It’s probably a dream scenario for most churches in this economy. A sudden, unexpected gift of $70,000 just shows up in the collection plate.
The 25 member Covenant Life Worship Center in Haslett, Michigan, is in just this position. But they’re stuck in an interesting predicament. The money comes in the form of a winning lottery ticket. The church has decided to keep the cash (which will be the full amount since they’re tax exempt) and use it for missions as well as supplying the community food pantry.
I know there are plenty of churches that would not take the money since it comes from gambling. But I tend to side with this church. Here’s why. The biggest issue for me is the heart of the person who dropped the ticket into the collection plate. While the woman is staying anonymous to the public, she’s not a secret to church leadership. According to CBS affiliate WLNS, before giving the ticket, the woman met with Covenant Life’s pastor.There are two points of interest for me from the WLNS report that gives some insight to the situation.
1) She wanted to help provide for a church whose people helped her in a rough time.
I was in a car accident about a little over four years ago and started going to this little church that I go to, and if it wasn't for the people there, they've been so loving and real and kind and I really believe had I not been going there, I would not be here today.
2) The woman occasionally played the lottery. She doesn’t appear to be an addicted gambler.
I think the church’s biggest obligation in this situation is the addiction aspect of gambling. First, it’s important to talk with the woman who won the lottery about the dangers of engaging in addictive behaviors. Plus it would probably be good to have a similar conversation with the congregation as a whole. In an ideal world, I think it would be good for the church to use some of the money to start a gambling addiction recovery program.
What do you think? Is it okay for a church to accept money from gambling? Does it matter if the giver is an occasional gambler or one who plays the lotto every week?