"When it gets as big as it is now, you'd be nuts not to play,"..."You have to take a chance on Lady Luck."
Mr. Willie Richards ~ Atl. Ga.
At odds of 1 in 176 million, the Mega Millions lottery offered a world record pot of $640 Million. According to the computers, there were three winners one in each state, Kansas, Illinois and Maryland. Each winning ticket is worth $213 Million before taxes and will net approximately more than $140 Million after taxes if the lump sum option is taken. Even second place will take $250,000 before taxes.
A record in sales, raking in an estimated average of over $1 Million per hour, totaling over $1.5 Billion was made in the current Mega Millions lottery. Each state in which the lottery was paid also recorded record revenues. In 2011, $56 Billion in revenues were earned by the lottery. According to reports, more people play the lottery than attend church. In fact it is said that the average income earner of $30,000 spends approximately 9 % of their income purchasing lottery tickets hoping for the chance to win. Statistics say that on average 9 out of 10 winners go through their earning, and are right back where they started from in approximately 5 years.
The Mega Millions Lottery...A Good Cause?
Formerly known as the "Big Game Jackpot" the "Mega Millions" became Mega Millions in 2000, and is a multiple state lottery association which includes 42 states plus the District Of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to a report by CBS news, in general, 60% of lottery earning go toward prize winners, 15% go to the retailers who sell the tickets and 25% of revenues go to the states that participate in the lottery (This is in addition to the tax revenue raised) Although there is no requirement for how the states use lottery money, 27 states earmark lottery earning for some portion of education.
The myth is that most, if not all, of the money goes towards education. This is not true. For example out of the 2011, $53 Billion dollar education budget in California, only 1% came from lottery revenues. In CA's case however, that is $530 Million. In Kansas, for instance, revenues go toward juvenile detention programs, and in Pennsylvania revenues go toward Senior Citizen programs. So the distribution of funds varies by state and jurisdiction.
In Illinois, the funds are distributed as follows:
By law, profits from all regular Lottery games are deposited into the state's Common School Fund supporting kindergarten through 12th grade public education. Illinois students and schoolrooms receive nearly $623 million per year in Lottery revenue - about 9.6% of the state's annual contribution to K-12 education. From chalk to computer labs, the dollars you don't win back are going toward a winning cause.
The Illinois Lottery is additionally mandated to conduct lottery games to benefit specific causes. Through June 30, 2006, the Lottery has transferred $2.6 million to the Ticket for the Cure Fund to support breast cancer awareness programs and $1.6 million to the Veterans Assistance Fund to support programs for the benefit of Illinois military veterans.
The fund itself is distributed according to the Illinois General Assembly. So in essence 10% of the state school budget is provided through lottery sales and revenues.
According to 2001 statistics, Maryland divided up over $519 Million (roughly 30% of revenues) between K–12 education, higher education, public health, public safety and environmental causes.
So as we can see, it certainly can't be questioned that lottery revenues are earmarked for shady purposes. With that said, many people simply assume that the lottery is a good cause and therefore should be embraced, especially at number like $640 Million.
The Lottery...Embraced By Christians?
Years ago, the lottery was not a question to give much serious consideration especially amongst them that were known as "sanctified" or those who had been taught and embraced the doctrine of "holiness". However, now, in the modern world, the difference in opinion gets pretty thick if not down right hostile. Many Christians, in effort to better their financial positions, participate in the lottery regularly hoping to rake in the big score. There are Pastors, Bishops, Evangelists, Missionaries, Deacons and all types of laypersons who found themselves in the mega millions lines spread out for blocks in some areas across the country. Others play the lottery regularly no matter what the ultimate winning amount is.
Yet others also engage in things like "pot lucks" and "Bingo" and even thank God for being able to win or get their money back over time even if they don't win the ultimate prize. However, we should ask, is God the architect of these things?
Confusing The Issues...Is This Gambling?
Some seem to be confused over this issue, because it seems that so much can be gained for what appears to be such a small investment or risk. Some reconcile that since the money is used properly, or for a good cause, that there is nothing wrong with participating in the lottery because it doesn't so much as "feel" like gambling. Others have said, that a person engaging in the lottery is doing no less or more than a person engaging in speculation in the stock market or various other investments such as real estate.
According to the website US Legal.com the enterprise of gambling is described as follows:
"A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome."
As we can see from this description, the lottery is gambling because it is a game of chance and someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.
Quite naturally the mind begins to wander and asserts that all investments are "chance". Noone knows if any stock will perform and if the company does well profits will be distributed. The problem with this sort of understanding is that the purchase of stock is what is called a business transaction. there are contracts and certain agreements made. In addition, the outcome, the profit or failure of stock is distributed to all individuals who participate and not just to a singular winner. Legal .com goes on to delineate the difference as follows:
"Gambling does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts, such as the purchase or sale at a future date of securities or commodities, contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health or accident insurance."
There is no consideration of what schemes like this ultimately promote or what they do. Lotteries, if nothing else, could be a doorway to even greater gambling enterprises, such as casinos, internet gambling enterprises and many more ventures that are designed to get people to rely on "lady luck".
What Does the Bible Teach?
