Pastors Report - 3 Nov 2017
gamblingRouletteWheel

God's View on Gambling:

"And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: 'They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots'" (Matthew 27:35 NKJV)

A Current Problem:

Gambling is BIG business – and governments are certainly loath to restrict it as it is also very remunerative for them through taxation. State governments in Australia for example collected nearly $4 billion in revenue from gambling, representing a staggering 11% of total state taxation revenue for 2002-03 ( www.pc.gov.au). Little wonder that we see governments today merely tinkering at the edges of what has become a major problem in society – gambling addiction. Yet the human costs can be devastating:

53-year-old Terry White from South Wales is just one of the nearly half a million gambling addicts within the UK and over 6 million in the US. Fixed odds betting terminals are currently under scrutiny by the UK government for very good reason. They have proved particularly pernicious devices to the potential addict as they allow as much as hundred pounds to be lost every 20 seconds – something which devastated Mr White's very life:

... I realised I was losing between £10,000 and £15,000 per week. One week I lost £40,000 of profit and it left me stunned and shocked and ashamed of myself for blowing all my money in one afternoon in a betting shop. I have lost about a quarter of a million in total.

I take responsibility for my actions but my addiction is overwhelming... I lost my house, I've stolen, I've lied to people. To this day I'm £40,000 in debt. I'm moving into council accommodation soon, otherwise I would have been homeless. I could be declared bankrupt soon. The low point was a suicide attempt in December. I was in hospital for three days. ( www.bbc.co.uk)

So to the millions that are addicted, we could add millions more family members that are affected.... the pain of divorce, children losing a stable home and perhaps going hungry to feed their parent's addiction etc etc. Few within God's church get themselves in such a dire position through gambling – but what is God's view of the entire issue? The lead up to Xmas is a time that most of us within the Church quite rightly detest – with office parties and similar functions to avoid – but there can often be yet another questionable activity to deal with as well .... the Xmas raffle. Just what is the Church teaching on lotteries, raffles and scratch-cards? Where should the line be drawn – if at all? What does the Bible say about lots? Is it ever permissible for a Church member to purchase a raffle ticket? Or for God's Church to use raffles to raise money?

Lots - For Evil:

The Bible records several occasions where lots were used. Some were clearly pagan and involved events that were evil:

  • Because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them, and to destroy them; (Esther 9:24)
  • They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.(Psalm 22:18)
  • And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.(Joel 3:3)
  • In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.(Obadiah 1:11)
  • And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.(Jonah 1:7)
  • .. and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains.(Nahum 3:10 )
  • And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. (Matthew 27:35)
Lots - For Good:

But in contrast, some scriptures clearly indicate a totally holy and righteous use of the lot:

  • And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.(Leviticus 16:8)
  • And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD: and there Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel according to their divisions.(Joshua 18:10)
  • Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for the governors of the sanctuary, and governors of the house of God, were of the sons of Eleazar, and of the sons of Ithamar. (1 Chronicles 24:5)
  • And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities.(Nehemiah 11:1)
  • And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.(Acts 1:26)

What I want you to notice is how all the above good examples also included asking for God's involvement in the outcome of the lot. And God's involvement is surely something we should seek in every facet of our lives!

  • Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
  • In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5,6)
  • Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
  • Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. (Psalms 37:4,5)

What does not seem to be found in scripture is the casting of lots for entertainment. The principle of straight gambling for some kind of profit, however, can certainly be seen within the casting of lots for Christ's coat. And it is interesting to note how that event indicates anything but a Godly use of the practice!

Urim and Thummim:

Some have questioned whether the Urim and Thummim were lots, or whether they involved a supernatural manifestation using "lights" – the meaning of the word "Urim". By putting together both scripture and history the most likely conclusion is that they probably involved both. The Urim and Thummim were kept in the breastplate "of judgement" (Exodus 28:30) so appear to have been some kind of decision-making lot.

  • And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.(Exodus 28:30)
  • And he put the breastplate upon him: also he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim. (Leviticus 8:8)
  • And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.(Numbers 27:21)
Supernatural Light:

However, there also seems to be a clear indication that God showed when He was directing the selection by the manifestation of a supernatural light. This is indicated by Josephus and is borne out by King Saul not being answered by the Urim (the lights) in 1 Samuel 28:6, so something else had to be happening in addition to a mere casting of lots to indicate that God was present in the answer. That presence seems to be through the breastplate stones themselves glowing in some way. Here is what Josephus had to say about the breastplate in which the Urim and Thummim were placed:

For as to those stones, which we told you before, the high priest bare on his shoulders, which were sardonyxes, (and I think it needless to describe their nature, they being known to every body,) the one of them shined out when God was present at their sacrifices; I mean that which was in the nature of a button on his right shoulder, bright rays darting out thence, and being seen even by those that were most remote; which splendor yet was not before natural to the stone.

