9 Reasons that Churches shouldn’t apply for lottery funding

I am continuing to think out loud about churches applying for lottery funding for social action projects. You can see 9 reasons why church’s should receive money from the lottery here.  The views expressed here are not necessarily my own, I am just trying to build the strongest case I can. What do you think friends?

1. Lottery funds are essentially dirty money

The money that comes from the lottery is gained through an immoral source and is therefore contaminated . The ends to which the money is put towards do not justify the means by which the money was gained. A lot of the arguments that are presented below are related to this basic premise.

2. Receiving lottery funding gives implicit consent to gambling

The lottery is a form of gambling that could act as a gateway to other more addictive forms of gambling. Scratch cards are seen to be particularly unhelpful as you are actively encouraged to “chase your losses” by buying  more cards. At its best the church is working with those most vulnerable to gambling addictions and so to be receiving money from the proceeds of gambling is hypocritical.

3. Receiving lottery funding validates the false hope that gambling provides

The lottery has long been described as an implicit tax on the poor because it offers a false hope of escaping poverty through an astronomically unlikely event occurring.  The lottery is a destructive force in society that does not help the poor but actually makes their lives worse because of the money wasted on playing and the false dreams it promotes ( see the EA ACUTE report from 1996).

4. Receiving lottery could restrict or redirect the activities of a church

As the saying go “He who pays the piper calls the tunes.” So churches that chase lottery funding may well reshape their community work so that it meets the lottery funding parameters – this will be towards social amelioration work rather than evangelism.

5. Receiving lottery funding model bad stewardship

Rather than wasting money on the lottery people should either give money directly to good causes. The support of good causes is merely a conscience easing aspect of the work .

 “In the year ending 31 March 2013, 28% of total National Lottery revenue was returned to the Good Causes”

The lottery both discourages people from giving selflessly it also encourages gambling instead of saving as a way out of poverty.

6. God’s people should pay for God’s work

Rather than rely on pay outs from external sources, the church should pay for its own ministry. Even in its work amongst the poor there is more profound public witness if the church is seen to be doing it with its own funds rather than relying on lottery funds.

7 Unequally yoked

Receiving money from the lottery unhelpfully ties the church to a secular agency that would then have a degree of control  over the church’s ministry. The church should be free to do what God has called it to and not reliant on

8. The lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills

God is rich enough to be able to supply the needs of his people to do the work that he has called them to do. To go cap in hand to the lottery is admission that we don’t believe God is able to provide.

9. Receiving lottery funding  demotivates Christian giving

Christians should be giving sacrificially to the Lord’s work and receiving large grants from an external source may demotivate church members from giving to God’s work

9 reasons why churches should apply for lottery funding

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.
Proverbs 16:33

 “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?