Christians don’t gamble. Other people may spend billions every year hoping to hit the elusive jackpot, state governments may be delighted with their billion-dollar casinos, hundreds of millions may be bet annually on horses and poker machines, bingo and lotto, but Christians will not be found among those coveting a win. As faithful stewards they will not sacrifice God’s money on the altar of chance.
But what if…
But what if we don’t have to pay anything and can still be in the running to win something. What if we merely complete an entry form or put our signature on the back of a shop’s docket and drop it in the barrel for the draw, or sign the slip when we get a haircut, or…you name it. Indeed, what if we don’t actually do anything and yet find ourselves having won something?
Strangely enough it happened to me and I found myself having to defend my actions to them.
You see, one evening a bank lady phoned and said something about me “being in a draw”. A draw? My mind started ticking over. Something to do with art? Westerns? Chimney smoke? But… she mentioned the word Bank. Had we overdrawn our bank account? Stammering some more questions, and displaying my profound ignorance of certain newspaper and TV advertisements, I discovered it had something to do with “being lucky” and that a “confirmation was in the mail”.
I found that we did indeed deal with that bank and, yes, we had our housing loan with them. It appeared that the bank was granting a month’s free payment to a few “lucky winners” every month. This month my name happened to be drawn as the “lucky winner”.
Well, well. Who would have thought it? We’d actually won hundreds of dollars of loan repayment! Not to be sneezed at. My children were delighted for us – that is, till I told them we wouldn’t accept.
Wouldn’t accept!? Had they heard right?
Yes, I assured them, they had. I would write to the bank manager declining the ‘win’. We didn’t want it.
“But Dad! Why on earth not?”
Why indeed. “Well, because the bank told us that we were lucky winners and that, as ‘chance’ would have it, we have won the draw. It’s sort of like gambling and as Christians we don’t gamble.”
“But Dad, this isn’t gambling. You didn’t pay money to buy a ticket. You didn’t even put a signature on something to say you wanted to be in a draw. You couldn’t do anything about it. You couldn’t even help winning!”
“That’s true. But the thing is that if we accept this ‘win’ we show our approval, our endorsement, of an unfair sales gimmick which promotes the idea of luck and appeals to people’s desire to get something for nothing. People should be content with what the Lord gives them.”
“But Dad, we know of some church people who have accepted wins in the past. If they can do it, why can’t we?”
“Well… uh… I don’t know about them. But what other people do, even those in church, should never be the rule for our lives. We should always be guided by what the Lord says in His Word.”
“Well, Dad, where does it say in the Bible that we can’t accept this win? They didn’t even have banks in those days.”
“True, but you must remember that the Bible isn’t a dictionary of texts which spells out exactly what we should do in every occasion. What it gives us is principles which govern all our behaviour. We also find them in the catechism. Look here, Lord’s Day 9:
In Him I trust so completely as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul…
The principle here is that we should trust Him for all we need. And in Lord’s Day 10:
…indeed, all things come not by chance but by His Fatherly hand.”
“But Dad, that means that this win didn’t come by chance either. Perhaps the Lord guided things so that you would win.”
“It’s true that nothing happens by chance, but in whatever comes our way we are governed by the principles of God’s Word. If I found a bundle of $5000 lying on the footpath I can’t say, ‘Hey, here’s $5000. Nothing happens by chance. The Lord must want me to keep this!’ No, I must do what’s right and bring the money to the police. If I win a raffle or something else in which the outcome is said to be governed by luck or chance, I must again do what’s right. And the principle in this case is that we trust not in chance but in the Lord, who provides us with all we need. Don’t we experience that? Look, we have a house, food, a car, clothes to wear, work to earn our living, and if there isn’t work, He would still provide for us through the deacons. Hasn’t the Lord richly provided for us and for all the people in the church?
Think also of what Abraham did. When he saved Lot and brought back the spoils of war, he refused to keep them in case the king of Sodom said, ‘I have made Abraham rich’. Abraham wanted to receive blessings only from the Lord. We should do the same. It shouldn’t be able to be said of us, ‘They were lucky. They wouldn’t be where they are now if it hadn’t been for one or another lucky win they had.’ We should always be able to point to the Lord as the source of all our blessings. He teaches us to be content with what He gives us through our normal daily work. He says through Paul: Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content (1 Tim. 6).”
“What will you write to the bank, Dad?”
“I’ll briefly tell them a few reasons why I decline to accept the ‘prize’. I’ll say:
- As a Christian I do not want to profit from a scheme associated with luck. God has given me abundantly all I need, and more. That your scheme promotes the notion gaining something for nothing though ‘luck’ is evident from your advertising pamphlet’s use of such terms as ‘the big draw’ and ‘lucky people’.
- I also believe that people who are in a position to work should be rewarded for the work they do; not for something they have not done.
- A scheme to which all borrowers contribute indirectly, but which returns favours to a ‘lucky’ few, strikes me as basically unfair. Would it not be fairer if the advertising gimmick which appealed to people’s ‘desire to get something for nothing’ were to be dropped and the cost otherwise expended on it shared out to all the bank’s mortgages?”
“Do you think they’ll understand, Dad?”
“Perhaps not, but that should never stop us from saying what we must.”