This has appeared a wonderful thing to such as have not so far indulged themselves in philosophy, as to despise Divine revelation. Yet will I mention what is still more wonderful than this: for God declared beforehand, by those twelve stones which the high priest bare on his breast, and which were inserted into his breastplate, when they should be victorious in battle; for so great a splendor shone forth from them before the army began to march, that all the people were sensible of God's being present for their assistance. Whence it came to pass that those Greeks, who had a veneration for our laws, because they could not possibly contradict this, called that breastplate the Oracle.

Now this breastplate, and this sardonyx, left off shining two hundred years before I composed this book, God having been displeased at the transgressions of his laws. Of which things we shall further discourse on a fitter opportunity; but I will now go on with my proposed narration. (Antiquities Book 3 Chapter 8 Section 9)

The Church Position:

Clearly, although the Bible has much to say about lots, it is silent about their use in entertainment. There is therefore not sufficient evidence to entirely ban using the lot except for divine purposes. If the Church were to do that, then where should the line be drawn? For example: should we refuse a gift of premium bonds from a relative; refuse to allow our store-card to be entered in a store raffle; not tax the car because the Licensing Authority happen to automatically enter everyone into a draw? refuse to draw straws over who is to do the washing up? refuse to toss a coin to decide who kicks-off in a football game? Not throw a dice in snakes and ladders? I hope we can see that being against all "secular lots" from such scant evidence would rapidly make us unnecessarily odd and be ridiculous to implement in today's society. This is almost certainly why an association with money appears to have been included as the dividing line of what is acceptable and what is not by Mr Armstrong. Then we are on safe ground as it becomes gambling – a clear spiritual issue that goes right the way back to the Two Trees...as it promotes the way of get.

Note this clarification regarding raffles found in The ..... PASTOR GENERAL'S REPORT, SEPTEMBER 10, 1982 PAGE 2 Questions and Answers

Question: Since gambling is wrong, should we also avoid raffles as a Church fund-raising activity? If so, what about buying a raffle ticket as an individual, such as when a Boy Scout wants to sell you one?

Answer: Raffles are a form of gambling and are not to be used to raise money for various Church activities. If some charitable organization in the world requests a contribution for a good cause and has a raffle as part of its fundraising activities, a member could contribute unless he has a conscience problem. Most who give do not expect to win the raffle, but simply donate to help the cause. However, Mr. Armstrong does not want raffles or other forms of chance involving money as fund-raising activities in God's Church.

This does not mean, however, that it would be wrong to have a door prize drawing, when the only cost involved is for the price of admission.

Note the phrase, " forms of chance involving money". Gambling was deemed to be the dividing line, not merely the lot. It is when both chance and money are present that there is a problem. My only caution with the above would be to note who the answer came from. It was drafted by Mr J W Tkach when he was head of Church Administration in 1982. But I do feel we can take the phrase " forms of chance involving money" as having originally come from Mr Armstrong himself. In addition, the fact that " a member could contribute unless he has a conscience problem" also shows that the issue is not completely cut and dried. The principle within the scripture in Romans "But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin." Romans 14:23 NKJV) also applies.

Gambling:

Let me quote from the Plain Truth article of April 1966 – "Gambling Mania Grips Britain". This shows clearly the spiritual reasons why we should avoid gambling – even though the secular use of the lot, where no monetary gain is involved – such as throwing dice in a game of snakes and ladders – is acceptable.

Is Gambling Morally Right?

The right or wrong of gambling can be determined by its "fruits" – the results and consequences it has brought about. Gambling depreciates and destroys a man's character. It is therefore SIN. A gambler is motivated by selfishness and GREED! He is self-centered and indulgent. His whole regard and concern is for the self. He wants to win. When – more often if – he wins, he does so by taking money from others. Just because all parties have agreed that chance should determine who wins or loses doesn't make it right. Gambling is one of the influences which produce a self-centered and antisocial attitude. A gambler soon is not able to recognize any true sense of value. Gambling destroys all sense of responsibility to the community or regard for the true values of life itself!

One sin leads to another. Occasional betting leads to regular betting. It becomes easier and habitual to lie, cheat, and steal. Gambling leads to crime in many cases. Many gamblers are desperate for money. Gambling takes them into greater debt. The pressure builds up until they resort to crime to get what they need. During 1964, 47 cases involving gambling debts and theft or fraud were reported by the press. In 33 of these cases, it was clear that gambling and indebtedness preceded the crime. Gambling is responsible for a large proportion of criminal cases where fraud or embezzlement is involved.

