Americans spend more money on the lottery than on any other form of “leisure.” American gamblers are seeking either (1) entertainment; or (2) wealth; or both. I use the words “leisure” and “entertainment” here only to highlight that lottery proponents think of lottery as entertainment. The official Powerball Web site says,
“The Lottery games are just that – games. Lottery games are designed to be enjoyable entertainment for adults, and for the vast majority of lottery players, that’s exactly what they are” (emp. added).
This represents one form of the argument in favor of the proposition that gambling one’s money is ethical. Here is the argument: “Gambling my money (through the lottery, through the casino, or otherwise) is entertaining and is no more wrong than spending a few dollars to go to an entertaining basketball game.” This is a lie of the devil, for the following reasons:
- Every participant in gambling (but not everyone who went to a ball game) violated the golden rule. The gambler hopes that all other gamblers lose their money so that he can take it from them. Jesus opposes this (Matthew 7:12).
- Every participant in gambling (but not everyone who went to a ball game) put himself at risk for addiction. Scientific American reported in its November 2013 issue that two million Americans are addicted to gambling and that gambling interferes with the work and social life of 20 million Americans. The same journal gave a stunning explanation of how one becomes addicted to gambling. Jesus would have people not indulge in activities that tend to make them lose control of their wills and become unable to stop (1 Corinthians 6:12; Galatians 5:23).
- Every participant in gambling (but not everyone who went to a ball game) rebelled against God in prodigality, or wastefulness. The odds of winning the recent, largest-ever lottery were 1 in 282 million. Those who play the lottery are literally throwing their money away, but Jesus commands us to be good stewards (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Peter 4:10).
- Every gambler (but not everyone who went to a ball game) demonstrated his own covetousness. One who is willing to hurt others to get material gain has a sinful desire for money, which ruins this life and the afterlife (1 Corinthians 6:10; Ephesians 5:5; 1 Timothy 6:10).
- Everyone who bought a lottery ticket (but not everyone who went to a ball game) participated in a system that harms the poor and destroys families. Lotteries appeal disproportionately to those with less money, and the purchase of every ticket encourages people to waste more of their families’ support. This is against the Bible (1 Timothy 5:8).
If the devil gets us to believe that gambling is no different ethically from other leisure activities, then he will have played us for fools.