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Why I don’t Play the Lottery

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Thursday, September 6, 2018 @ 10:29 AM
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Dr. John Neihof President of Wesley Biblical Seminary - Guest Blogger MORE

My grandfather was a coal miner in the mountains of Appalachia. I admired Papaw. He lost both of his thumbs in coal mine machinery. His eyes twinkling with glee, he often wiggled his stubs at us grandkids while popping his dentures in and out of his mouth. The hideous expression resulted in granddaughters’ screaming with disgust in flight from the demonstration. 

I prayed for my grandfather’s salvation all of my young life. When I was 18 years old, my grandfather gave his heart to Jesus and was gloriously converted. It was May 16, 1979. 

But Papaw possessed a secret shame from his younger years that had left scars upon his children.

He wanted to escape the gripping poverty of a depression-era that enslaved coal miners, Appalachians, and other working poor of his generation. He wanted to hit the jackpot, discover a get rich quick scheme, and gamble his way out of oppression.  

But it never worked.  

As much as Papaw longed for riches, he was a really bad gambler.  

My mother remembers Papaw’s failed attempts at a game of dice, a night of cards, or a venture at the pool table. The failure was symbolized in a package of ice cream bars that he brought home with him as a peace offering for Mamaw and their seven children.  

My mother told me these stories of grinding poverty throughout my childhood. She never criticized Papaw. She never objectified his failure or demonized his character. But she always pointed out the evils of gambling and made me hate it.  

My daddy had similar aversions to gambling. We never had a game of playing cards in the house. Dice were taboo. In their place, Daddy made a spinner so that we might play Monopoly. He told me of witnessing games of chance in his childhood. He had a practical disdain for just giving away hard-earned money in a game. 

Extreme?  

Perhaps. But nevertheless effective.  

In 1986, Governor Wallace Wilkinson signed a state-wide lottery into law in my home state, the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It was sold as a cure to raise funds for education. It did not. At least, not in any discernable way.  

Mother’s stories had given me a holy hatred for gambling. I objected. I have never participated.  

Mississippi became my home several years ago. Recently, our state has changed its position on the lottery. Regressive taxation of the poor and marginalized has become the law of our land for raising public dollars. Graft and corruption rise along with it. Every gas station and convenience store will sell the snare of scratch-offs and numbers. The choice between hunger and chance will be made at thousands of cash registers around our state.  

And we are engaging in this social sin because the state needs more money. Hmmph… 

No people can ever prosper by raising public dollars through gambling.  

Why? 

Gambling appeals to the corrupting influence of greed which is no respecter of social class or wealth. Poor folks are just as greedy as rich folks. Perhaps more so.  

Gambling exposes a citizenry to deeper corruption by legalizing the art of swindling. It’s renamed: “playing the odds.”  

Gambling invites graft, corruption, and the compromise of the moral fiber of a people group. Instead of seeking legitimate means and motives to acquire wealth, illegitimate means become normalized. Get-rich-quick schemes are legalized and celebrated. Reality shows document the opulent journey from trash to treasure. Even the acquisition of wealth is often short-lived. Plenty collapses under the weight of ignorance, obligation, and squander. 

Some Christians ignorantly spout, “The Bible does not say ‘Thou shalt not gamble.’” 

But the whole counsel of God’s entire Word speaks against the motives and means that drive the industry: greed, swindling, lust, materialism, injustice, and exploitation of the weak and the innocent.  

My papaw’s mine-sheared thumbs. 

My daddy’s homemade spinners. 

My momma’s childhood memories of a box of ice cream bars.  

That’s why I don’t play the lottery.  

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