Can A Christian Play Lottery?

Radical StripPeople get confused about the dichotomy of concept between the Old and New Testaments. The central pillar of the Old Testament is the Law of Moses. The spirit of the Mosaic law and the New Testament are not the same and it is very important to differentiate the two. In conception the Old Testament is regulatory. It is full of “Thou shalls” and “Thou shall nots.” It is so full of regulatory minutiae Paul penned that “Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy – every detail of life regulated by fine print!” (Romans 10:5, Cf. Leviticus 18:5) Trying to please God in this manner is such an ardour. And yet salvation by grace is so easy Paul wrote: “But trusting God to shape right living in us is a different story – no precarious climb up to Heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah.” (Romans 10:6-7 MSG) In other words, seeking to please God through the Law of Moses is so laborious it is akin to descending into hell or seeking to climb into Heaven. Paul was actually counter-referencing Moses in Deuteronomy 30:12,13, where Moses was explaining that the Ten Commandments were so plain, immediate and obvious. It’s not some secret in Heaven so the Israelites won’t need to nominate someone to go to Heaven to bring it. Paul used that turn of phrase.

So onerous was the Mosaic jurisprudential system that it prescribes that, “if anyone sins by breaking any of the commandments of God which must not be broken, but without being aware at the time, the moment he does realize his guilt is held responsible.” (Leviticus 5:17 MSG) In other words, awareness of sin ex post facto (after the fact) vests guilt, even if the sin was unintentional! Once there’s awareness of sin you become guilty.

Unlike the Old Testament, the spirit of the New Testament appeals to the sense of nobility in us, and it seeks to engender responsibility. It wants to build character in us. It is not regulatory in nature. The reason is because the dynamics of relationship is altered in the New Testament. In the New Testament we’re children of God, not just a people God is specially interested in. And it’s a direct relationship. No intermediaries and no angelic agency. (Galatians 3:19) God relates to us as a Father. It’s why Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:1: “Therefore be imitators of God – copy and follow his example as well-beloved children imitate their father. (Ephesians 5:1 AMP) It is an appeal. And we find several pleadings and appeals like that in the letters of Paul. For example in Romans12:1 Paul wrote: “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.” (NLT) And then God goes out of his way to try and explain to us why we should not fornicate: “Run from sexual sin! No other sin affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20 NLT) A few verses before that Paul had explained, “There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact.” (1 Corinthians 6:16 MSG) This kind of appeal will not be found in the Old Testament. It’s not the spirit of the Old Testament. Nobody begs you in the Old Testament, you’re COMMANDED!

Concerning the same topic this is what the Old Testament says: “You MUST NOT commit adultery.” (Deuteronomy 5:17) Period! “No murder. No adultery. No stealing. No lies about your neighbour. No coveting your neighbour’s wife. And no lusting for his house, field, servant, maid, ox, or donkey – nothing that belongs to your neighbour!” (Deuteronomy 5:17-21 MSG) And so you find God appealing and explaining in the New Testament whereas in the Old Testament he just gives commands. God even appeals to us in the New Testament to get along with each other, to learn to be considerate of one another! (1 Corinthians 1:10 MSG) God teaching us civic lessons?! Indeed, as we shall soon see, there are essentially only two commandments in the New Testament. But you will find a lot of appeals: Be anxious for nothing (Philippians Leviticus 4:6), be an example (1 Timothy 4:12), be gentle (2 Timothy 2:24) be content (Hebrews 13:5), be patient (James 5:7-8), be courteous (1 Peter 3:8), be sober (1 Peter 5:8), be vigilant (1 Peter 5:8). These are the “Be’s” and there are 74 of them. And then you have the Be Not’s. There are 30 of those: Be not like the hypocrites (Matthew 6:5), be not afraid of man (Luke 12:4), be not troubled (1 Peter 3:14), be not deceived (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), be not slothful in business (Romans 12:11), be not conformed to this world (Romans 12:2), be not drunk with wine (Ephesians 5:18), be not slothful (Hebrews 6:12), be not weary in well doing (2 Thessalonians 3:13), be not ashamed of God (2 Timothy 1:8)… The list goes on. Then there are appeals on what you should beware of. There are 14 of those Bewares. Then you’re told about 7 things to abstain from, 7 things to avoid, 2 things to awake to, 5 things to consider, 10 things to do, 10 things not to do, 10 things to follow, 6 things to lay aside, 7 things to keep, 14 things to hold. There are 100 Lets, 12 Let Nots, 42 Let Us’, 8 Let Us Nots, etc, etc. You can see that the spirit of the New Testament is completely different from that of the Old Testament. On the whole there are 1,050 admonitions and appeals in the New Testament. That’s almost double the 611 commandments in the Law of Moses.

