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Rev. Smit is pastor of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada.

Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished, but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.

Proverbs 13:11

Lotteries here; lotteries there; lotteries seem to be everywhere.

Enter a raffle ticket for a turkey at the grocery store.

Buy a $1 “scratch and win” ticket and maybe you can win a thousand or a million dollars.

Put your name on the little slip of paper, drop it in the box provided, and you might win a brand new car.

Buy a burger and some fries, scratch the side of the fry box, and you might win a free lunch or more money.

Buy a cup of coffee, roll up the paper rim, and you might win food, doughnuts, money, or maybe another brand-new car.

The Christian is told by the world that such lottery or lottery-like activities are just harmless games and are lots of fun. It does not cost much. And if you do not choose to participate, you may be passing by a large sum of money, fabulous prizes, or a tropical vacation to escape the bitter cold of winter.

“You might win! So, do it!” say the ungodly, and to that reasoning our flesh is attracted.

For that reason we, as the children of our heavenly Father, need to hear the instruction and wisdom of God from Proverbs 13:11, which exposes the wickedness of the lottery and lottery-like activities.

Proverbs 13:11, quoted above, teaches that daily wealth gotten from vanity will come to scarcity. God speaks of those who would improperly look for the source of their daily bread from vanity. Vanity in Scripture can refer to sinful ways of man apart from God. Man often looks to his false gods for his daily bread. One specific god to which man looks is bound up in the sin of the lottery and gambling. Men look for the source of their daily bread to a false god as they participate in the vanity of the lottery. They set their hope upon that god and with uncertain expectation long to strike it rich. This is a life of vanity according to Proverbs 13:11.

Proverbs 13:11 shows that even if one would receive a massive jackpot, the wealth received by and from that vanity will be diminished. It will shrink quickly and vanish away. This is confirmed by statistics concerning those who win big lottery jackpots. It has been shown that over ninety percent of those who win million dollar jackpots spend the whole sum within a year. Literally, it seems to be true for most that their wealth, gotten through the vain practice of gambling, lotteries, and other such games of chance, and so from vanity, is quickly diminished to nothing.

Even more so is it true from a spiritual viewpoint. After all, what can a man do with a million dollars on his deathbed? Man cannot take his million dollars with him when he dies. He cannot use it as a ransom for his soul from condemnation and God’s wrath. At that point, all that wealth gotten by vanity is worthless and nothing. Furthermore, at the end of time, with the return of Christ, all this world’s earthly wealth will be burned up anyway. Certainly, the divine prophecy of the text is true: man’s wealth gotten from vanity will be diminished and come to nothing.

This verse in Proverbs leads us to consider the reasons why participating in the lottery and other such monetary games of chance are vain, and why we must refuse to participate in them.

First, the lottery promotes a belief in chance and luck. The child of God is bombarded by lottery advertisements that tempt him to think and live as though many things in his life happen by chance. He is tempted to think and speak about “good luck” or “feeling lucky.” When standing in the gas station or grocery store, he is tempted by the world to buy a ticket because maybe it is his “lucky day.” This is a clear denial of God’s providence, which rules and governs all things in our life. According to the Belgic Confession, Article 13, we must “reject that damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God regards nothing, but leaves all things to chance.” We must reject resolutely the damnable errors of the vanity of “Lady Luck.” In that steadfast rejection, we may not look for our daily bread from “Lady Luck,” but solely from our heavenly Father.

Secondly, participation in the lottery is sinful stewardship of our wealth. Some men might argue that for the million dollars that one could quickly and easily obtain, one is only spending a few dollars. However, statistically speaking, one would have to spend a lot of those “few dollars” ever to receive the return of a “jackpot.” That means that to participate in the lottery is to throw away the good gift of money for nothing. Such a waste of the good gift of money violates the eighth commandment, which requires us to be good stewards of our money and forbids that we waste it in the vain hope of receiving a “jackpot.”

Thirdly, the lottery appeals to our covetous and foolish natures. In spite of the fact that participation in the lottery, or any gambling, is sinful stewardship, our covetous nature yet cries out, “BUT … I could win!” A massive jackpot, and all that it can obtain, is alluring to our sinful flesh. We easily covet money. We covet all the conveniences and things of this earth that a jackpot could provide. Easily we can deceive ourselves to imagine that thistime if we buy a lottery ticket, we will win.

How do we in wisdom deal with a situation in which a store or business would give us a lottery ticket as a benefit for shopping at their store? The ticket would be a gift from the store, so that none of our money is wasted to pay for it. Should we throw away the ticket, or should we keep it and wait for the lottery numbers to be published in the weekly newspaper? Should we continue shopping at that store to get more “free” lottery tickets? Although it is true in that situation that the ticket was not purchased, yet we must judge the situation from the viewpoint of our covetous nature. Are we seeking our daily bread from our heavenly Father … or from the vanity of the lottery?

