So here’s a moral dilemma that I’d like to explore with you. I am trying to explore a theological perspective on whether it is right for a church to apply for and receive lottery funding for its social and community work (it cannot receive funding for worship or evangelistic work). Here are the best arguments I can think of for how a Christian might justify applying for lottery funding. The counter arguments are here. The arguments are not necessarily ones I hold to – I am simply trying to build a strong case so that I have fully explored both sides of this debate.
1. The Greater Good Argument
The good that can be done with the lottery money, outweighs the means by which it has been raised.
2. The Gold from Egypt Argument
The gold that the Israelites took from their pagan Egyptian captors when they left was used to build the ark of the covenant and the Tabernacle furniture . So we have a precedent of riches from non-Christian sources can be repurposed for God’s ends.
3. The Cunning as Snakes Argument
Surely taking money to do God’s good work is an example of Jesus injunction to his church to be cunning and wily in their relationship with the world system?
4. The “No Clean Money” Argument
All money is in some ways tainted. All money in circulation has been used for some dodgy purpose somewhere along the lines. So Christians should be realistic about the financial institutions we live with.
5. Meat Offered to Idols Argument
Just as Paul was not worried about the fact that Christians bought meat that was offered to idols (unless it damaged the the conscience of other Christians). Thus the idea that money would go to fund the temple work did not seem to be a problem for Paul.
6. The Redemption Argument
Just as we were sinful and tainted with corruption and God redeemed us so God can repurpose money that had disreputable origins. This argument could also draw on the Nard that was used by a prostitute to anoint Jesus was most likely either a part of her trade or bought with the earnings of her trade. Jesus saw the pure intention that she had for its use in her worship of him and so accepted it.
7. The “It’s Better that Christians use it” argument
If Christians don’t use the lottery funding someone else will, so why would you deliberately hamstring Christian charities from drawing on common resources?
8. All Investment is Gambling Argument
Some ask if there is an intrinsic difference between money generated from gambling on the lottery and money generated from ‘gambling’ on the stop market?
9. Gambling is not intrinsically evil
Games of chance are not necessarily intrinsically evil – Proverbs seems to imply that the game of dice is still under the sovereignty of God.
We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.
“It would only be right not to take the money for good causes if one felt it was morally tainted; like money for instance, got by fraud. My doubts about the wisdom of the lottery do not amount to that”
Dr John Polkinghorne who is on the Church of England’s board for social responsibility.
So which do you think are the strongest arguments, which ones are missing?