True North Community Church in Port Jefferson, New York had a difficult decision to make this week. Unfortunately, they chose poorly. The Long Island place of worship is a young and growing church that found itself cramped in its present facilities. A few weeks ago the Lead Pastor stated that if anybody in the congregation had a couple of million extra dollars lying around they should make an appointment to see him. He told them God could work a miracle and provide the money if He wanted to. Then it happened. A parishioner presented the church with a winning lottery ticket worth more than three million dollars and the pastors had to respond.
Should they (or we for that matter) accept money from gambling winnings? Why not, you may ask? Is gambling a sin? What about accepting the profits of gambling if in fact you or I did not participate in said gambling? While there is no verse in the Bible that reads, ‘don’t gamble because it is a sin’, there are multiple verses that tell us to avoid ill-gotten gain, greed, slothfulness and poor stewardship.
Further, consider the evils of the gambling industry for a moment. Gaming institutions encourage people to come and have fun while they take money from men who should be feeding their families. They sell themselves as entertainment venues that are fueled by the discretionary income of normal Americans. However, they are fueled by habitual gamblers that spend wealth until it’s gone and incur debts most simply can never repay. This leads to the ruin of individuals, the break-ups of marriages, the abandonment of children, dependence upon drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms and the ultimate destruction of many families just to name a few of the social strains and ramifications.
The gaming industry in this country is evil and the church has no business benefiting from it! You may argue that the church could take this ill-gotten money and use it for good. We could be the ‘good stewards’ of this improbable windfall. But if we do so we fuel the industry and become the ultimate beneficiaries of this great sin.
Playing the lottery and visiting gaming institutions equates to stealing from the poor and enslaving them rather than helping, feeding or serving them as God commands! I am convinced that Jesus would have us serve those who suffer from bondage to this sin rather than to further take advantage of them.
As a pastor, I feel a responsibility to refuse such an offering of a winning lottery ticket the same way I would refuse money from a recently converted drug lord or the wealth of newly saved former pornographer. Rather than soil God’s coffers with dirty money gained in the destruction of the lives of countless men and women I would offer counsel better suited to advance the Kingdom of God and redemption of mankind. My pastoral advice to the lottery winner, drug-runner or sex-industry kingpin would be to use the money gained in sinful allegiance to the god of this world to love, minister to and reclaim the lives that are being ruined from these practices.
Non-profit, para-church ministries could be formed with this money to help strippers and prostitutes find a noble and honorable profession that restores their ingrained dignity as image-bearers of God. It could be used to give drug addicts a place to recover and find deliverance through Jesus Christ. It could enable credit-ruined gambling addicts to abandon chance in favor of embracing the sovereignty of God. There are thousands of ways to redeem this wealth while maintaining the purity of the Bride of Christ, His beautiful church.
My prayer is that True North Community Church sees the error of their decision to accept a winning lottery ticket and repents of benefiting from ill-gotten gain.
[Proverbs 1:19 – Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it. Proverbs 10:2 – Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. Proverbs 28:16 & 19 – 16 A tyrannical ruler lacks judgment, but he who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long life…19 He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.]
May you and I pursue the purity of the church at all costs and support her by being good stewards of that which God has entrusted us. And may many trapped in the sex, drug and gambling industries find deliverance through Jesus Christ and repent and serve others to the praise of His glorious grace!