Lotteries and gambling...

(TB) Biggest jackpot ever? It's a good time to run this post by David Wegener again.

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We got some new books for the Theological College of Central Africa library, recently. Now they are being processed to go into the collection and I was reading one of them this morning. The book is, John H. Leith, 2001, Pilgrimage of a Presbyterian: Collected Shorter Writings, ed Charles E. Raynal, Louisville: Geneva Press. On pages 208-13, there's a short article he wrote in 1956 titled, "Gambling--What's Wrong with It?." Here's a summary...

1. "Gambling encourages the belief that a man can enjoy the advantages of a prosperous society without making a significant contribution to that society."

2. "Gambling arouses false hopes and gives little in return."

3. "Gambling is parasitic by nature. It creates no new wealth and performs no useful service. At best, it merely redistributes wealth from ... the many ... to the few."

4. Gambling is an attempt "to escape responsible work..."

5. Gambling contributes to the breakdown of society. Gambling is associated with political corruption, bribery, violence and murder. "Gambling contributes to dishonesty." Many companies blame gambling for staggering percentages of losses of the company. It leads to "unpaid debts," and it has "corrupted sports."

6. Gambling may become an addiction and has done so to many people to the ruin of their lives.

7. Gambling is poor stewardship of the resources God has entrusted to you.

8. Community life is possible only when each person attempts to make a contribution to the general welfare. Gambling is an attempt "to take from the community while refusing to give anything in return."

9. We are our brother's keeper. Since gambling causes some to fall, we may not engage in it.

10. "Gambling does not help men become more Christlike. It aggravates human weakness. It stimulates greed and breeds covetousness."

An unknown early Christian wrote: "Do not be a dice-thrower but a Christian: cast your money on the table of the Lord at which Christ presides and the spectators are angels and the martyrs are present; and the patrimony which you are about to squander with that ruinous passion divide instead among the poor: lose your wealth to Christ."


1, 3, & 4 are the most powerful! Very helpful list.

It's in there implicitly, but I almost wonder if it would be good to make the most obvious objection to legal gambling explicit:

0. Exodus 20:17. Thou shalt not covet. Is there any other reason to fork over $2 (or $1, or $5) for a gaudy piece of paper (or chips, or whatever) than the fact that you want to get that thousand, million, or hundred million dollars without working for it?

My husband and I had a conversation in the car not long ago about this topic because we drive past a "Bingo" hall every time we go downtown (which is also our route to church and back, ironically). I made the comment "we should go play Bingo sometime; it's so much fun!" and we started talking about whether that would be considered gambling and I guess we decided it would technically fall into the gambling category, but we never came to a conclusion of whether it would be sin or not. I have always considered extreme gambling, in other words the "addiction" to it a clear sin...and a huge waste of money. I am way too frugal to find a Casino attractive. Yet, is gambling in ANY form wrong or is there ever a time when it is okay? For example (and these are all based on true examples from my own life):

-I pay $10-$20 for an evening of Bingo. I do it because the stakes were low, daubers are cool, it's good fellowship with the elderly (largest population of bingo players where I used to play), and I genuinely like the game. Is this okay? Could my husband and I go on a Bingo date night -- i.e. we'd spend just as much going "out to eat" somewhere, or would that be sin?

-A family member is expecting a baby and there is a pool to guess sex/weight/height/date/time. Each person pays $5 to make their guesses. Based on a point system, winner gets half the pool. The other half goes to the baby's savings account. Is this okay? If not, would giving my half (if I won) back to the baby's savings make it okay?

-We participate in a raffle for some kind of donated prize/s (tickets could $1 each, or $50 each) and the money goes toward a good cause, perhaps even a church youth group. Is this okay? If not, would further donating the prize back to a church or charity make it okay?

-A group of people get together to do a white elephant/$5 gift exchange (in this case, there are not any addicted gamblers in the group so #9 would not apply). Instead of buying a $5 gift, I buy 5 $1 lottery tickets. One person will randomly end up with the tickets. Is this okay?

p.s. when I first read the title of this post, I was expecting it to reference a satirical video we watched last night(featuring your very own Michael Foster)...but now I feel like I'm talking like the guys in this video ("what if donate the prize back to a church?") and feel a little stupid.

Jessica, Was that video satirical or real? That was disturbing!

