1. If a man steals a million dollars from a bank, should he tithe it?
2. If you, while representing your church, were given stolen money as a tithe, would you have any problems accepting the money once you found out where it came from?
3. Now replace “steals” with “wins”, replace “bank” with “casino”, and replace “criminal” with “winner”. Would it make any difference? Why or why not?
Ex 20:15 You shall not steal. This makes the thief a sinner. We know that through the merciful grace of Jesus that any sin may be forgiven. Forgiveness of sin and erasure of earthly consequences are not the same thing. God doesn’t want to receive the stolen goods (Mal 1:13). It’s a felony. Legally it would be your responsibility to turn in the thief, no matter their intended use for the ill-gotten gain.
Ex 20:17 You shall not covet… I have read numerous well written arguments concerning gambling. My personal conclusion is that gambling violates the tenth commandment. The purpose of gambling is to acquire money through no honest work, and to quickly accumulate that wealth. It is the desire for wealth that drives gambling, circumventing God’s intended method of honestly accumulating wealth.
Isaiah 65:11-12 refers to people who set a table for Fortune and cups of mixed wine for Destiny. Fortune and Destiny were both ancient Far East gods representing what amounts to gambling. In that passage the Lord goes on to say death awaits them because they forget the Lord, delighting in evil.
Pr 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. Most cases of casting lots documented in scripture involve determining God’s will. Some notable participants include Aaron, Joshua, Saul, David, Joel, Obadiah and Jonah. If all these great biblical figures gambled, doesn’t that support gambling? Pr 16:33 puts these events in context by explaining why the people of God would “gamble” for their decisions. In these special cases they were trusting God would use their lottery as a vehicle to discern God’s decision.
Where the casting of lots may be a tool God can use for decision making, casting lots to gamble money is an entirely different matter falling clearly into the purview of Isaiah 65. It is from casting lots that we get our modern term lottery. The biblical application of casting lots may explain why some many people don’t think of state lotteries as gambling in the same sense as other games of chance.
The bottom line is the money from theft or from a get-rich scheme such as gambling is tainted and unacceptable to the Lord. To receive such would be to behave like the priests described by Malachi (see 10.5). You have civil responsibilities if the money was obtained illegally and a responsibility to God even if it wasn’t illegal. It makes no difference what charity the money goes to, anonymous or otherwise. Until the sinner is reconciled to God the money given would only be an anchor around his neck. Nothing that man can do can repay his sin (Eph 2:8-9). Only grace can preserve life eternally. Of course God can use the money anyway, if He chooses, and since His ways are not our ways it isn’t my place to judge if and how He could turn the tainted into the pure since He certainly has that authority. Beware, dear pastors and church representatives, if you knowingly accept such money you become guilty of the same sins as the thief or gambler who brought it to you. As a representative of the Lord you are all the more accountable.
This post is an excerpt (Question 10.4) from my book Ask James one.