Questions of the Week

Question: Does the Bible have anything to say about playing the lottery? Some people say it’s just a game, others say it’s gambling. What do you think?

Answer: The Bible does not specifically condemn gambling, betting, or the lottery. The Bible does warn us, however, to stay away from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5). Scripture also encourages us to stay away from attempts to “get rich quick” (Proverbs 13:11; 23:5; Ecclesiastes 5:10). Gambling most definitely is focused on the love of money and undeniably tempts people with the promise of quick and easy riches.

However, what if you are playing the lottery or gambling from time to time, with no illusion that you are going to get rich, but just for the fun of it. Is there anything wrong with that? Probably not. If gambling or playing the lottery is a form of recreation, and is done in moderation, then it’s no different than seeing a show or eating in a nice restaurant. However, whether you are playing the lottery, or seeing a show, or eating in a nice restaurant, if you are doing it with the rent money (in a manner of speaking), then it’s probably not a good decision.

Now, there is a problem with the lottery that has nothing to do with you, and that’s the way it feeds on the gambling addictions of others. Studies show that the vast majority of lottery winners are in an even worse financial situation a few years after winning a jackpot than they were before. The winnings become a kind of curse. And then there are the millions of people who spend money they don’t have to buy those tickets, and have less chance of winning than getting hit by a meteor.

In the end, you are going to have to make up your own mind on the issue. If it bothers you, then don’t do it, even if the most you are doing is buying $5.00 tickets once a month. But if you have a clean conscience about it, and you aren’t using money you could otherwise use to pay your bills, then it would seem fine.

3 Responses to “Is it Okay to Play the Lottery?”  

  1. 1 Rev. Jeff S. Henning

    They casted lots for the clothes of Jesus. Does that sound right to you? We are given things, such as money, to be good stewards of such things. Is it being a good steward to waste money on the lottery? Are you under the illusion that “If I win, look at all the good things I can do with the money for the church.” Will you actually tithe 10% to the church? Why not just tithe (sow the seed), and let God do the growing? If you spend the money to buy the tickets and then lose (which you most probably will), can you pray that night with a clear conscious? If you spend a lot or little for the lottery, that money would be better spent for the church…let God decide as to how the money will be used.
    Riches are, in Jesus’ perspective, an obstacle both to salvation and to descipleship (Mt 19:24; 13:22). They give a false sense of security (Lk 12:15ff), they deceive (Mt 13:22) and they demand the total loyalty of one’s heart (Mt 6:21). The rich often live as if they have no need of God. By searching for riches, their spiritual lives are chocked (Lk 8:14), and they are led into temptation and harmful desires (1 Ti 6:9), resulting in the abandonment of saving faith (1 Ti 6:10). All too often those who are rich take advantage of the poor (Jas 2:5-6). Therefore, no Christian ought to desire to get rich (1 Ti 6:9-11).
    True riches for a Christian consist in faith and love that expresses themselves in self-denial and following Jesus (1 Co 13:4-7; Php 2:3-5). The truely rich are those who have gained freedom from the things of the world through confidence that God is their Father and that He will not forsake them (2Co 9:8; Php 4:19; Heb 13:5-6).
    God blesses those who follow Him.

  2. 2 Stan Jantz

    Well said! We didn’t say that playing the lottery is a good use of your money. You could actually the biblical principles you give to almost any kind of enterprise–the lottery, professional sports, the stock market, buying a car (how much should I spend). The issue that our use of our money reflects our heart.

  3. 3 Dixie Mello

    I am thanking Rev. Henning for his excellent answer. That has always been a hard question to answer so completely, as he has, when new Christians ask about the lottery and gambling casinos. I have never had an interest in partaking of either, but the “old life” before becoming a Christian, for many, was filled with these types of entertainments. And lifestyle changes are sometimes hard to break. I believe new Christians, as well as seasoned ones, want to live a life pleasing to God and hear so many different answers to this question, that they really aren’t sure what is right.

    I commend you Rev. Henning for your comment…and know many will draw back on your answer! God bless you!