Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tithing from the lottery

Wayne Smith, a well-known preacher from our brotherhood of churches, was once asked, "Wayne, what would you do if someone won the lottery and wanted to give the money to the church?" Wayne thought a moment and replied, "I don't care about money's pedigree, just it's destination."

I feel certain that there have to be some genealogical connections that would force us preachers to reject a donation. I wouldn't, for example, want to take funds that were received as a result of anything illegal. The question is: should the church accept funds from something that is merely immoral, if not illegal? And, who is the arbiter of morality in such cases?

First Baptist Church in Orange Park, Florida has been wrestling with that very issue. When one of their members, Robert Powell won $6 million in the Florida Lottery last month, he decided to tithe ten percent to the church. The church, however, rejected the $600,000 donation. Pastor David Tarkington politely declined the offer because he believes and teaches that gambling is wrong.

Others are not so sure. Pastor Dr. Lorenzo Hall, who leads a nearby inner city ministry said, "I'm against the lottery, but if one of my members won the lottery, I wish and I hope he would give 10% to the church, we could do a lot of things with that money."

I've often wondered what I would do if confronted with the same dilemma / opportunity. I've even wondered what I would do if I found myself on the giving end of such a problem. From time to time my father-in-law will buy a lottery ticket and designate it for my wife and I. We've even received lottery scratch-offs from my cousin as a Christmas gift. What would I do if I won? It is a problem that I would prefer to explore, not just in the abstract, but in the concrete in case you're wondering.

In the meantime, I'll continue to counsel and preach tithing to the saints at South Lansing Christian Church. Lot's of folks are listening, too. South has been incredibly generous in 2008. In state racked by recession and job-loss, Southies have given more to the work of the church than at any other time in the church's history. Their generosity is incredible. As we grow in this discipline of giving, I look forward to the day when all the members at South tithe. Then we'll have more than enough money to fund all our ministries, grow the church, and pay off our church's mortgage early.

I read an old preacher story recently that sums it up nicely:
Dr. Hugh McKean of Chiengmai, Thailand, tells of a church of four hundred members where every member tithes. They receive a weekly wage of forty stangs (less than twenty cents] and their rice. Of this meager existence, each gives a tenth every week. Because of this, they have done more for Christ in Thailand than any other church. They pay their own preacher and have sent two missionary families to spread the gospel in a community cut off from the outside world. They are intensely interested in all forms of Christian work, especially work for unfortunates of every kind; and their gifts for this kind of work are large. They have not only accepted Christ, but, having found Him good, they are making Him known to others.

Oh, by the way, this church of all tithers is also a church of all lepers--every person has leprosy.


Anonymous said...

If I can't bring my immoral money to the church, then how can I bring my immoral friends?

What if an exotic dancer was trying to get out of the lifestyle and chose us as her place of transition. Would we accept her tithe as she made her transformation into a Christ follower?

Frank Weller said...

I certainly hope so. "God is patient and just, not wanting anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance." And, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Mark Renfro said...

Mr. Powell,
Our church would be happy to tell your story and accept your tithe. Check our our church at We are in Frisco Texas and growing rapidly.
- Mark

Anonymous said...

An interesting issue.

Do we look at every area of a person's workplace to see if there is any moral issues that causes us not to accept their tithe? After all, that'd where their wage originated. How far back do we go? Does their employer have shares in a morally suspect corporation?

Can the church member guarantee that they did absolutely everything they should have at work in the past week? Otherwise they have taken their wage dishonestly and we can't accept their tithe.

I've obviously taken things to a ridiculous extreme here but how far back are we responsible for the origins of the money being given?

Do we not believe that all money is God's anyway?

I'm really not sure of the answer here. I just hope that churches don't put a ban on taking money from sinners. That would cut off every possible source of income.

Rod Bisher said...

There is no dilemma here. Proverbs clearly lays out what God's view is in this concern.
First of all, wealth is not evil as we all know. What is the root of evil is the LOVE of money. Secondly, gambling is not only unwise, (even if you can monetarily afford to do so), its temptation to get more and more destroys character and is therefore ungodly.
Thirdly, USA Today, playing the lottery is also unwise as your chances of winning any state lottery is over 12 million to one,(articles in USA Today,, and many sources) which is as great as being struck by lightening twice! What playing the lottery does is takes your attention and allegiance away from God as your provider for all things and places your desires and wants upon a wasteful habit of buying lottery tickets. You'd be better off investing those same dollars in building yourself as a person through personal development and also building your own business as many have. Stats show that your chances of becoming a millionaire are 1 in 1000 if you build a business as opposed to the lottery stats given above.
You could also give those same dollars to your congregation and see what God can do with a little bit each week!
As for the gentleman who did win the lottery, I hope he is a business person with astute advisors. If not, stats also show that 92% of all Lottery winners lose everything within 5 years because they do not have the wealth management skills nor the skills needed to have that wealth continue to build an ongoing cash flow that keeps them safeguarded against taxes, inflation, cost of living, government intervention, and capital gains stipulations, just to mention a few. (pointed out in numerous publications, too many to mention here).
Here's an example, I applaud this gentleman's willingness to tithe. That is very admirable and of Godly character. But, has he researched giving the 600,000 of the 6 million? Is it even an allowable amount by State tax or federal tax regulations without proper accounting? Also, is the 6 million going to be taxed right off the top or can he divert most of it to other areas before taxation? How much will he actually have left after taxes? Instead of tithing all of it directly, should he divert portion of it to ministries supported by the congregation? Just some thoughts.
But lotteries are not our hope. God is, and anything outside of God is perishing. I'm not saying wealth is wrong. By no means. To quote a very well known and Godly man "It takes money to run ministry."
However, placing your trust upon your wealth, well that is wrong.
If a person is inside or outside of Christ and they make a lot of money in their current job or business but both are seeking the Lord to change their life, He will lead them to do the right things because Christianity demands change. Jesus didn't come to make us better, he came to transform us and make us new. Therefore, wealth gotten by Godly means or ungodly means, has a destination.
Proverbs 13:22 says it best:
A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children,
but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous.
God's word is never wrong.
Love ya Brother.

Anonymous said...

OUCH, very seeker sensitive tone.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

On a lighter side:

This may come as a surprise to those not living in Las Vegas, but it is a very spiritual city, with more Catholic churches than casinos!

Not surprisingly, some worshipers at Sunday services will give casino chips rather than cash when the donation tray is passed.

Since they get chips from many different casinos, the churches have devised a method of turning the chips into cash.

They send all their collected chips to a nearby Franciscan monastery, where the patient and detail-oriented men sort and count the chips. The chips are then taken to the casinos of origin and cashed in.

This is done by the chip monks.

You didn't even see it coming, did you?