It's satire!

>>It's satire!



Michael, where are you, dear brother?


As Michael intimates, all ten of the reasons are not of equal weight. Some are better arguments against gambling than others. Cumulatively, the argument is very strong.

Jessica & Kim:

It wasn't meant to be a satire.

No satire, there, ladies. Absolute fact. :)

Really?!! It is a true story?

Thanks for posting this. You've reminded me of an address by Benjamin Morgan Palmer, which I've subsequently posted here:

Interesting to compare Palmer with Wegener, and even more so to compare Palmer's arguments with the current state of affairs across this nation.

"Is there a legislature in the land, or any people in themselves in convention assembled, who would not immediately recognize that in chartering such an institution, they simply dissolve the state? For how can society hold together if confidence be destroyed in the veracity of man to man, or if there be no security whatever in our earthly possession?"

Weep and mourn, for these are as much our sins as they are the sins of our nation.

It is a "version" of a true story. In other words, it is the product of 150 hours of footage whittled down to 90 mins by a director with a particular narrative in mind.

I believe points 6,7, and 9 also apply to the christian and drinking alcohol.

Dear Wayne: Actually they were Leith's arguments, not mine. I just summarized his brief article. Many thanks for posting Palmer's piece. With warm regards,

Is the video accurate?

I am here.

Do you mean Michael (my husband) or Michael (in the movie)? Because it was my husband who assured me that it must be satire. :)

It was satire based on possibly real events(my understanding at the time). How real they are I don't know, doesn't necessarily matter. I think the point of the movie is proven when you read "chrisitian" bloggers who see the movie and who either can't tell or think that the gamblers are justified by God. It's a total lack of discernment and the extent that we will go to justify or our sin.

>>> It is a "version" of a true story.

So like, maybe it's not out-and-out deceptive, but perhaps it manipulates the undisciplined using artifices?

A lot of things were taken out of context in the trailer. The movie was mostly accurate. It left out some important facts/events that would not made us look quite as stupid. For example, no one really used "the I'm Robin Hood" justification.

A lot of context ends up on the editing room floor when you make a 90 min film from 150 hours of footage. Hence, me saying "a version" of a true story. All the footage is real. They were just selected and arranged in such way to tell a particular story. Neil Postman was right.

Yeah, I was just pokin' to see if the film itself was as gray as it was trying to make the subject matter...

It is pretty easy to google M.Scott Foster and find his blog where he talks about his past and shares what he learned in being part of this blackjack team. It will help anyone who is wondering about this video to understand a little better why they were doing this. I appreciate his willingness to be open about this and share his heart. Thanks! :)

Some of the previous commenters say that gambling is wrong because it promotes the idea that you can get something without working for it, if I understood what you said correctly.

Don't mean to be sarcastic, but haven't we all done this in some way or another? For example,

In two of my past workplaces (both large non-profits), the United Way campaigns involved prize drawings for everyone who turned in their pledge card (even with a pledge of $0). The prizes ranged from small ($10 gift cards) to generous (large flat screen TV, 2 round-trip airline tickets for any place in the continental US, two Big Ten home Ohio State football tickets).

And who hasn't entered (or at least been tempted to enter) a Reader's Digest or Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes? You don't have to buy what they're selling to enter.


The examples you gave are also a form of gambling. I believe Satan, in his subtle ways, tells us that sweepstakes, raffles for a good cause, etc. are okay. Think of it this way, how many people would donate to a good cause if there wasn't anything in it for them? Why not donate money, but turn the prize away if you're the winner? Remember, our children are watching!

Cindy--I would tend to agree with you that 6, 7, and 9 can be applied to alcohol, and would add 2 & 5--and these could be applied to a host of legal and illegal intoxicants.

The one quibble that I have regarding alcohol is its historical use--more or less your winter vitamins. OK, this doesn't work so well for distilled spirits, since vitamins don't tend to survive boiling and the distillation column very well, but there is a legitimate case for beer and wine, I think, among Christians.


