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The Christian, Lottery and Sports Betting

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Samuel Smith
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THE CHRISTIAN, LOTTERY AND SPORTS BETTING

We live in a generation where the moral degeneration has called for the introduction of almost any unthinkable means of amassing wealth. Several dubious means have been proposed and accepted as seemingly unharmful but beneath the tip of the iceberg lies a gigantic rock. The inception of the lottery and game betting industries have robbed many people including professed Christians of the good virtue of hard work (see Genesis 2:15). There are many who think that since all "silver and gold" are the Lord's, these things, even if they are acquired by negative means, are not in and of themselves sinful. However, it is important to recall these powerful words from the pen of Habakkuk the prophet, "Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and establisheth a city by iniquity!" (Habakkuk 2:12).

This piece of writing will seek to address this prevailing canker that has taken most people especially the youth of the 21st century captive and has rendered them indolent. It is worth noting that the words "gambling" and "betting" do not occur in any of the sixty-six books of the Bible. However, there are several biblical passages that suggest that God does not place His sanctity on this endeavour of making money. Theologian John Piper speaks on the subject poignantly by making such a bold statement, "Gambling in general, little or big, is sinful whether you call it modest or exorbitant." He added, "I would say bluntly, forthrightly, and confidently that you have no right to risk God's money this way." Piper's last statement brings to view the Biblical concept of Stewardship.

MAN---A STEWARD OF GOD'S CREATION

The Number 21 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Fundamental Beliefs says, "We are God's stewards, entrusted by Him with time and opportunities, abilities and possessions, and the blessings of the earth and its resources. We are responsible to Him for their proper use. We acknowledge God's ownership by faithful service to Him and our fellowmen... Stewardship is a privilege given to us by God for nurture in love and the victory over selfishness and covetousness. The steward rejoices in the blessings that come to others as a result of his faithfulness." It is worth reiterating that all our belongings are from the hands of the Omnipotent One, and we are caretakers who will render strict accounts to Him at His own appointed and unspecified time. God has placed His goodies in our hands not for our own glorification or self-indulgence but to strengthen the hands of the innocent poor. It is utterly disgraceful to gamble with these endowments while the poor continue to beg for bread.

SELFISHNESS AND COVETOUSNESS

The wisest king ever to have walked on this mundane earth writes, "Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished; but he that that gathereth by labour shall increase" (Proverbs 13:11). It is in the fallen nature of man not to be satisfied with anything, and hence finds various negative means of acquiring wealth; hence to gamble. Scripture discourages any means of making quick money. Gambling and betting are most definitely focused on the love of money and undeniably tempts people with the promise of quick and easy riches. Of covetousness, Moses writes, "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17).

One of the greatest lies ever to have been told in our world is "money is the answer to man's myriads of problems" but of this and more Solomon writes "All is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2). In the parable of the Rich fool told by the world's Redeemer, Luke accounts of Jesus saying "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions" (Luke 12:15).

CASTING LOTS: BIBLICAL LOTTERY?

There are at least two instances in the Bible where gambling is presented but neither of them looks at it as a good business. The first of these two is seen in Judges 14:12-18 where Samson made a riddle and attached a price tag to it for anyone who could answer it rightly. It is important to recognize the fact that the gambling in Samson's case was put forth from his own ingenuity and not given Him by the Spirit of the Lord.

Another precise example of gambling in Scripture is the gambling over the garment of Jesus by the soldiers to determine who could rightfully possess it. "And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments casting lots upon them, what every man should take" (Mark 15:24). It is obvious that the devil was the instigator of this enterprise

. There are several instances in Scripture where the people of God cast lots but all of these were for decision making, and not for the purpose of possessing wealth or material things (Nehemiah 10:34; Joshua 18:10; Acts 1:26). Friends, it is very necessary for us to consider the fact that God gave the casting of lots for His own good, and to prove beyond all doubts that, "The lot is cast into the lap but its every decision is from the LORD." It is worth emphasising that the biblical purpose of casting lots was not to test one's luck or to gain material wealth but to know the direction of God for His children.

THE SPIRITUALITY ASPECT

Today, Satan has cloaked the negative garment of lottery with a more attractive face. The devil has increased the options for which one can gamble. Today, it is no more the national lotteries of spinning balls but the huge entertainment business of sports betting. Several people, especially the youth are caught up in this canker. They spent precious time in watching various sports and destroy their heart by betting their means upon such frivolous games. The Lord calls all His children to repent from this canker before it is too late. In fact, recognizing the negative impact of game betting in his country, the Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta directed his State Minister of Finance to note, "from now onwards, no new companies (sports betting, gaming and gambling companies) are going to be licensed. Those which are already registered, no renewal of licenses when they expire" (Emphasis Mine).

Dear friends, Jesus teaches that; "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." We also recount the popular quote "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." The most prolific writer in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the late Mrs. Ellen G. White says, "Does the truth require you to stand alone in your position to serve God because others around you are not willing to yield to the claims that Christ has upon them? Does it require a separation in feeling from them (lottery, betting)? Yes, and this is the cross which you must bear, which leads many to say I cannot yield to the claims of the truth. But says Christ, if anyone love father, or mother, or brother, or sister more than me, he is not worthy of me... Is this too great a sacrifice to make for Him who sacrificed all for you (FH 45.5; Emphasis Mine). Blessings!

Jude Adjei Asamoah