Big Questions
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Q Is it right to use funds gained through gambling for things of God’s kingdom? What if someone came to the church or a Christian school and said, “Here’s some money I won at a lottery”?

A You are essentially asking if it is right to use wrongful profits for good. This is a version of “Do the ends justify the means”? I believe that a biblical worldview approach is that the ends should instead shape the means; if we can help it, we should not intentionally use sinful or unethical means, as they tarnish our gospel witness and have negative consequences.

Some Christians see gambling (and lotteries) as similar to alcohol drinking: it is not inherently evil but can be addictive and harmful. However, I see gambling as closer to pornography; it is itself a distortion of something good. Gambling is artificially increasing risk in order to profit at someone else’s expense.

It distorts “chance and risk” that occur naturally in God’s good creation. Winners profit at the expense of losers. It is essentially a form of taking from our neighbors. Gambling feeds on the sin of greed. This differentiates fundraising raffle draws from lotteries, board games with dice from rolling dice in casinos, video games from slot machines. Gambling does not honor God, God's creation, or show love to our neighbors.

Furthermore, the church’s gospel witness might be tarnished as there are people who would see it as hypocritical for the church to use funds from gambling.

Because lotteries are pervasive in our society, and a lot of lottery funds are channeled into charities and community organizations, it is not always easy to discern where funds originate. Hence, we need to show grace if Christians unknowingly or can’t help but use such funds.

As Christians, we should not intentionally use wrongfully gained funds, if we can help it.

About the Author

Shiao Chong is editor-in-chief of The Banner. He attends Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, Ont.

Shiao Chong es el redactor jefe de The Banner. El asiste a Iglesia Comunidad Cristiana Reformada en Toronto, Ont. 

시아오 총은 더 배너 (The Banner)의 편집장이다. 온타리오 주 토론토의 펠로우쉽 CRC에 출석한다.

You can follow him @shiaochong (Twitter) and @3dchristianity (Facebook).  

See comments (3)


Excellent and insightful "Answer" Chong.  Thanks for that.

I'm glad the author can afford not to use Lottery to improve his lot in life, but what if someone living on Disability Income buys a tcket and wins the big draw?  Personally, I find it a lot more problematic to keep people with disabilities living below the poverty line because they can't work or find gainful employment since many employers won't hire us because of prejudice; i.e. they assume that because we have a disability in one area we're either incapable to work at all or we're mentally incompetent as well.  There is something morally wrong about punishing people who can't work by forcing them to eke out a hand to mouth existence under the pretext that since they don't work, they don't need as much money as those who do.  How would you like to have to choose between eating three meals a day or taking your medication?  Or always have to deny yourselves little pleasures that those who earn a decent living take for granted?  Lotteries may be on the same ethical level as pronography, but then so should poverty be in societies like Canada.

I'm curious as to whether or not the principle of refusing funds from a lottery winner should be applied to funds received from those who win big in the stock or real estate market.  Would investing in shares or purchasing real estate (with the hopes that values go up) not be equivalent to gambling?  Don't many of us have retirement plans (IRA or RRSP) that are based on investments that aren't "guaranteed"?  I suspect many of our churches have received donations that flow from the profits investors have made by taking a risk (some would say gambling) on the value of real estate and/or stock markets and/or money markets etc.   Please realize that I do not support addictive gambling but when a charity holds a 50/50 draw or has a lottery with the majority of funds flowing to good work, I can't see the problem.