What the Bible Says:

What does God say about gambling? Although there is no particular statement mentioning gambling in the Bible, there is enough evidence to show that gambling is wrong and leads to the transgression of God's basic law – the Ten Commandments. The first commandment says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3). To many men and women, gambling becomes their god. They spend most of their time and energy studying horses, dogs, football teams until gambling dominates their whole life. They worship the goddess of fortune or luck. When a man is tempted by large stakes and rich prize money, he breaks the tenth commandment which says, "Thou shalt not covet." This greedy desire for gain may lead to the breaking of the eighth commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." His gambling habits may force him into an awkward position . He resorts to lying to get himself out of it and so breaks the ninth commandment.

Gambling Defeats Love Toward Neighbour :

Christ taught: "Love thy neighbour as thyself" (Mat. 19:19). Love is an outgoing concern for our fellowman. Love is the spirit of GIVING, of helping others. Gambling is the very opposite of this. To gamble involves the principle of getting instead of giving – taking without contributing to the general wellbeing of others. One is actually coveting that which belongs to another. A man with the true spirit of love wants to see each man receive his rightful due. In gambling, a person anticipates winning by luck more than is due for his effort. He, instead, imposes a definite loss upon the other man. The "happiness" of the winner causes the misery of the loser. It is right to make a profit – when it is made justly through the giving of service and diligent thought and work. But the spirit of love is contrary to profiteering and greed, Gambling destroys love toward neighbor. The Bible shows that God has placed us as stewards – not owners – in charge of the wealth we have. (See Mat. 25 :13-30; Luke 16 and 19:11-27.) We are responsible to God Himself for the use of that money. It must not be wasted. In gambling, money is used selfishly – without any real sense of responsibility. The family and creditors are soon forgotten. Money can be a very useful tool; but in gambling, it becomes the master, the dictator. Gambling is a waste. It is possible to rightfully acquire money and property (1) by gift, (2) by labor or (3) by fair exchange. Gambling violates all three rules. No real value is produced and no service given. Gambling adds nothing positive to the work, wealth, or happiness of the individual or the community.

Those who win large amounts of money often don't have the character to spend it wisely. They have little or no experience to guide them in its use. The result is disastrous. Take the case of Mr. and Mrs. Keith Nicholson who won the pools in 1961 to the tune of £152,319 [over £3 million in today's 2017 value] . At the time they received their winnings, Mrs. Nicholson said, ''I'm going to spend, spend, spend!'" And so she did. They bought everything money could buy – clothes, a house with new furniture, luxurious cars – the lot. But it couldn't buy happiness. Their new wealth brought jealousy and suspicion into their marriage. In the end it brought tragedy. Mr Nicholson was killed in one of their fast luxury cars.

Happiness Comes Through Work:

Wealth is not the key to happiness. Elbert Hubbard, the philosopher, once said, "Get happiness out of your work." Real happiness results from accomplishing the worthwhile. The Bible commands a person to earn his living (II Thes. 3 :10). God says: "Let him that stole, steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth'" (Eph. 4:28). Also, see I Thessalonians 4:11, 12. Trying to win huge sums of money without working for it is a sin. It leads to poverty now, and finally to eternal death! Gambling means waste and GREED. None of these has any place in life as revealed in God's Word, the Bible.

The last paragraph above is an important key. For human, physical satisfaction, the Bible certainly agrees with Elbert Hubbard ... We should learn to gain happiness from our work, our effort, our labour in a similar way as our God and Elder Brother did. For not only did He create the Sabbath for us by resting at the end of the creation week, but He also gave us an example of how to truly enjoy life each day as well. He did this by recording how He would reflect at the end of each of His days of creative activity – when He "saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was good/very good."(Genesis 1:4,10,12,18,21,25,31) We too should learn to get happiness out of our work, i.e being productive in some way and not the raffle ... not the lottery ... not our gambling, for as God tells us through Solomon:

  • There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.(Ecclesiastes 2:24)
  • And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.(Ecclesiastes 3:13)
  • Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.(Ecclesiastes 5:18)
  • Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.(Ecclesiastes 5:19)
  • Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.(Ecclesiastes 8:15)
The True Riches:

God designed this physical life as our training ground, not an end in itself. We are here to learn vital lessons that will enable us to teach The Way throughout the universe, for eternity. An unrighteous desire for something that is not rightfully ours – as it seems was the problem with Lucifer – cannot be part of our spiritual makeup! As illustrated by our recent observance of the Feast of Tabernacles, – we are temporary beings, life is temporary, society is temporary, riches are temporary, but if we get to grips with the lesson of Give versus Get, an outgoing nature rather than incoming, then we have been promised wealth and glory far beyond anything a worldly lottery can offer!

  • And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
  • And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
  • And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
  • And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
  • And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
  • And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
  • He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Revelation 21:1-7)