By Carl McMurray
No, I’m not speaking of “an open door” for evangelism, as the term is generally used, but of a back door left open for the devil. It is one which I would like to close here. In a recent article on gambling, carried in this magazine (39:2, p. 38, “The Gambling Pendulum”), I addressed three areas of this subject. Those three areas were.. . misconceptions concerning gambling, its past history, and the scriptural wrong doing of such activities. The thought behind the article and my arguments were aimed specifically at “created” risks where “stakes” were deliberately “chanced” and profit could only come at the “loss” of another. Such activities as lotteries, slot machines, card games, pools, and betting on such things as horse or dog races would all fall into this category, as well as a host of other things.
Without rehashing that article, my scriptural objections were…
1. It is covetousness (Eph. 5:5), i.e. desiring that which belongs to another.
2. It violates the law of love (Matt. 22:37-39), i.e. takes the loser’s money without exchange of goods or services.
3. And it encourages a love of money (1 Tim. 6:9-10) with all its accompanying snares and temptations.
Any time anyone buys a chance, a ticket, a donation, or a number in which the “winnings” will come from a “pot” that is made up of others losing, he falls prey to the devil’s schemes listed above.
One paragraph in the article, however, has drawn some attention and needs some clarification. Some seemed to have keyed in on the word “donation,” with the under-standing that I believe this term changes things. It does not. As mentioned above, it matters not to me whether it is called a chance, a ticket, or a donation. Calling it a “donation” for a good cause does not change one iota of the above situation, and I did not intend for my use of the term to be taken that way. The focus of my article was to show where the supposed “winnings” come from, that is, actually from the pockets of “losers” and that this is a mistreatment of our fellow man.
The other term that caught the eye of several was the term “raffle.” Some who contacted me seemed to think that I was saying that “raffles” were different from “lotteries” and so were OK. I was sent more than one dictionary definition showing me that raffles are just a form of lottery and encouraging me to correct my error. Once more, I did not say this. I specifically named types of raffles where the “pot” was a donated prize from some business (purchasing advertising in this way), rather than a common pool made up of “losers’ money. I also specifically said that my “exception” was only to the charge of “covetousness.” I did not then, nor do I now, believe that it is “coveting” to desire goods which a business may offer up for customers in any way that business chooses. That business can overcharge, undercharge, or give away its product any way they choose. If you were misled by the above terms please go back and see if my specific qualifications mentioned above are not present.
My point above is just to say that there are different types of “raffles.” I realize that many (most?) are identical to lotteries. I thought that I qualified myself enough in the article so that it could be seen I was only talking about one form, and only exempting it from one of my charges. Obviously that did not get across since several wrote, seemingly with the idea that I was defending anything called a “raffle” or a “donation.” I was not. If that did not get across, then perhaps I should add a couple of thoughts to this discussion.
First, neither I nor my family participate in any form of lottery, chance, raffle, or donation ticket purchases. There may be some convoluted form of “raffle” that I would not be willing to call my brother a sinner for participating in, but I won’t even buy a ticket for that! The reason is appearance. Being a “salt” and “light” influence in the world demands that we be aware of our example. I do not think that we have to bow down to every brother’s unlearned opinion or treat the world with “kid gloves” in case they “might” misunderstand what we’re doing. But, when a practice is as prevalent and accepted as gambling is, and it’s going to take a financial audit to determine whether buying a chance is sinful or not, then maybe it’s time to wise up and back away. Even if one is not violating a specific law of God with his practice, to give the appearance of such is to dim one’s light for the Lord. To me this would make every form of “chancing” mentioned above wrong.
Secondly, in a recent phone discussion with Keith Greer, an interesting point was made. Keith works with the Lord’s church in Las Vegas. If there is one among us who has dealt with this problem, it is him and I appreciate his thoughts on the matter. If you want to hear some honor stories about gambling, talk to brother Greer. After agreeing with my statement above that there are different forms of “raffles,” he made the point that “the devil uses camouflage” (a paraphrased quote). Innocent gambling (if there is such a thing) “opens the door” for that which takes control. Amen, I agree absolutely. Satan uses “little” sins to sear one’s conscience and ensnare one deeper. My understanding of gambling is that it is like pornography and other moral sins in that it falls into the category of addictive-compulsive behavior. It has the power to ruin us. One may say, “My lottery ticket at the gas station doesn’t control me,” but we’re helping to encourage a practice that does take over the lives of many. And this stars at the lowest level of encouraging that “gambling feeling” and covetousness. If one is not willing to believe me, listen to a recent news item in the Washington Watch (Feb. 21, 1995). “Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) has introduced H.R. 497 on Jan. 11 to establish a national blue-ribbon commission to investigate the impact of rapid expansion of gaming.” The reason behind this is because “reports of increased divorce rates, child abuse, gambling addiction, and broken families are spurring broader concern.” “23 states now have casinos and Americans will bet $400 billion in 1995.” Tell me again that gambling is not a problem.
To sum up then, in addition to the first three arguments I gave to determine that the practice of gambling was sinful I would also add two additional ideas. The Christian should avoid all forms of this practice for the sake of his appearance in condoning evil and the temptation to be-come ensnared.
Lastly, I feel the need to urge some caution here. I hesitate to say anything, because I do not intend in any way to rebuke brethren. I do appreciate the concern and spirit manifested in most of the letters I received. But, I believe that some may be exercising great conviction without really knowing why. More than one who wrote me seemed to feel that “wanting” something, or even wanting some-thing at a “bargain” price, was the same as “coveting.” This is not a “gambling” issue. Many sale watchers and garage sale shoppers would argue with this I believe. Others thought the sin of “gambling” included such activities as sporting events (golf tournaments were specifically named) where one paid a fee to enter and compete, free prizes given away by business, door prizes, etc. Once again, I believe we have pushed our definitions to the limit. If the above are truly matters of conviction, then let me urge the ones who believe such to be diligent in their practice of such. But, I do not believe that arguments like this can be scripturally justified and if we try to “bind” these things on others, then in my humble opinion, only harm can result. I believe we should exercise some judgment before labeling another’s heart as “covetous” because he sees some practice in a different light than we do.
Once more, I do appreciate the concern of those who responded and the opportunity granted by Mike Willis to add these thoughts, and close this “back door.” I hope they clarified my position.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 9 p. 15-16
May 4, 1995