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John Piper issues blistering condemnation of the lottery, says gambling ‘destructive to people’s lives’

Powerball
A powerball Lottery ticket is shown in this photo illustration after being purchased at a gas station in San Diego, California, February 10, 2015. |

John Piper, the founder of DesiringGod.org, has issued a blistering condemnation of the lottery, stating that he believes that gambling endeavors are “destructive to people’s lives.”

On an episode of his podcast posted Monday, Piper, an author and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was asked to elaborate on earlier comments he made in which he concluded that the lottery involves preying on the less fortunate.

The Don't Waste Your Life author said he believes the lottery deceives the poor into "get rich quick" efforts. He revealed that the less fortunate often sacrifice at least 6% of their annual income on the lottery.

The noted Bible teacher also claimed that “the main draw” for lower-income individuals when it comes to gambling games is “pull-tabs and scratch games.”

“These kinds of games are less attractive to middle-class people and upper-class people because adding $10, or $100 dollars even, to your bank account really doesn’t make that much difference to a middle-class person,” said Piper.

“But to a poor person — $10, $100, or $500 — that’s like a windfall. And therefore, the more frequent payout and the greater the likelihood of winning draws in disproportionately more poor people for these kinds of games than for, say, the big Powerball payout," he said.

The theologian went on to note that “the lottery did not become a million-dollar industry due to its large output of winners” and that, while lotteries are theoretically aimed at funding social services, “there are ironies.”

“Most states allocate some of the lottery income to providing services for gambling addiction, and some try to provide a good kind of education, which creates, supposedly, habits of mind and heart which are the opposite of the habits they exploit by the lottery itself,” he continued.

“Addictive behaviors are more common among the poor, and living by immediate rather than deferred gratification is more common among the poor. Publicly funded gambling feeds these kinds of habits, which are destructive to people’s lives.”

The podcast episode came as a follow-up to a 2016 opinion column in which Piper listed seven reasons why it was wrong to play the lottery. He said the lottery is “spiritually suicidal,” “a kind of embezzlement,” “a fool’s errand,” “built on the necessity of most people losing," and it “preys on the poor.”

“So, if you win, don’t give from your lottery winnings to our ministry. Christ does not build his church on the backs of the poor,” he wrote at the time.

“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.”

In an op-ed published by The Christian Post in 2019, Chuck Bentley of Crown Financial Ministries expressed opposition to lotteries, writing that “the Lord does not want us relying on random chance to see our needs met.”

“For most people, the return on investing in lottery tickets is nothing more than the paper on which it’s printed. Christians should never take the money God entrusts to them and waste it on gambling,” wrote Bentley at the time.

“God is more than able to meet our needs. When we put more trust in chance than in Him, we need to reevaluate our priorities. Faith that is put in luck and random chance ignores God’s Word.”

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