Yet alcohol is, by definition, production by someone. Useful in many ways, whether for drink, antiseptic, application to wounds, or other chemical purposes of compounds. You can get addicted to chocolate too (fairly easily, actually--and many Americans are), or food generally. The "legitimate case for beer and wine...among Christians" is quite simple: Old and New Testaments alike call them blessings from the Lord, and any who would forbid them are called false teachers.

p.s. I was beaten horribly by a drunk father of a father as a kid, and struggled with this, and know many have or still do, and am not advocating that because they are lawful, that liberty to drink alcohol should be flaunted. When I am around any I know to be an alcoholic, I usually won't touch it, though if I knew I could be a good influence by drinking and being reserved in so doing, then I might. Those with weak consciences, Christian or otherwise, I believe should be cause to abstain if it's not a life or death matter (i.e. you live where the water is descent), until they are instructed in truth to a clear understanding.

p.s. I am surprised at how many otherwise orthodox folk out there in more fundamentalistic-y groups nevertheless declare absention is good, acceptable, a valid position, when Paul speaks so clearly to the matter; and saddened by it, that there are those who can present sound words on Christology, but I can't have anything to do with, and it is especially troubling when other sound teachers who know better, nevertheless affirm such men and groups. Also, should mention it necessary to rightly divide between sitting on judgment over food or drink, and over those who abuse these or by them cause men of weak conscience or faith to stumble, and declare boast their "liberty" nonetheless, as well as those who try to use the latter to forbid drink through what a nuclear adviser in "Yes Prime Minister" called "The Salami Method" (step by incremental step).

On a lighter note, there are plenty of Churches who use a non-fermented fruit of the vine for communion, not out of abstentionism, but giving consideration that for widespread abuse of alcohol, weaker brothers and sisters might be harmed in offering the alcoholic variety (especially those who have been alcoholics, for which recovery often is essentially a lifetime battle with a permanent addiction). No problem there, but last week I attended the only Presbyterian service in my life and gave thanks for the real deal. : )


You wrote, "...Think of it this way, how many people would donate to a good cause if there wasn't anything in it for them?"

Don't people do that all the time when they write a check to the Salvation Army, a Christian-based homeless shelter, a crisis pregnancy center, or even a secular charity doing good work, such as the Alzheimer's Association, American Diabetes Association, or an organization to support military veterans returning home.

And people who donate blood or other blood products don't get any material goods for their donation.

Guess you could argue that you could get a tax deduction for charitable giving, if you have enough itemized deductions. I can't speak for anyone else, but the thought of a tax deduction has never crossed our minds (husband and I) when we make charitable deductions.

Actually, just last night I was listening to two men talk about donating blood. One said, "I only give blood when they are giving away free Colts stuff." The other responded, "I got Pacers tickets today." (for giving blood). So, anyway, I don't know what that proves, except that there are often benefits (both material and otherwise) that we receive, even for the most selfless of donations.


I have lost touch with a former co-worker whose husband worked for the Red Cross. He was some kind of psychologist (not clinical) and his job was to come up with promotions and incentives that would get more people to donate.

This is an excellent post.

Did you know that government intentionally uses the lottery to exploit the poor with promises of a big payday that 99.9% will never win?

A decade ago, Michelle Malkin reported on this a year ago, where she quoted the Ohio Super Lotto's marketing plan:

"Schedule heavier media weight during those times of the month where consumer disposable income peaks. ... Government benefits, payroll and Social Security payments are released on the first Tuesday of each calendar month."

As she wrote in her column, can you imagine the tobacco companies doing this?

Plus, government makes competition illegal, so they have the lottery market all to themselves.

The penalty for scamming the lottery? A class A felony, just as severe as the penalty for attempted murder. Drunk driving causing a death is a class B felony.

It is pure exploitation.

John; well said. I remember my daughter coming home from church one weekend noting that her Sunday School teacher was teaching that Jesus' first miracle wasn't the real stuff. Due to that, and a number of other issues, we left that church soon after.

Part of me wonders if the horrors of alcoholism would be lessened if there wasn't so much stuff that's designed (along the lines of what Scott and Sue note about some charities and the lottery) for "drinkability." That is, the best drink isn't the one that tastes the best. Rather, it's the one that a randomly chosen bunch of drinkers drink the most of. Many popular foods are designed the same way, and then we wonder why we have so many sloppy fat drunks in our country.

Not the only cause, of course, but it sure doesn't help!

When I read the title, I thought It would be about some tips or basics of gambling. But it has listed the negative points about gambling. But I think these all have one condition, if we are addicted. Betting is not so bad, but addiction is.

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