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.