“Is a Raffle the Same as Gambling?”

Is a raffle the same as gambling? For example, the church has an article and they ask the brethren to buy a ticket for two dollars, then they will pick one ticket and that person whose number they pull will get that article. What does the Bible say on the subject? Please help me. I think it is gambling but there are others who do not think so.

I know of many churches that sponsor various forms of gambling (Bingo games, raffles, etc.). So your question is not unique.

At the outset, let me acknowledge that there are some differences between gambling in secular arenas and inside the church. The goal of a church-sponsored event is fund-raising, often for a good cause. The goal is not so much to win a large prize but to contribute to a good cause with the possibility of winning something.

But that distinction is often lost on those affected by gambling. Because I have written on the subject of gambling, I have been in contact with many people whose lives have been shattered by an addiction to gambling. For them, the distinction between gambling outside of church and inside church is irrelevant. Their lives have been adversely affected by gambling.

Many Christians have been writing books in the last few years about gambling, calling for the church to provide help and counseling for gamblers and their families. But I would argue that a church loses it moral authority to help those struggling with gambling. How can you reach out to gamblers and their families devastated by casino gambling, racetrack gambling, or lottery gambling when your church sponsors Bingo games and raffles?

Moreover, a Bible-centered church should be a refuge from the world. People addicted to gambling need a safe place to escape the temptations of the world. When we bring gambling into the church, it is no longer a place where an addict can escape from the world.

Norman Geisler in his book Gambling: A Bad Bet addresses the argument that gambling must be OK since “they do it in the church.” He points out that churches do all sorts of things that can’t be morally justified. Cults have promoted sexual orgies, “divine deception,” and all sorts of corruption. That doesn’t make it right. He and I would argue that even though gambling may help a church raise money for a good cause, we shouldn’t use questionable means for a good end. The means and the ends must be moral. As one clergyman put it, “We don’t need to use the devil’s water to operate the Lord’s mill.”

Gambling is wrong wherever it takes place. I would encourage you to download my article on gambling. It provides a biblical perspective on this issue. I believe these biblical principles apply to gambling outside the church and inside the church. Thank you for writing.

Kerby Anderson
Probe Ministries