By Herbert Fraser
State lotteries are much in the news and have been for some time. Legalized lotteries are not really new. In this nation, they were fairly common in the nineteenth century, the last one was abolished in 1982. State operated lotteries in their present form began about twenty years ago, and have been adopted by approximately one-third of the states, with other states involved in drives to adopt them.
A great deal of promotion is evident in these drives, reference made to winnings and revenues available for financing state projects.
The following material does not deal with the issue of claimed advantages to such state projects (as schools) or disadvantages to a stable society, per se. It does deal with the issue from a basically moral and biblical perspective.
Environments are well-known influential factors in ideological as in physical matters (the classic “Corinth syndrome”). We should not be greatly surprised, therefore, to learn that some members of the Lord’s body are uncritical of lotteries, with some members even participating in them. It is hoped that the following study will be helpful to these, if there be such, as to others.
Lotteries are but one form of gambling, of course. And not all that is termed gambling is essentially the same. It is recognized that the word “gambling” is used in various ways, its broadest meaning being “risk taking to obtain a return.” This writer is not interested in engaging in mere semantics. Thus, should any insist that farming, marketing, automobile driving, and cooking constitute gambling (because they are risk-taking ventures), no objection here is raised. The issue of lotteries goes far beyond the subject of risk-taking.
There are risk-taking ventures that are considerably different from parimutuel horse racing, bingo, “crap-shooting,” and lotteries.
In the first, focus is on skill and effort as criteria for success. In the second, focus is on chance, or accident.
There are, of course, risk-taking ventures of the latter kind in which skill is present in contestants (as horse racing). In these, however, attempts are made to offset such differences (as by handicapping) in order to make the ventures more “chancy.”
Lotteries do not have such “problems. ” Essentially, they are clearly and purely chance oriented.
What Lotteries Do
With lotteries identified as chance-oriented ventures, let’s note their features and fruit. The lifestyle biblically ~that is, divinely) recommended is considerably different from the lifestyle that is chance-oriented. Let’s now consider the following evidences, both individually and cumulatively.
1. Lotteries express and promote irresponsibility as a feature of life. Conscious exercise of one’s talents in proper and purposeful ways is urgently recommended by the Lord in His word (see Matt. 25:14-15). Such responsible stewardship involves a high level of acumen and effort.
2. Lotteries are non-productive, even wasteful. This is apparent as the source of the “winnings” is noted. The Lord designed and desires man to be productive (see Gen. 2:15; 3:19a; Prov. 4:23a; 2 Thess. 3:12; Eph. 4:28). Lotteries, by their very nature, are barren and parasitic.
3. Lotteries, as all such chance-oriented ventures, are addictive and self-destructive. The qualities of sobriety (mind soundness and balance) are urgently recommended by the Lord (see 1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Pet. 1:5). It is greatly important that man, as a responsible being, be in full possession of his faculties. Whatever tends to disrupt orderliness of outlook and enslave the mind is to be shunned.
A little honest investigation should convince a person that chance-oriented activities do tend to harmfully affect the orderly processes of the mind — even to encourage addiction to such endeavors. The “something for nothing” syndrome has resulted in compulsive chance-taking for many. And this is most unhealthy.
4. Lotteries are clearly exploitative of others. Every person has the responsibility to deal with his fellow man respectfully and benevolently, and without greed (see Acts 20:35). When one’s “profit” is expected to come from others’ “loss,” covetous unconcern with reference to others prevails.
In view of all the above, lotteries can hardly be properly considered as either an asset to society or an innocent pastime.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 12, p. 367
June 20, 1985