Thinking Out Loud

April 1, 2012

Would/Should Your Church Accept Lottery Winnings?

I threw this question out in 2008 but there is now a stadium’s worth of new readers here on a regular basis, so I’m hoping for a better response.

The Mega Millions Lottery on the weekend drew a lot of attention to lotteries in general, with people interviewed prior to Friday night’s draw — which yielded three winning tickets — proclaiming the prize was simply too big and would necessitate some sharing or charitable giving.  But if the charity in question was your local church or Christian parachurch organization, would the money be accepted?  Should the money be accepted?

In the 2008 item, I quoted this story from that summer about a church which received a winning ticket anonymously and was set to receive $150,000 annually for 20 years.  The church’s immediate desire was to build a bigger church building.  Sigh!  But a little over three years later, their website shows the new building, and announces they are holding four Sunday services.

BTW, I also wrote on this topic in May of 2009.  At that point, I argued, as I still do, that there should be cap on lottery winnings.  Friday night’s $640,000,000 could just as easily been 2,000 prizes of $320,000; 4,000 prizes of $160,000 or even 8,000 prizes of $80,000.  To this writer, saying “There will be 8,000 prizes” has more attraction than saying, “There will only be one number drawn, and the odds are better of being struck by lightning than winning.”  But lottery experts say the gigantic prize is the big lure. Sorry, but people are stupid.

But we’ve gotten waaaaay off topic here.  If someone in your church won a lottery prize and wanted to donate some winnings to your church, should the church accept?  What about someone in the community at large who wants to share some of their winnings with the church?  What are your reasons/grounds for accepting or refusing?



  1. Well I think the Anglicans and United Church would have no scruples. Already membership is like that. They’ll take anyone who shows up at the door. No interview required.

    What of someone who became wealthy through crime, and then became a Christian who wanted to give? Restitution not really possible. what to do with all the money?

    Comment by Brian Johnson — April 1, 2012 @ 10:39 am

  2. It depends on their stance on gambling. If they’re opposed to it, they should not be hypocrites and should not accept the money. That would send a contradictory message to their flock.

    Comment by synapticcohesion — April 1, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

  3. Joseph worked for Pharoah, and Pharoah was polythiest, and that was God’s idea of a promotion. So I see no idea why not. Not to mention it says …the wealth of the wicked should be laid up for the just..

    Comment by Jay — April 1, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

  4. Here in Australia the gambling casinos by law must give a set percentage of their profits to charities. I know of a couple of Churches who have applied for funds and received them. Do I approve? I haven’t really looked into it, but my immediate response would be a ‘No’.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — April 1, 2012 @ 8:21 pm

  5. My pastor was speaking a few years ago on the lottery being soft gambling, and stated strongly that Christians should not be buying tickets. I coyly said “Okay, but what if one of us won a million dollars, would you turn away their 10% on Sunday morning?” He quickly and adamantly denied wanting even a cent of that money; his facial expression almost suggested anger. I know for a fact that a contribution/tithe from lottery winnings would not be accepted at Manchester Baptist.

    Let me stir the pot. I’m sure that if I were to win a big lotto jackpot I would be dismissed from the ministry my wife and I serve in. But just last week everyone donating at the blood drive was entered into a “drawing” and I won a $25 WalMart gift card. Now someone please distinguish between the two.

    Knowing where my pastor stands, at least I don’t have a moral dilemma about tithing out of that $25. :- D

    Comment by Clark Bunch — April 2, 2012 @ 6:13 am

    • Clark, I think the difference is that you didn’t give money to enter the ‘draw’. Therefore, it wasn’t gambling. “Luck” however, comes under another category and begs other questions. . .

      Comment by meetingintheclouds — April 3, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

  6. I’m not sure how you know where the money comes from. We had someone, anonymously, instruct a local bank to give the church a large sum of money. The bank called us and we picked up the cashier’s church. We have no idea where it came from, all we know is the note attached said “Keep up the good work.” No idea if it was a member, someone from the community, drug dealer, gambler, etc. I think God makes ALL things good and everything happens for His divine plan. No matter where the money comes from God can do amazing things with it, so if Joe Member wins $25k from the lottery and drops $2,500 in the plate how do you not accept it? Can God not take that money and use it for good? I don’t know. I don’t see why you couldn’t accept the money and do some awesome things with it. Seems like you are saying you know better than God.

    Comment by Jeff R. — April 2, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

  7. This is an interesting debate, and I just don’t know the answer. As someone commented above it does depend on the church stance on gambling, and for some churches it would therefore be hypocritical to accept such donations. The situation is a little different in Britain though. Public funding seems to be organised through the lottery system, so at one point I was part of a church that was applying to the lottery council for funding to update the facilities in this building. Obviously that caused a good deal of controversy amongst church members, but there was nowhere else to go to apply for funding. Is it right for a country to force religious organisations to act against their morals if they need financial assistance?

    Comment by pinksheep3108 — April 3, 2012 @ 6:54 am

  8. It can be incredibly complicated. The lottery in the state of Georgia was created to fund education. A portion of the revenue generated funds the Hope Scholarship. I went to a private school, but did get $1,000 each year from the Hope program. More specifically I went to Shorter College, a private Baptist school affiliated with the GA Baptist Convention. Baptists were very vocal about opposing the lottery in GA, which passed anyway. So… does my Baptist college accept scholarship money generated from the sale of lottery tickets? Yes, yes they did.

    Did my parents allow me to accept Hope money, which I could have refused? Also yes.

    Right, wrong, or too many shades of grey to sort through?

    Comment by Clark Bunch — April 3, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

  9. I think people waste a lot of money on many unneccessary things like particapating in raffle ticket giveaways, This is what some consider their pleasure and not thinking twice about giving a cent to charity. So I believe that a dollar a week God would not mind as long as I pay my tithes, and not my rent money. That this could be my pleasure of winning the lottery for a good cause like feeding the hungry children and not to spend it on my lust only. So I do believe God use and trust us as his instrument to do the right thing with the money. I do believe the wealth of the sinner is laid up for God’s people who use it for good and not bad.

    Comment by Mottie — April 6, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

  10. I don’t see a difference between putting money in a game to win money and putting money in the financial markets to win money. They both rely on statistical data, timing and luck.

    If someone tithes from their personal income…And their income derives from Aerospace that makes war machines, weapons manufacturing or Central Intelligence Agencies that causes harm and death sometimes… Should not those monies be considered ungodly too?

    I just want to know the difference.

    Comment by Reverend Anthony Johnese — January 15, 2017 @ 8:56 pm

    • I suppose you could only invest in ethical companies or only work for ethical employers, but generally I think you’ve made a really good point here. Two good points, really.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — January 15, 2017 @ 9:14 pm

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