I played Powerball© this week. I bought 5 tickets – I know, if I really thought God was going to let me win, I only needed 1 ticket and could have spent the other $8 on something more humanitarian – and instead of winning more than a billion dollars I matched a total of one number. Now, some of you may say to me that the Bible says that gambling is wrong, but the only reference I can find of someone making a wager for material gain was Samson who, in Judges 14:12-13, bets 30 garments and 30 sets of clothing that others cannot answer a simple riddle.
Before you head off to the local casino let me share some of the things that the Bible does say:
You cannot serve both God and money. – Matthew 6:24
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. – 1 Timothy 6:10
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
It is clear that those who follow Christ ought not to engage in schemes which promise quick money nor should they put confidence in earthly wealth. Further, there should be concern within the church that state-sanctioned lotteries are disproportionally played by those who can least afford to lose. Just as there are dangers with alcoholic consumption and tobacco usage, and some ought never to engage in these practices, there are real dangers with gambling.
As I was driving by the local convenience store on Wednesday, seeing the traffic jam caused by those trying to enter the parking lot, it occurred to me that more money was spent to see the latest installment of Star Wars during its opening weekend than to win the latest jackpot. I know that there are many who will spend more on a cup of coffee than the cost of a lottery ticket. As I placed my $10 on the counter the other afternoon, I was spending a few bucks – which I could afford – on entertainment and recreation, not sustenance. I wasn’t counting on winning or expecting to become a billionaire; I was simply enjoying the fantasy of being filthy rich.
As I said, my numbers did not come up. I won’t be able to give the church a tithe of the winnings. I will not be purchasing houses for my extended family or a boat for each of my children. I will not be creating a foundation to relieve some of the suffering and sickness in the world. Truth be told, I am not entirely sure that a windfall of such proportions would not have changed me, so I am grateful that God did not tempt me beyond what I could bear. I will remain faithful with a little I have, knowing that God will make it sufficient.
So, congratulations to the three people who woke up yesterday knowing that they were multi-millionaires. My prayer is that something good will come from the philanthropy of the winners and that they will heed the warnings of Scripture. Maybe when the jackpot reaches these heights again you’ll see me play again.