We are always prone to covet something for nothing. We love to get something for nothing. We covet a vast windfall of money for little or no effort. By nature we hate the God-ordained way in which we receive our daily bread and wealth through hard work and faithful stewardship. By nature, it is much more appealing to use the vanity of lottery, by which we could get a lot for nothing or next to nothing. Because participation in the lottery only feeds our sinful covetousness, we must not participate in the lottery, even if we are handed free lottery tickets.

Fourthly, the lottery would tempt us to believe that what is very uncertain, and really a lie, is true. The lottery tempts us to believe the lie that if we do not participate in the lottery, we will be throwing away $1,000,000. The lottery would have us live by sight and upon the very shaky hope and the lie that we could possibly, despite the overwhelming “odds” to the contrary, receive some money or expensive prize from the lottery. The lottery tempts us to live by sight, by unbelief, and by a willing deception. In contrast to that, we are called by God to live by faith. We are called by God to stand upon His sure and certain promises, which daily never fail. We are called to sojourn through our life seeking God’s kingdom and believing in the sure promise that God will supply our daily bread wisely and perfectly. Unlike the vain promises of the lottery, God has never failed to fulfill His promise to supply all our needs in Christ Jesus. Therefore we must not live a life of vain hopes and on the basis of lies. We are called to seek God’s kingdom and the riches of His kingdom in the obedience and trust that our daily bread will come faithfully from God through our daily work.

Finally, to show us His hatred of the vanity of the lottery, God reveals from heaven His judgment upon the lottery and those who participate. God judges the sin of participating in and winning the lottery with endless problems, instant “friends,” untold misery, and continuous grief to one’s grave. Marriages and friendships are torn apart because of the jealousies, greed, envy, the waste of money, and a host of other problems because of the instant wealth, which most have not the prudence to handle. Stories written about those who won a big jackpot detail a long trail of misery and, in many cases, poverty. God’s judgment is revealed from heaven upon the ungodliness and vanity of the lottery, gambling, and all such games and practices of chance and covetousness.

The warning about this judgment is sounded out clearly later inProverbs 28:20, 22:

A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent…. He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.

Therefore, since God’s judgment rests upon the evil practice of the lottery, we should never participate in it—or, if we have foolishly done so, we should desire that we never winit. If our name would be selected as the winner, we must disclaim the prize for the good of our souls.

In other words, don’t scratch that free “scratch and win” ticket. Throw away the free lottery ticket. Don’t take the raffle ticket for a new car or a frozen turkey. Don’t become prey to the temptation of seeking your daily bread from vanity. Don’t even start to go down that road of seeking your daily bread by vanity.

Although such ideas and admonitions in the eyes of the world are spiritual lunacy, yet according to Proverbs 13:11, such is the wisdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Because Christ has redeemed and renewed us to be the children of our heavenly Father, we are called to seek and receive our daily bread in the way of Proverbs 13:11b. We must gather daily bread by the labor of our hands and the sweat of our brow. We must labor in thanksgiving for the daily bread that Christ has earned and purchased on the cross for us as a blessing. Having prayed to the Father for daily bread, we must work with our God-given abilities and gifts in our lawful occupations to support the church, the home, the school, and the poor.

The child of God who so walks in the fear of Jehovah shall increase. That promise of the text does not mean that we will certainly receive a substantial increase in our earthly wealth because of obedience. Nevertheless, the promise ofProverbs 13:11 most certainly means that we shall increase in the spiritual wealth of experiencing the blessings of the Lord in the way of submitting in true wisdom to our heavenly Father’s ordinances. That wealth of the spiritual blessings and riches of His kingdom will never be diminished. Rather, we shall increase in them now and eternally for the sake of Jesus Christ, who did not earn our wealth and blessings by vanity, but only by the redemptive work of His submission and obedience to the Father.

For Christ’s sake, we already are heirs of the glorious wealth of the new heavens and earth. We are guaranteed by the blood and Spirit of Christ to be heirs of the riches in the kingdom of heaven that moth cannot corrupt, that thieves cannot steal, and that rust cannot ruin. Those treasures are secure in our Lord Jesus Christ at the Father’s right hand. Further, our full possession of them has been sealed by Christ in His blood and by His Spirit, whom He has poured upon our hearts.

Having all these riches in Christ, shall we then seek various means of vanity for our daily bread instead of our gracious and wise Father in heaven? God forbid. Let us gather our daily bread by our lawful labor and use it in good stewardship. Also, in the strength and wisdom of Christ, let us keep ourselves separated spiritually from this wicked world, which God has given over to a life of getting wealth by vanity.