The problem with us is that we’re trying to live in the New Testament according to the regulatory protocol of the Old Testament. It’s why people want regulation on every imaginable ablution and detail of life – make up, trousers, beverages, TV, music, lottery, dating, tithing, church attendance, fashion, fashion accessory (scarves), wedding dress, marriage, serving God, books not to read, films not to watch, places not to work, participation in politics, ownership of property (rapture imminent), definition of “authentic” Bible, Bible on phone, hairstyles, plastic surgery, abortion… The list is endless. We seem intent on living by the spirit of the Mosaic Law. And this despite been warned of the practical impossibility and dire consequences of such a pursuit: “Those who depend on the Law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey ALL the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law. So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law.” (Galatians 3:10-11)

Predictably the New Testament contains no command about whether a Christian can play lottery or not. It’s your personal decision and you must take responsibility for your decisions. Unlike the Old Testament, what the New Testament does is provide an ambit of responsible living, delineate perimeters and amplitude for behaviour. Those trying to come up with a regulatory ordinance concerning lottery soon run into the challenge of uneven legislation: The visa lottery to America, is it lottery or not? The raffle draw for harvest in church, is it lottery or not? And if we draw lots for an assignment in church, does it qualify as lottery draw? It would seem therefore that we have two classes of lottery: what we consider “ethical lottery” and what we deem “non ethical lottery”; though we can complicate things a little by asking, if a Christian who has been praying to God for blessing wins $20million in a lottery draw, did God answer his prayer or not? And it would seem that what we classify as “non ethical lottery” is a temperance issue in Christian theology, in the very same class as alcohol.

Following the spirit of the New Testament there are three classes of responsibility prescribed for the Christian: responsibility to God, responsibility to self, responsibility to fellow man. These responsibilities are encapsulated in the only two commandments of the New Testament. Jesus more or less replaced the entire gamut of the Law of Moses with these two commands: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect).” (Matthew 22:37) And the second command is, “You shall love your neighbour as you do love yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) These two commandments were actually from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. They are the executive summary of the Laws of Moses and the Prophets.

The REAL problem with lottery and its not too distant cousin, gambling is the issue of addiction, as well as the social concomitants like abdication of familial responsibility. Lottery and gambling can be addictive. Addiction involves craving for something intensely, losing control and continuing involvement despite adverse circumstances. According to, “Addiction changes the brain, first by subverting the way it registers pleasure and then by corrupting other normal drives such as learning and motivation…The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter or a satisfying meal.” Bottom line, addiction to gambling is neurologically of the same order as addiction to drugs. According to a study by the University of Cambridge, “During gambling games, people often misperceive their chances of winning due to a number of errors of thinking called cognitive distortions. For example ‘near misses’ seem to encourage further play, even though they are no different from other loss. In a random sequence like tossing a coin, a run of one event (heads) makes people think the other outcome (tails) is due next; this is known as ‘gambler’s fallacy’”. In other words, the more the man playing lottery loses the more expectant he will be that his next bet will be a win. He’s trapped.

But scriptures adjure us in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “Everything is permissible, allowable and lawful for me; but not all things are helpful, good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things. Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power.” (1 Corinthians 6:12 AMP) That’s a scripture the man given to lottery should consider. A gambler can easily become irresponsible to wife, children, and of course to self. Then there is the category of lottery players who are too lazy to work. They see lottery as the short cut to wealth. Solomon has a word or two for such: “Dreamers fantasize their self-importance; they think they’re smarter than a whole college faculty.” (Proverbs 26:16 MSG) “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” (Proverbs 13:4) “Lazy people are soon poor, hard workers get rich.” (Proverbs 10:4)

And that concludes the matter.


If you’ll like to give your life to Christ please pray this prayer: “Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I know that I am a sinner. I believe Jesus died for me and that you raised him from the dead. I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Christ is Lord and I receive him as my Lord and my Saviour. I am now born again. Amen.”