I saw an article this morning about another church refusing to accept lottery winnings. This time, the church was being offered a $600,000 tithe from a man who had won a $6 million jackpot. Here's the article from FirstCoastNews.com:
ORANGE PARK, FL -- After Robert Powell hit the Florida Lottery jackpot last month and took home more than $6 million, he thought of his church.I applaud the church for its refusal to accept lottery winnings. We often rightly condemn playing the lottery and gambling because it is incredibly poor stewardship of God's resources. The Puritans rejected all forms of gambling not only because of the problem of squandering ones resources but also because of the problems inherent in WINNING the lottery. They rightly saw that the one who profited from gambling was profiting off the loss of his brother.
And he offered to drop his tithe, around $600,000, in the collection plate of First Baptist Orange Park.
But the church and Pastor David Tarkington politely declined and told Powell they will not accept the lottery winnings.
Many churches do not approve of the lottery and gambling but on the other hand Pastor Dr. Lorenzo Hall of the El-Beth-El Divine Holiness Church says $600,000 can do a lot of good.
"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," says Hall.
As a Holiness minister, Dr. Hall says he does not ask where members get the money they decide to donate.
He said he would welcome Powell's donation to his inner city church anytime.
"We are in the process now of building a youth center, and you would be surprised at the people that can be helped with $600,000," says Hall.
Bethel Baptist Church member Lottie Walker says if she won, the first thing she would do is give lottery money to her church.
"Anything extra is bonus so that would be an extra blessing of offering after that, so if I did win lotto, sweepstakes I would tithe to my church," says Walker.
First Baptist Orange Park Pastor David Tarkington would not say exactly why the church refused the money, saying only he didn't want to talk about members' gifts.
Furthermore, since the poor play the lottery is disproportionate numbers, the one who wins the lottery is essentially gaining from the losses of the poor. Supporting such a system is immoral and I believe that a church should remove itself from participation in such a system.
Which makes the response of Dr. Lorenzo Hall all the more disappointing. His concern is very pragmatic: the building of a youth center. He's "against" the lottery, but not above benefiting from it. The article states that he doesn't ask where members money is coming from. I wonder if there are any exceptions to that. Would he accept money from known drug dealers? From those involved in prostitution? From telemarketers?
I also appreciated Pastor Tarkingtons refusal to offer a comment on the story. He doesn't publically chastise a member of the church, opting instead to simply say that he won't discuss individual member's donations. Good for him.
John Piper has an article entitled "Don't Play the Lottery for Me" that I have referenced before in a blog. It was written in response to a West Virginia man who tried to donate some of his winnings to the Red Cross. I highly recommend it to you again for your consideration. Here are the opening paragraphs and closing paragraph to his article:
The West Virginia pastors who accepted Jack Whittaker's tithe on his $170 million Powerball booty should be ashamed of themselves. One of them said, "That's a blessing to have that kind of backing." I don't think so.
Christ does not build his church on the backs of the poor. The engine that delivers his righteousness in the world is not driven by the desire to get rich. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not advanced by undermining civic virtue. Let the pastors take their silver and throw it back into the temple of greed.
Don't play the Lottery for Bethlehem Baptist Church. We will not, I pray, salve your conscience by taking one dime of your plunder, or supporting even the thought of your spiritual suicide. Let the widow give her penny and the laborer his wage. And keep your life free from the love of money.