Lotteries Are The Answer To . . .
“The Justice Department has reversed a longtime view that online poker and lottery wagering are illegal. With the move, states are expected to engage in a high-stakes pursuit of new gambling-related tax revenues.
Cash-strapped states betting on new online poker and lottery revenues won a major victory with a recent Department of Justice announcement that it is reversing its interpretation of the federal 1961 Wire Act, clearing the way for a potential boom in online gambling.
Its new interpretation concluded that the law instead specifically outlaws such wagering on sports, not non-sports gambling within states or even across state borders. “The ordinary meaning of the phrase ‘sporting event or contest’ does not encompass lotteries,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz. “Accordingly, we conclude that the proposed lotteries are not within the prohibitions of the Wire Act.”
But gambling critics see the move as another major crack in America’s moral foundation, opening the way for states to become further dependent upon tax revenues gained from a form of recreation that hits hardest those who can least afford it.
You can read the full version of this article here:
What is a faith perspective on this development?
The lot is cast into the lap, but every decision is from the Lord. Proverbs 16:33
One of the common ways of making decisions in the Old Testament times was by casting lots. The thought was that God would reveal the correct choice of options by the result of the lot. It’s not really hard to see that this had nothing to do with gambling. It was a method that was common but that doesn’t mean it was a great method. The problem was that it made life a somewhat random series of events and fostered reliance on the practice. Instead of maturing as individuals and making decisions based on such things as life direction, moral and ethical standards, their understanding of their calling and their gifting, the people were locked into a chance process. There’s no doubt that God could work through such a practice and apparently he did. The question for us becomes. “Is that the way for us to live today with everything in our lives being random and subject to change?” If our faith is based on the Old Testament the answer might be, “Yes.” If it is based on the New Testament then the answer is a clear, “No!” Our lives are not a lottery nor are they a process of chance.
Jesus was preparing his disciples for the time when he would soon leave them. He spoke about the Counselor he would send to help them, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” [John 6] Clearly Jesus intended for his followers to enjoy the benefits of having a clear and correct understanding of how he wanted them to live. The Counselor is available for every major decision and the process of decision-making involves relationship with the Counselor. This makes decision-making into an orderly process; an intentional process which is far from a random lottery.
So is it okay to buy lottery tickets?
Since I know God controls the decisions, wouldn’t that be a way God could provide for me? [I buy a lottery ticket and God makes sure I win, and in case there’s any doubt about his help, I can promise to give God a tenth of all I win to do with as he likes. No, I’m feeling generous; I’ll give him 15% so I can be sure of a win!]
It is a way God could provide for us but there’s something wrong in our thinking. Like God needs an incentive to make us win? That’s a blatant attempt to manipulate God – guaranteed not to work, revealing that we see God as a personal genie. Not good! It reveals that we are not connecting to God in our lives and are looking for ways to get through life without him. We are measuring our lives by the things we have, we are setting our goals on dreams about what we want instead of in the reality of who we are and our purpose in life. We are self-providers who want more, we are self-deceivers who think that by having more “stuff” we can do more for God (or so we say) when in reality, if we aren’t willing to use what we already have for God, then nothing will change if we have more – we will still devote it to ourselves. There’s a better way.
“So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” Or “What shall we drink?” Or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you as well.” [Matthew 6]
Jesus’ advice to us is to stop fussing over material possessions and provisions in life; he knows we need them and we will have what we need, when we need it. Not more and not less! We may not understand the process but we can rest assured it will happen at the right time. We do know the source and he is up to the challenge of covering our needs. There is no place for insecurity or for discontent. As we make his kingdom and his righteousness our focus, the rest drops in to place.
So what would winning the lottery do for us? Distract us from the call and purpose of God for us? Make us self-reliant? Allow us to play God to others around us? Shift our focus to our possessions and self-expression? These aren’t part of the way of faith.
Shouldn’t we make this illegal?
Perhaps if there was stronger legislation we could prevent or reverse this decision. This sounds great until we stop and think about the idea. Thinking back to the events of the prohibition movement we realize that attempts to legislate morality don’t work too well; typically they end up promoting the practices they intended to banish. The simple reason this happens is that folks want what is banned and the ban serves to heighten that desire. In the process, undesirable social developments [like organized crime] occur. Not good!
Then we need to remember that this development is a government move in the first instance [state government] and the motive is to generate state revenues. The government wants this move since it compensates for lower tax takes. The alternative is seen as higher taxes – not a popular stance at present.
There’s rugged individualism/civil rights issues. “It’s my money and it’s not your business what I do with it!”
Many Christians are already compromised on this issue. It’s common for churches to run bingo nights and raffles to raise funds. Since these rely on chance, how are they different from on-line lotteries and gambling? One raises funds for churches; the other raises funds for social and educational programs. What percentage of Christians already buy lottery tickets?
Is there a Christian response?
Everything begins at home – we each must decide where we stand on the issue of gambling; are we for it, neutral or opposed? Is that stance obvious from the way we live?
Are our churches for or against gambling? If we are compromised then opposition makes us hypocrites.
Are we supporting recovery / practical help programs for gambling addicts and their families? Do we have anything to offer or do we see the whole issue as irrelevant? [Lip service and moralizing are just window dressing to cover up the fact that we have ignored this area of potential ministry.]
Are we actively promoting a lifestyle which rises above gambling and chance? Are we personally practicing such a lifestyle and encouraging others to follow our example?
Why not be bold, write a comment telling us what you see as an appropriate faith response to the expansion of on-line gambling and lotteries. Do you know of any successful gambling addiction assistance offered by churches?
. . .
- Gamblers’ Glee: Online Betting Gets A Boost From Washington (huffingtonpost.com)
- Lottery head says online sales could start soon (mysanantonio.com)
Posted on December 28, 2011, in Active faith and tagged addiction, faith in life, Gambling, helping addicts, Jesus, Lottery, Old Testament, Spirit Counselor, United States Department of Justice. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.