Ethics: A Church Member Wins the Lottery

What would you do Wednesday!

While away visiting relatives in another state one of your friends from church bought a $1 lottery ticket at the influence of his cousin. He never plays the lottery and hasn’t thought much about it. He figured that it was only $1 so what could it hurt?

It turns out that your friend ended up winning $5 million!

He comes to you for advice on what to do. He’s not sure how the folks at your church may react. He’s not sure if he should tell anyone or not. One of the first things he wants to do is tithe to the church. Then he wants to pay off all of his debts and just sit on the money so that it does not take over his life in any way.

He wonders ifย  a large lump sum donation would spur conversation in the church. And he wonders if church leadership will ask where the money came from. He also does not know if he should tell anyone else in the church besides you. (Of course, his spouse knows.)

What would you do?

  • Tell him to tithe and say nothing.
  • Tell him to give all the money away since it’s lottery money.
  • Seek your pastor for advice?
  • Help find someone to manage it for him?
  • Rebuke him for playing the lottery?
  • Ask for a personal love offering? ๐Ÿ˜‰

tagged as , in Culture

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Matthew Fretwell October 20, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Great conservation piece and one which has happened (not to me).

I know that many churches will not take a tithe from a lottery winning. However, some churches run “raffles” too. Where is the line in the sand? Scripture does inform us of coming into instant wealth: Proverbs 13:11, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” Paul also says that all things are lawful, but not all things are edifying (1 Cor. 6:12). Paul also informs us to work (1 Thess. 4:11), but does that mean that a Christian cannot take a loan, be given money, or receive an inheritance (assuredly one would argue the inheritance is different; is it?). I’m not so sure we need to be so dogmatic about a silent issue. I personally do not gamble, nor play the lottery, but do not see it, in itself, as sinful, the “love” of it, or replacing God with it, is (sinful that is).

My actions: (1) Serious prayer with him and the Lord would be my true response; otherwise, (1)Tell him to give thanks to God, (2) More than tithe, if his church will not take his tithe, then give to another organization which will, (3)help him find money management tools, to pay off all of his debts. If has never played prior it is either a blessing from God, or a trap from satan. If a trap from satan, use if for God’s glory and bless others in need and walk away from the money (after paying off debts). The answer is obviously not solved here, just my opinion and how I would handle it; what is done is done.

2 Stephen Newell October 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I’ve actually given this thought in the past. Here’s my not-so-hard and fast policy.

1. Pray.
2. Tithe.
2a. If the church refuses your tithe, give it to a charitable organization that will accept it.
3. Pay off all debt.
4. Set aside enough to live on or to retire on.
5. Acquire whatever needs your family may have.
6. Give the rest away for the sake of the Gospel.
7. Pray.

Notice I never mention quitting your job or any of the other canned responses. The main reason for setting aside $$ to live on is solely to make oneself available for Kingdom work. Of course, one could do this, quit one’s job, and then devote the entirety of their time to Kingdom work…

3 Sam October 20, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Too often things like this become guilt dongles that hang off of us and get in the way of our real work. Praying is always a great idea. Then I would say, in the absents of some burning desire to give to project X, stick it in the bank and wait for the need to show up. I would not share a single penny without sheer joy in doing so or the gift is compulsory and worthless. You are better off keeping the money and at least being honest with yourself. Acts 7:48 should set your mind at ease, you won’t in the least hinder any of God’s plans, regardless of what you do with that money. Joy in your savior, start and end there. The rest is details.

4 Mark October 21, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Guys, thanks a lot for the balanced comments. And thanks for not going off on a rant against the lottery. Notice, I say “rant” not edifying disagreement. ๐Ÿ™‚

5 Stephen Newell October 21, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Notice the Dave Ramsey influence there… ๐Ÿ˜‰

6 Mark October 21, 2010 at 8:21 pm

LOL! Yeah, I’ve met Dave. He’s a nice guy and I appreciate what he does.

7 AshleyD October 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Again, kind of like my remark on the yoga post, it is shocking to me how …what’s the word for it?…maybe rigid some Christians apparently are. A church wouldn’t accept tithe from the lottery?! To me the lottery is not even gambling. Gambling is when you go and risk lots of money on these games that can become addictive…spending $1 is not like that. I always am happy when states have the lottery – the proceeds usually help fund things like education, and someone lucky will get millions — which can be used for very good things like giving to charity! I’d much rather a Christian win who will tithe and give to charity than someone win who would not..There is nothing sinful about having money – so much good can be done with it. In fact if you don’t have money, the ways you can truly make an impact in this world and help others is limited…thus, I see no problem with buying a lottery ticket. As someone above pointed out, how is it any different than buying raffle tickets, which many churches sell for fundraisers? it’s the same thing!

8 AshleyD October 27, 2010 at 2:48 pm

just wanted to clarify what I meant when I said if you have money you can make greater impacts – what I meant was, with money you can do wonderful things like build homes for abandoned children in India or for survivors of human trafficking, or provide scholarships for children from poor families, etc etc. I know 2 women who were married to wealthy men who were able to stop working and devote their lives full time to philanthropy and founded nonprofits that are impacthing the lives of thousands. winning the lottery would enable any of us to be able to do these wonderful things ๐Ÿ™‚

9 Jeff October 27, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Being raised Catholic I don’t see the issue, we had bingo on Sunday nights in the church hall and everyone has bought a raffle ticket at a church fair to win a prize.
If this was a one time thing that was outside the norm for him, can that be a sign from above that he was meant to win this money to do something good with it?

10 Michael October 28, 2010 at 2:24 am

Whack it in the bank and live off the interest. No problems.

Lotteries are God’s way of helping those people He chooses to help.

Even the disciple who replaced Judas was chosen “by lot”.

11 Rhology October 28, 2010 at 10:13 am

At some point, remind him that the lottery is a stupid tax.
That said, since MY church has a very low view of the lottery (I think they take it a bit too seriously, but whatever), either work with him to give whatever offering he’d like to give to the church ANONYMOUSLY, or to a missions organisation.

Then once he’s given the cut he thinks is best, get him in touch with a Dave Ramsey ELP for financial management. ๐Ÿ˜€

12 Evie December 21, 2010 at 10:57 am

I am not sure if my church would accept the tithe. A good question to ask my pastor ๐Ÿ™‚ But what I would do in this situation is direct him to our pastor since I’ve never really heard this come up before. I can’t imagine a solid church saying “Wow, that’s great! Congratulations!” The Lottery IS gambling. Just because it was a dollar does not change what it is. “To gamble is to wager on a contest or to play at a game of chance for stakes. When you gamble, you are risking money (or something else of value) on the outcome of something that involves an element of chance, uncertainty, or hazardโ€”for the possibility of winning something someone else has put at stake.” (Phil Johnson) It is not good stewardship no matter what the amount. Not to be confused with investment. Whether it is five cents or 500 dollars, the amount does not change the fact that it is a “gamble”. Anyway, it’s not “rigid Christianity”, it’s principle. Sweepstakes and contests would be totally different – no money thrown away. The clearest explanation I’ve read of how Gambling is โ€” *gasp* โ€” sinful was given by Phil Johnson (from Grace to You). Read it here: it shows all of the posts in the series. A long read but the most ~thorough~ on the subject I think! ๐Ÿ™‚

13 HJS November 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm

All the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, and He gives it to whomever He chooses!


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