
I knew it was God blessing me and I didn't have to borrow money from a friend after that. The scripture God will give the wealth of the wicked to the just does not mean my next door neighbour will walk over and say ' I want you to take my money' I believe God can and does use the lottery for his people.
Laura Morgan , 06/14/14 11:08 PM
Very enlightening... I always was unsure weather or not to purchase a lottery ticket and everytime I did, I had this uncomfortable feeling as I was waiting in a queue to buy one. The truth is christianity is selfless, it is more about the well being of the other person than one's self. If my actions will cause a brother to stumble in his christian walk, I'd rather not act, so my own moral of this article is as much as you are not violating your conscience, be mindful of the weaker brother.

I really bless God for people like you Roger, may He look at you with a big favor.
Prince Shabangu , 08/06/14 12:19 AM
thank you so much for your thoughtful response. It was not judgemental but incredibly informative. It'a difficult today to ask a questions without rebuke. You have given me much to think about as I live out my Christian faith.
sherna graham , 08/24/14 09:03 PM

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