Matthew R. Perry

“Don’t Play the Lottery for Me!” (John Piper)

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2007 at 4:45 pm

The West Virginia pastors who accepted Jack Whittaker’s tithe on
his $170 million Powerball booty should be ashamed of themselves.
One of them said, “That’s a blessing to have that kind of backing.”
I don’t think so.

Christ does not build his church on the backs of the poor. The
engine that delivers his righteousness in the world is not driven
by the desire to get rich. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not
advanced by undermining civic virtue. Let the pastors take their
silver and throw it back into the temple of greed.

In 2001 Americans wagered $57 billion dollars on lotteries, $18
billion on horses and dogs, $592 billion in casinos, and $150
billion on other gambling. This is a blot on American life. Break
it down to individuals. Massachusetts sells more than $500 worth of
lottery tickets each year for every man, woman, and child. Think
how many do not gamble, and you will begin to imagine what
thousands are throwing away to have a 1-to-135,145,920 chance for
the jackpot.

The American exploitation of the poor with lotteries muddies the
conscience of many legislators. Statistics abound that “the
government-sponsored lottery continues its shameless exploitation
of the poor” (James Dobson, April, 1999 Newsletter). This
exploitation is explicit in some of the advertising bought by the
$400 million spent annually by states to promote lotteries. For
example, in Chicago one sign read: “This could be your ticket out.”
That is shameless. Other promotions mock the virtues of hard work
and serious study as a way to make a living. Plan A: Study hard,
save money, get old. Plan B: Play the lottery.

Only a few, it seems, are willing to say how far and how
manifold are the corrupting effects of the lottery. How many have
pondered this insight from Richard Neuhaus, “In a democracy, the
need for popular consent to tax is a powerful check on government
growth and irresponsibility. A government that raises money by
encouraging and exploiting the weaknesses of its citizens escapes
that democratic mechanism of accountability. As important,
state-sponsored gambling undercuts the civic virtue upon which
democratic governance depends” (First Things, Sept., 1991, p.
12).

Is it a “blessing” for the church of Jesus Christ to have the
backing of a social sickness that “destroys marriages, undermines
the work ethic, increases crime, motivates suicide, destroys the
financial security of families . . . and dupes people into
believing [it] will benefit the children” (Dobson)?

Don’t play Powerball for me. And don’t play it for Bethlehem. I
go on record now that I will not knowingly take any money won from
gambling. And I will do my best to lead the elders of our church
from accepting any money offered to this church from the proceeds
of gambling.

We are followers of Jesus. He had no place to lay his head and
did not accept the demonic temptation to jump off the temple for
the jackpot of instant recognition. The Calvary road is not paved
with Powerball tickets, but with blood. The Church was bought once
by One who refused the short cut of instant triumph. It will never
be bought by those who dream of riches.

The lottery is another opportunity to pierce your soul with many
pangs, and lead your children into ruin. The Bible says, “Those who
desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish
and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. . .
. Some by longing for it . . . and pierced themselves with many a
pang (1 Timothy 6:9-10). In other words, the desire to be rich is
suicidal. And endorsing it is cruel.

It is wrong to wager with a trust fund. And all we have, as
humans, is a trust fund. Everything we have is a trust from God, to
be used for his glory. “[God] himself gives to all mankind life and
breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Faithful trustees may not
gamble with a trust fund. They work and trade: value for value,
just and fair. This is the pattern again and again in Scripture.
And when you are handling the funds of another, how much more
irresponsible it is to wager!

Don’t play the Lottery for Bethlehem Baptist Church. We will
not, I pray, salve your conscience by taking one dime of your
plunder, or supporting even the thought of your spiritual suicide.
Let the widow give her penny and the laborer his wage. And keep
your life free from the love of money.

Pastor John


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