Should a church receive lottery money?

English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund announced on the 6th March that £2 million has been made available for the restoration of Grade I and Grade II* listed churches in the West Midlands, of which St Luke’s is one.

As a church we face a number of repair bills which we can’t afford. The building is rotting, rusting and crumbling in various ways.

Should we accept the offer of money from EH and LHF?

On the one hand, we do not want to cause anyone to stumble (1 Cor 8:13). If we are seen to endorse gambling by accepting lottery money it might encourage some into gambling or cause a Christian with a weak conscience to have their conscience defiled (1 Cor 8:7). On the other hand, Paul himself was happy to eat meat sacrificed to idols. He did not seem to be concerned about the profit from the sale continuing to support the temple and ongoing practice of animal sacrifice.

The money being offered from the lottery may be “dirty” but, like food sacrificed to idols, it cannot defile us (Titus 1:15). Jesus himself received worship from a woman who was a sinner and whose alabaster flask of ointment must have been earned by sinful means (Luke 7:37). Lottery money is just money and differs from tax duty raised at bookmakers, casinos or on alcohol, tobacco and pornography only by being labelled.

The state wants to preserve its historic buildings and funds this through a voluntary tax system in a game of chance. People choose to play the lottery for mixed motives, part greed, part charity. Local people would prefer their lottery contribution to be spent locally. A spokeswoman from English Heritage said

People really care about their local places of worship which are often a focus for the whole community. The Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage are helping to secure their future by concentrating on the most urgent repair needs and so making a crucial difference to their long-term survival.

Is this offer an answer to prayer and a means of God’s grace or should we avoid it like the plague?

Comments on the ethics of this issue would be appreciated.

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7 Responses to Should a church receive lottery money?

  1. neilrobbie says:

    Ripon and Leeds diocese has had the same debate this week:

    The Heritage Lottery Fund “Rock of Ages” blurb is here:

    Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said “Many of these time-worn treasures are only maintained through the hard work of small and hard-pressed communities. Today’s grants will go some way to providing much-needed support.”


  2. Laurence says:

    Well, there isn’t any chance of the same amount coming from my back pockets.

    A complicated and difficult issue, but its still money, and its a significant sum!

  3. JC GROENEWALD says:

    lottery money/gambling, would you as Christian drink a glass of wine with someone you know to
    be an alcoholic? What would your actions
    testify to the alcoholic, it is okay to drink?
    Would it not tell that person there is nothing wrong addiction considering, if a christian do it then it’s ok! So, what do you testify by using lotto money. You do not trust God for providing your need, perhaps greed? 1 Corint. 8, 1 Corint.10:23-33
    Ask God forgiveness for not trusting him to wait
    for His blessed money. You have a wavering spirit on this issue. If the testimoney you give by using lottery money lets people to believe lottermoney/gambling is ok, then you should stay very, very far away from it! You will cause
    people to stumble! And then you also do not
    love your brother, because you made him stumble by the fruits not from the Spirit but
    from the world.
    I am sorry for my spelling Enghlish is not
    my first language.
    Pray and fast and wait upon God, perhaps He
    has other plans?

    • neilrobbie says:

      Hi Hermang

      Welcome to Transforming Grace and thank you for your comments. My post on lottery money was speculative and in the end our church decided, for the reasons you gave, not to apply for it. The National Lottery requires beneficiaries to publicise that the money came from the lottery and, therefore, encourages gambling like you say.


  4. colin says:

    Is it not like saying ,god can’t supply all our needs ,so we need the lottery to make up the short fall,Make your mind up time ,which camp are you in ,lottery funding IS Spliting our church down the middle,

  5. Chris B says:

    an interesting question above – “would you as Christian drink a glass of wine with someone you know to be an alcoholic”.
    Re-phrase the question: “would Jesus…?”

  6. Jonathan Wood says:

    Here’s some thoughts from the other side of the world, where it takes a few years for blogs to travel…(1) I agree that money is neutral but that doesn’t mean the methods or motives are! (2) The case of a lavish gift maybe (probably?) earned by sinful means : I take it to be a one-off costly offering (life savings?) given to Jesus rather than asked for by Jesus. Would the apostles have been right in applying to (another) woman (or man) earning their money from a sinful lifestyle for a grant – and then another if needed (from the same ongoing lifestyle) and maybe another later…? (3) Paul at Ephesus, Acts 19 where 6 million dollars worth (so says ESV study Bible) of New Age texts were burnt instead of sold for good causes (4) Do not covet your neighbour’s resources (Exodus 20). Seems that lotteries are built on offering hope of getting vast quantities of one’s neighbour’s resources for nothing in return (well, perhaps hope-of-getting-rich on a total random chance is being sold, so is that a “just” product?) I would regard it as unwise at the least to actively seek funds from people giving from this motive – but if someone were to anonymously donate money so won I’m not sure that the issues are quite the same (but respect those who may think they are).
    (5) Here in New Zealand churches (and charities) applying for electronic gaming machine grants is more of an issue (They are run by trusts that give 40% ish of the profits to charity and 20% ish to the govt). They are far more addictive than lotteries (which are more pervasive). Many of us also don’t have ancient buildings to maintain but the Christchurch earthquake has certainly added to the expense (strengthening).
    Thanks for the post (esp the 12 Rare Privileges) – regards, Jonathan

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