"[S]uddenly even a Baptist preacher like me who has never played the lottery in my life finds myself tempted to buy a ticket."

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Donn R Arms's picture

The little convenience store that sold the winning Mega ticket is just a block from our home. We have had news trucks, traffic, and even a helicopter all day. I have purchased a lot of gas there, but never a lottery ticket.

Donn R Arms

Bert Perry's picture

Xerxes from the Veggie Tales Esther, who, upon hearing Miss Ackmetha's ode to puppies in the beauty contest, says "what am I gonna do with all them dogs?". 

Here, "What would I do with all them dollars?".  In any case where I contemplate the addition of large amounts of money to my bank account, the simple fact arises that apart from indulging fleshly lusts in a ludicrous way, I've got no use for it, and quite frankly I don't know that I could even give it away without doing huge harm to the recipients of my largesse--it would free them to do the same kind of stupid, worldly things I'd be tempted to do.  

And largely taking from poor people who have little else besides hope seals the deal--no deal on lottery tickets.  Sure, I wonder, but thankfully a bit of sobriety takes over when I consider the consequences.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

I agree Bert. I honestly wouldn’t want even 10 million. I just think it would be a huge distraction from serving the Lord. It’s different of course for those who have slowly accumulated their wealth and have been good stewards. I am reading a book right now with J. Gresham Machen’s letters from France in WWl. He was well off and had earned more than he could spend in the YMCA during the war. When the war ended and he was leaving he gave some money to a gospel ministry. Then of course he used a lot of his own money to start Westminster. Wealthy Christians are often a blessing to the church but instant wealth just seems like too great a temptation for all but the most disciplined believers. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

A co-worker bought a lottery ticket. I told him I wouldn't buy a lottery ticket, but asked if he'd be willing to give my church $1,000,000 if he won. He promised he would!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

WallyMorris's picture

So . . . what if struggling Christian colleges were approached by someone who won big in a lottery and offered to give some money to the college. Take it or not?

How about Christian students receiving tuition money which came from their state's lottery? So . . we won't buy a lottery ticket but will accept money from the lottery for college expenses?

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Jim's picture

The lottery, as ill-advised as it is, is a $ 2 sin:

  • The lottery, as almost everyone knows, is a regressive tax (impacts the poor disproportionately)
  • States love it because it is a "fun", "painless" and voluntary (fools walk in) tax
  • Here's how Minnesota uses their share: "More than $2.9 billion has been generated for programs that benefit Minnesotans. Lottery proceeds help restore, enhance and protect high-quality habitat for Minnesota wildlife; fight invasive species; protect native species and improve air and water quality through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Natural Resources Fund, and the Game & Fish Fund. A portion of every dollar played supports General Fund programs like education, public safety and health & human services."

On throwing down the 2 bucks:

  • I doubt many just do $ 2 .... probably "players" "invest / waste" more!
  • Here's the extent of the "problem": "an average $325 a year is wagered on lottery tickets for every adult in the United States. ... low income players spend a much larger percentage of their income on tickets than wealthy players."
  • If half of the citizens play ... the average is over $ 600
    • That's now big $$
    • Could be saved for retirement OR
    • Given to charity

But there are probably some who - when the payout gets massive - will plunk down $ 2!

My son recently lost less than $ 100 on a penny stock. He viewed it as an investment with low downside risk (lose less than 100) vs large upside potential. (I eschew penny stocks. Sears, the formerly great and mighty retail  juggernaut is now a penny stock (trading today at ..37))

Some could view the $ 2 "investment" in Powerball the same: Today's cash value is $ 428M. The odds of winning are 1 in 292 million. So today it is a good investment: low downside risk w high upside potential.

The larger issue is the heart issue ... is it idolatry? I think that a very strong case could be made for that.

Our local news did a man on the street feature where half a dozen were asked what they would do with their lottery winnings: every answer was altruistic. But in reality how many would really use the proceeds unselfishly?

 

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

So . . . what if struggling Christian colleges were approached by someone who won big in a lottery and offered to give some money to the college. Take it or not?

How about Christian students receiving tuition money which came from their state's lottery? So . . we won't buy a lottery ticket but will accept money from the lottery for college expenses?

No need to let other people's stupid foolishness go to waste.

Bert Perry's picture

....what the distribution of spending on the lottery is.  Is it half the population buying a ticket per family per day, or is it significantly a much smaller population gambling much larger amounts?  That would make a big difference in determining whether it's a "harmless tax on people who are bad at math" or "something offering false hope and delivering misery."  