Prov. 16:25 ~ "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
There is always a reason to sin or to engage the enterprise of sin and the world. In a way, we can;t avoid being a participant to whatever degree of the sin that occurs in the world. If you buy anything from anyone, you have promoted causes that you wouldn't have promoted on your own. So what is the truth of these matters and how should this issue be gauged to a modern generation that assumes that the end of all things justifies the means? Interestingly, I believe the answer is found within the teachings of Jesus himself as he tangentially addresses the issue:
Matthew 25: 14-30 ~ 14-For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15-And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16-Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17-And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18-But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. 19-After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20-And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21-His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22-He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23-His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24-Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25-And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26-His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27-Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28-Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29-For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30-And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Jesus Doesn't Use "Chance" Or "Lady Luck"
In the above passage, although Jesus was addressing final judgement and reconciliation of all things, he paralleled the delivery and return of money (talent) received by certain servants with their reward. Luke 19:11-27 appears to be a parallel passage, although the talent amounts are doubled. This appears to have been a teaching used by Jesus more than once to draw attention or focus to what he was communicating.
In both cases talents (money) was distributed to three persons. In both cases the first two servants used their money to make more money. In the third case, the "wicked" and "slothful" servant, buried the money or hid it in the ground and delivered exactly what he had received back to his lord. The rewards were given to the first and second servants accordingly, but not until the third servant do we see the basis of the reward. In both cases the third servant was reprimanded for not working or doing anything with what had been given to him.
Here Jesus seemed to associate the profit or return with smart actions associated with work and proven practices. The third servant makes the appeal delivering the assumption that the lord would rather have back what he had given than nothing at all, therefore he did not work or use his talent. The lord responds by saying that he should have at least placed it in the bank or with the "exchangers" (ie, a bona-fide transaction) and at least made interest (usury) off of it so that the lord would have had more in the end than he had in the beginning.
What Can We Learn From This?
We learn that Jesus associates good financial choices with work and smart strategic planning. Profit is not a dirty word, but how one profits can be problematic. In either case, the first two servants were blessed, not because they had done anything to make a return, but because they had used what they had been given, associated that with their efforts to make transactions and ultimately created a profit which was fully delivered along with the principle to their lord.
Although there was a risk associated with the use of the talents, at no point was there a chance or a risk taken based on a principle of "luck", "or "chance". In other words, Jesus encouraged, in a parallel to the church in preparation for his appearance, that there should be a transaction, not a mere "chance" or gamble. Jesus did not encourage a give to get scheme to receive money. Uuh Oooh! Did I say that???
God Doesn't Need A "Give To Get" Scheme For Blessing?
Php 4:19 ~ "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Now it is interesting to me that some of the very one's that will point out the false doctrines of individuals such as Creflo "crank dem dollars" Dollar, I V "Money Man" Hilliard, Leroy "Money Cometh" Thompson, Steve "even God needs a lender" Munsey, Peter "supernatural money transfer" Popoff, Kenneth "God will pay you back" Copeland and others will do so because they teach a version of give to get called the Prosperity Gospel. Give a certain amount of money, or "sow a seed and you will receive", or some variation. We all know the schemes, some even associated with scriptures such as Pslams and other passages, asking for certain amounts saying that individuals will be blessed for "releasing a seed".
What is amazing to me is that many of the same individuals remain silent on the lottery even though the scheme is predicated on the same type of strategy that we find in some faith circles...GIVE TO GET!!!! The only difference appears to be that the cause is somewhat publicized and the aim is clear, "Give this money and you MIGHT" receive a bunch of money back that you can use like you want to."
Here are some interesting parallels and differences between lottery and these schemes:
~The lottery has a minimum buy in and no discount
~Give to get schemes are flexible and buy in is whatever amount you'd like
~The lottery distributes profits as the state deems fit
~Give to get schemers, distributes profits to themselves first, expansion of radio and TV enterprises second, to the perpetuation of their ministries third and some to the individuals in need (maybe)
~The lottery offers no return of anything unless you get a winning number or number combination
~Give to get schemers promise you ALWAYS win as God will return your funds if not now, then in eternity
~The lottery promises that your contribution will go toward helping someone else
~Give to get schemers promise that your donation will ultimately go towards helping you
~You increase your chances of winning with the more you buy in lottery tickets
~You increase the expected return the more you give at the direction of give to get schemers
~The lottery is a cash only or credit only business
~Give to get scheming is quickly becoming a cash only or credit only business
~You can't borrow from the lottery or tell the lottery how to use the funds
~You can't borrow from give to get schemers or tell them how to use funds
God doesn't need a give to get scheme whether administered by the state of the church to bless his people. The lottery refocuses the blessing of the people on material returns. Faith in God is displaced with an unsure wishful thinking based on probability. In other words, the temptation is to place faith in "chance" or in a combination of numbers being selected in a certain order.
The wealth of the wicked being laid up for the just, doesn't men that the just was to engage in the enterprise of the wicked to obtain the wealth. The wealth of the wicked is directed at the hands of God to they that wait for the promise of the Lord to be fulfilled. I would imagine this is a subject that the church will talk about for quite some time. In a time of changing moral values (moral relativism) and increased suffering among many, issues such as these deserve our attention.
CBS News: "Where Do Mega Millions Go?"