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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

16 thoughts on “9 Reasons that Churches shouldn’t apply for lottery funding”

  1. I too am uneasy about churches and lottery money and am instinctively sympathetic to the collective force of the reasons you articulate. But the individual reasons themselves leave me feeling slightly uneasy.

    I think most of them could also apply to:
    a) Christians in the church who work for any organisations whose activities you might not entirely approve of (big pharma, Ladbrooks, Littlewoods, drinks companies, tobacco…) and their personal giving (1, 2, 3)

    and/or

    b) Churches getting ANY outside grant (6, 8, 9) especially from people who are not personally “born again” – which might include a number of “Christian” trusts/foundations?!

    Also I can’t find any biblical condemnation of gambling (any more than there is one of drinking) – it is out of control gambling that’s a problem and the Christian response to the abuse of something good/neutral should never be to ban/reject the thing itself should it?

    Is spending £2 a week on the lottery any worse than spending it on, say. a latte?

  2. I think Andrew and Andy make valid points. I’d add on 6 – are you suggesting that no funding that does not have a direct and trackable path to the pocket of a known believer is not valid? So I can’t give support anonymously. Or are people then doing to judge where my income comes from – technically I work in ‘advertising’ some church leaders have argued with me in the past that my industry is selling consumerism and greed. Would my money be tainted for them?
    I also don’t like limiting God (ie. Please provide for these needs – but please do so in this way only!!) He sometimes chooses to work in some very surprising ways and through some pretty unlikely people.

  3. “Pecunia non olet” – I cannot agree with the ‘dirty money’ school of objections. Money is essentially a wholly fungible vehicle for the transmission and storage of value. I read a statistic a while ago about what percentage of Bank of England notes had traces of cocaine on them, but it neither diminishes the monetary value of these notes nor means the church treasurer cannot accept them if he finds them in the collection plate. Added to that the fact that physical cash represents only a few percent of the total “amount” of GBP in circulation (the vast majority exists electronically) and it is pretty much impossible for a church treasurer to know the ownership history of any money beyond the immediate donor. Even in the situation where I win £50 at the casino, pay it into my current account, then transfer £50 to the church, is it possible to say that the church received the same £50 I won at the casino rather than £50 from my wages?

    I think your stronger points are the ones about the effect on church ministry of accepting money from external funding bodies. In order to apply for these funds, the church may be tempted to realign what they do in precisely the way you say – and thus move towards a materialistic view of what constitutes human flourishing rather than one shaped by the gospel and the Christian hope to see the world won to Christ.

    Finally, in response to Andy’s question about whether it is any worse to be paying £2 on a lottery ticket or a latte; if you are on a low income as many lottery players are then either of these is bad stewardship!

  4. Interesting discussion. Here’s a (mostly) rhetorical question. If you accept that lottery funding is tainted by its association with gambling, where does that leave raffles, bingos etc etc which many churches use as a mechanism to generate income?

  5. Great blog post. I do believe in the principle of redemption of resource. I worry rarely about “where money has been” and am much more concerned about “what should I do with it”.

    Any of us could pluck a £10 note from our wallet and be unable to say with any certainty whether it was in the hands of a pimp or a money-launderer the previous week. We make assumptions every hour of the day about the amorality of cash.

    Though I never encourage anyone to play the lottery, and I do not myself, I do have doubts over whether the lottery is a “gamble” in the truest sense of the word. Is the cost of a lottery ticket really the same as a gambler’s stake?

  6. This is a very topical debate for me at the moment. So it’s interesting to me that there is no direct Bible references or quotes in this second blog but there are in the first!

    1. Looking at it again I accept that ‘The Cattle on a thousand hills’ is quoted but I think this is actually an argument in favour!

  7. Hi Kirsh

    God can use anything for his good works….we can’t accept lottery money from the government but we can accept tax breaks from the government…seems this needs to be thought through a little more.

  8. Helpful points Krish. I haven’t read the comments, so don’t know if I’m just repeating someone. Here are two points I think could have an additional side to them:
    2. “to be receiving money from the proceeds of gambling is hypocritical”. True, and very importantly, even if some people have fancy arguments for doing it, it looks very hypocritical to the world, and so weakens our voice, not least in speaking out against gambling.
    6. God’s people should pay for God’s work.
    This isn’t just a matter of being seen to. It’s a matter of what love is like. Following Christ and serving and loving as he did happens through sacrificial giving. (Yes, I know this doesn’t answer everything, because it doesn’t mean we refuse Gift Aid, interest from the bank account etc.)

  9. Well done on kick-starting a very topical debate! I manage a church outreach project and our policy is to not apply for lottery funding. The points on both sides are well made. For what it’s worth, here’s my main reasoning for not applying: Many of the of the people we are reaching out to are gambling addicts, and many more are heading the same way, (and it is an addiction which seems to me to be rapidly on the increase – I don’t have figures to prove that though). Others may disagree, but I think playing the lottery has a role in eroding people’s inhibitions about gambling, and can act as a gateway (ask a recovering gambling addict if they think playing the lottery is ok). If we use lottery funding, we are being hypocritical, and what’s more, would be blatantly seen as such as we would be required to put up a National lottery funding sign outside our door. We do accept funding and donations from non-believers and non-Christian funds as the outreach happens to provide a service which the community benefits from and appreciates, even though we are openly proclaiming the gospel. All money is potentially “dirty”, but the difference with lottery money is we know where it has come from and to use it validates and supports a system of fund-raising which I think does more harm than good. I would rather pay more tax into government funds for community work so a national lottery could no longer be justified.That’s my tuppence worth!

    1. Hi Keith

      Is your outreach project funded by your church? I would guess so…do they drink wine…they may become alcoholics…do they eat food…they become obese…do they drink coffee…is it fair trade…are hey adding to the slave trade…

      You can’t (in my opinion) target one and not the other or it can smack of ill thought out Christianese.

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