To Lotto or not to Lotto – this is the question.

Somebody asked me the other day what the Christian response should be to the Lotto.  The National Lottery (known as the Lotto) is operated by an organisation known as Gidani.  Gidani works in collaboration with the National Lotteries Board.  Thembi Tulwana, the spokesperson for Gidani said on Monday, January 3 2011 “NOTHING LIKE A R23 MILLION JACKPOT TO SEE ONE THROUGH THE DIFFICULT MONTH OF JANUARY.  The LOTTO game has entered 2011 with a bang. A whopping jackpot prize estimated at R23 million is up for grabs this Wednesday. With January perceived by many as being very difficult financially, winning the LOTTO millions would make the month a breeze for anyone who manages to match all six winning numbers…….”

Despite a logo which declares that one should “Play responsibly, it’s only a game”, what Tulwana said carries strong innuendoes that the lottery is perceived to be a practical way to handle the challenges and difficulties in life.  And for many people the lottery is more than just a game.  It is their only hope for financial survival.

The National Lottery is only one of many forms of gambling available to would be punters.  Every Christian, naturally, wants to know and needs to know what God has to say about gambling.

There is not a lot said in the Bible about gambling as such.  But the whole psyche behind gambling is certainly dealt with in the Scriptures.  Gambling, at its heart, is an attempt to get something for nothing.  Its language includes an appeal to “luck” and “fortune” and “the smile of the gods.”  When the Bible does say something about the subject, what it says is negative.  For example, in Isaiah 65:11, God condemns His people for forsaking Him and turning to Gad and Meni, the gods of fortune (good luck) and destiny.

The clear teaching of the Scriptures is that we are to rely on God to take care of us and supply our daily bread.  Jesus includes this idea in the prayer He taught His disciples to pray (Matthew 6:11).  In the prayer He taught us, we are to ask God and not Lady Luck for our daily needs.  We are to give honest work for honest pay and trust God through this that He will supply our needs sufficiently. (The problem usually arises when we confuse our wants with our needs.)

When Paul wrote to Titus he said, amongst other things, that “Our people must learn to devote themselves to what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” (Titus 3:14).  Perhaps more telling is the instruction Paul gave to the Thessalonians: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10).  He went on to say, “We urge … them … in the Lord Jesus Christ, to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” (2 Thess. 3:12)

Professor DP van der Merwe made the following observation in his book “Living a Full Life.”    “Gordon Spykman once wrote that ‘There are roughly four kinds of people in the world:

“What is yours is mine, and I’ll take it,” says the robber.

“What is mine is mine, and I’ll keep it,” says the miser.

“What is mine is yours, so I’ll share it,” says the humanist.

“What is mine is God’s, so I’ll share it,” says the Christian.’

He then went on to ask, “Which category applies to you?  We must remember that none of our possessions really belongs to us. All that we have is a gift from God. In Psalm 24:1 we read, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; …’ Jesus says, ‘… do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body what you will wear, but first seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.’ Also read Matthew 6:25–34.”[1]

Is it acceptable for a Christian to play the lotto?  Perhaps the question we should be asking is, “Should a Christian be content with what God provides for him through his hard work and honest labour, or should a Christian trust the gods, Gad and Meni, to meet the desires of his heart?”  The former expresses our obedience to God’s will and our respect for Him.  The latter reveals our failure to trust God and our preference to trust in the ways of this world for our daily sustenance.

Pastor Nigel



[1] Van der Merwe, D., & Eloff, F. (1997). Living a full life : A pictorial interpretation of the Ten Commandments. Orion: Halfway House.