John Piper Offers 7 Reasons Not to Play the Lottery

Theologian John Piper explains what it means to give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.
Theologian John Piper explains what it means to give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. | (Photo: Screenshot/DesiringGod)

With January's Powerball jackpot estimated at $700 million — the largest in U.S. history, according to ABC News — Christians might be tempted to play, but Pastor John Piper explains why he advises people to avoid the gambling trap.

In a post shared Tuesday on, Pastor John Piper, chancellor of Minnesota-based Bethlehem College & Seminary, discourages Christians from participating in lotteries, warning, " … you should not gamble with your money this way."

Below, the theologian outlines seven reasons why.

1. It is Spiritually Suicidal

Playing the lottery could jeopardize your spiritual wellbeing, explains Piper, who gets right to the point with a quote from 1 Tim. 6: 9-10: "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction ... "

2. It is a Kind of Embezzlement

Just as "faithful trustees may not gamble with a trust fund," you are a caretaker of your money, which belongs to God, says Piper. "Managers don't gamble with their Master's money. All you have belongs to God. All of it," he writes.

"The parable of the talents says Jesus will take account of how we handled His money. They went and worked (Matthew 25:16–17). That is how we seek to provide for ourselves (1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; Ephesians 4:28)."

3. It's a Fool's Errand

People enter lotteries lured by the possibility of winning big, yet their chances of hitting the jackpot are often very, very minute. "You take real money and buy with it a chance," says Piper. "That chance is so infinitesimally small that the dollar is virtually lost. … The smaller amounts paid out more often are like a fog to keep you from seeing what is happening."

4. The System is Built on the Necessity of Most People Losing

Piper likens lotteries to Las Vegas casinos "without any of the glamor and glitz," saying "the 'house' controls the action; the players will all eventually lose."

5. It Preys on the Poor

People in the U.S. with annual take-home incomes of $13,000 or less spend 9 percent, or $645, of their income on lottery tickets each year, according to a report from The Consumerist.

6. There is a Better Alternative

Piper says that Americans who play the lottery are being taught to be "fools" in that 21 percent of people surveyed by the Opinion Research Corporation felt that the lottery was a practical way to accumulate wealth.

"If the $500 a year that on average all American households throw away on the lottery were invested in an index fund each year for 20 years, each family would have $24,000. Not maybe. Really."

7. For the Sake of Quick Money, Government is Undermining the Virtue Without Which it Cannot Survive.

Here, Piper quotes from the journal on religion and public life, First Things: "A government that raises money by encouraging and exploiting the weaknesses of its citizens escapes that democratic mechanism of accountability."

Finally, Piper says that if you get rich from playing the lottery, don't bring your winnings to his ministry.

"Christ does not build His church on the backs of the poor. Pray that Christ's people will be so satisfied in Him that they will be freed from the greed that makes us crave to get rich."

Email me: Follow me on Twitter: @kevindonporter

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