Summary: Christian arguments against gambling.
Rev. David Holwick
First Baptist Church
West Lafayette, Ohio
May 25, 1986
DON'T BET ON GAMBLING
My sermon this morning is on gambling. After three weeks without a winner, the state lottery is now up to $18 million. That’s quite a temptation! Overnight you could become super-rich and you’ll never have to worry about bills or scrimping to the next payday. Instead, you’ll have a huge house, fancy car, vacations in Acapulco ....
But first, of course, you would tithe it ... because you are a Christian! Gambling used to be considered very unchristian. You never knew just why, but you didn’t want the pastor to find out just in case.
With the current glut of lotteries and casinos, millions of Christians are wagering their money and a few are winning. In 1982 Curtis Sharp won $5.6 million in the New York lottery. He showed up at the news conference with his girlfriend on one arm and his estranged wife on the other. Curtis is what you would call flamboyant. He traded in his station wagon for a Cadillac with a Rolls-Royce grille. It has an on-board radar and a $6,000 telephone. When he married his girlfriend he spent $75,000 on the wedding. They used twelve limousines.
Curtis Sharp is a church-going Baptist. And he still plays the lottery. As he put it, “I did not say I was a true Baptist.” There aren’t many true Baptists left. I won’t ask how many of you bought tickets this week. I did. I bought it for the church at the newsstand. This little piece of paper is worth $18 million, because on Wednesday, the numbers picked will be 1, 3, 9, 10, 18, 27 and then we’ll have to decide what to do with all the money.
Gambling has become an obsession in America. A New Jersey woman embezzled $38,000 from the bank she worked at so she could play the lottery. When the New York lottery reached $41 million, a 70-year-old man waited five hours in line. When he finally got to the counter he collapsed, taking a rack of newspapers with him to the floor. His first words after being revived were, “Can I have my tickets, please?”
You may be surprised to know that America began as a gambling nation. In 1776 the First Continental Congress sold lottery tickets to finance the Revolution. But some leaders had qualms about it. George Washington, the father of our country, declared: “Gambling is the child of greed, the brother of sin and the father of mischief.” However, George also kept a full diary of his own winnings and losses at the card table. Washington, D.C. was built with lottery money and George bought the first ticket.
Gambling is as American as apple pie. We are the land of opportunity and what can prove it faster than winning the lottery? The money goes for good causes – here in Ohio it all goes to schools and it is a painless tax. People who would never vote for a school tax levy will cheerfully throw away hundreds of dollars on the lottery.
We’ve all heard the arguments. Maybe you use them yourself. Now I’m going to tell you why I believe Christians should not gamble ... on lotteries or anything else. Right off the bat I have to admit that the Bible does not condemn gambling. Actually, it hardly mentions it. The only reference I could find to real gambling is where the soldiers cast lots for Christ’s seamless robe. The other references to lots have to do with a way to determine God’s will. If someone faced a difficult choice, they would pray about it and find a priest to cast lots. We don’t know exactly how it worked, but the lot would tell the person, yes, no, or give no answer. As Proverbs 16:33 says:
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
Even if the Bible does not clearly focus on gambling itself, a clear case can be made against it by looking at the underlying issues. First and foremost, gambling represents a denial that God is in charge. Biblical Christians believe in an orderly universe controlled by a good God who has our best interests at stake. Not everything that happens is good, but God is constantly working to turn it to good, if we love him and are serving him. God has put us in charge of his creation. We have the responsibility to take good care of it and use its resources wisely.
Gambling cuts against all these principles. The biblical God who is in charge is replaced with pure chance and blind luck. As for good stewardship, the odds of winning the $18 million are at least 7 million to 1. Even if you win, you don’t really get the full amount. For that $18 million the state of Ohio is only buying a 20-year annuity for $8 or $9 million. And the federal government and state government are going to swoop right in and take at least a third of it in taxes. Of all money taken in by the lottery, they pocket half before anything is awarded. It is not a wise use of your money. Your chances of winning are slim to none.