And the answer to that question, along with the need for a small Christian college to maintain relationships with its supporters, might well be the answer to Wally's question.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

I did a fully study on this and wrote a research paper that was published in a peer reviewed publication.  For states that use the lottery funds for educational purposes, the vast majority of lottery sales takes place through low income minority individuals, and the lottery funds are given to middle to upper class, white individuals for college scholarships.  People don't like to talk about this kind of wealth distribution, but this is what the facts state.  So a typical HS student that is in SC, that has good grades and is on the Hope Scholarship going to BJU, those tuition fees would be paid by lottery money, typically paying for a white student, taken from income from a low income black person.  The whole model is a travesty.

Jonathan Charles's picture

I’ve had folks try to equate investing in stocks with playing the lottery. Both are gambling. Not necessarily. When you buy a stock, you share in the ownership of a company; you get a share of its earnings (dividends). The stock market can be gambling if you invest in things you don’t understand, or if you invest speculatively.  But investing in a sound investment like a S&P 500 index fund (for the long term) is not gambling. There are risks, to be sure, but that is the same with buying a house or car. No one would consider those purchases examples of gambling. When you buy a lottery ticket, you aren’t buying anything. 

dgszweda's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:

I’ve had folks try to equate investing in stocks with playing the lottery. Both are gambling. Not necessarily. When you buy a stock, you share in the ownership of a company; you get a share of its earnings (dividends). The stock market can be gambling if you invest in things you don’t understand, or if you invest speculatively.  But investing in a sound investment like a S&P 500 index fund (for the long term) is not gambling. There are risks, to be sure, but that is the same with buying a house or car. No one would consider those purchases examples of gambling. When you buy a lottery ticket, you aren’t buying anything. 

Lets also be clear that there are large parts of investing that are have elements of gambling.  A key example will be shorting stock.  In addition, there are lot of irrational activities that take place in stocks and such.  While it is not a 1:1 type of gambling like a lottery that is based on chance, you are "betting" on the performance of the company based on certain factors which may or may not always influence a stock.

Bert Perry's picture

With gambling, you have a pie of fixed size.  With investing, you are putting money into theoretically productive resources, and the pie grows.  I can profit from investing without taking anything away from anyone; I cannot do the same with gambling.

Risk in both, but the rules of the game are quite different.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

With gambling, you have a pie of fixed size.  With investing, you are putting money into theoretically productive resources, and the pie grows.  I can profit from investing without taking anything away from anyone; I cannot do the same with gambling.

Risk in both, but the rules of the game are quite different.

That is great showing some difference between the two, but that doesn't answer the question.  In investing you are taking something away from someone, who are taking ownership away from other investors, in the form of a share, thus diluting their overall ownership stake.  You took it away, because you were willing to pay a higher price than anyone else, and you were willing to pay a price that the seller was willing to take to part ways with his ownership stake.  That is all great and everything, but

Gambling is defined as "playing a game of chance, betting" or "taking a risky action in hope of a result".  When investing you are both taking a level of chance and you are taking a risky action.  The price can go up or down independent of any action taken by you and can go up and down independent of rational  choices or decision making.  Yes you are making a better informed decision than a pure game of chance, but it is probably a decision that not that more informed than betting on a sports game.  Purchasing a Government Treasury is the closest thing to investing where you are not gambling.

G. N. Barkman's picture

You invest in a house, hoping the value will rise.  It may decline.  Did you gamble and lose, or simply make a reasonable purchase?  Every purchase contains some element of risk.  You buy  groceries.  It's possible they are contaminated.  Did you gamble with your health, or simply make a reasonable purchase?  You purchase a car, which may be a lemon.  Was that a gamble, or simply the unavoidable risk that comes with any car purchase?

Investing in stocks is buying a small stake in ownership of a business.  Is that a gamble?  Perhaps, in the same way that owning any business is something of a gamble, whether you own 100% or one one thousandth of one percent.  Stock purchasing is a smaller gamble because you don't have a very large stake in the loss if it fails.

But I fail to understand how purchasing stock is taking something away from another.  I fail to see how any voluntary purchase is taking something away from another.  If I don't want to part with something, I don't have to sell.  If someone increases the incentive sufficiently to make me change my mind, their purchase is not taking anything away from me.  I choose to part with it because I wanted the value in money more than I wanted the item.

About a year ago someone approached us about purchasing our house.  We told them we were not interested.  They approached us two more times, so finally we named a price considerably more than market value.  We didn't hear from them again.  But if they had come up with our asking price, we would have sold even though we had not planned to sell.  Would they have taken anything from us?  No.  We simply decided the incentive to sell was greater than our desire to stay.

G. N. Barkman