Sunday, January 23, 2022

Ask Pastor John: How Does the Lottery Prey on the Poor?

NOT ONLY DO WE HAVE LOTTERIES GALORE, we now have legalized sports betting in most states, so the temptation to gamble and bet the farm is even more prevalent....I shudder to think about the money won and lost in Nashville Saturday in the  Bengals-Titans play-off game. Or the hangovers.....


Tony Reinke @ Desiring God: We're going to be talking about gambling, and not for the first time.  Pastor John, we have a handful of helpful episodes on this theme already in the podcast archive. Elsewhere, you’ve talked about how lotteries prey on the poor. That’s a point you made in a 2016 article titled “Seven Reasons Not to Play the Lottery.” Reason number five was that it preys on the poor. You made the point, but only briefly. I want to dwell on this point here on the podcast. How does the lottery prey on the poor? And why we should care that it does?

Let me begin with a few observations taken from various studies. First, just a quotation from that article that you mentioned that I wrote on this some time ago. I said that the lottery supports and encourages “a corrosive addiction that preys upon the greed and hopeless dreams of those entrapped in poverty.” Then I gave this example: “Those earning $13,000 or less spend an astounding 9 percent of their income on lottery tickets.” Now, that was a statistic from maybe six years ago or so.

Here are a few more recent things. People who make less than $10,000 a year spend on average $597 on lottery tickets — that’s 6 percent of their income. Another observation is that the odds of winning a state Powerball lottery are considerably less than being struck by lightning. For example, the odds of winning the January 21 Powerball drawing in Tennessee was 1 in 292.2 million, while the odds of a lightning strike death hover in the 1-in-2.3-million area.

Pull-Tabs and Scratch Games

So, it’s a pretty weak possibility to say the least, but let’s clarify what we’re talking about. We’re not just talking about Powerball with its million-dollar payout. There are many different kinds of public gambling, lotteries, some far more destructive for the poor than others. Lotto America, Mega Millions, Lucky for Life, Instaplay, pull-tabs, scratch games — all of these created by governments to help pay the bills.

So when we think of how the poor spend money on public lotteries, we must not just think about Powerball. In fact, even poor people recognize that the chances of winning millions are so remote that that’s really not the main draw. That’s not where poor people are spending their money.

The main draw is pull-tabs and scratch games. You buy a ticket — so you can go online and just type in “Scratch Games Minnesota” and find what the offerings are. In Minnesota, the $1 ticket that you can buy online or at the gas station is called Rake It In. That’s the name of the ticket for $1. You scratch it off and you’ll know immediately if you’ve won, and the payouts are like $1, or $10, or $50, or right up to $5,000.

So, in Minnesota, the extent for the scratch-offs are from $1 all the way up to $5,000. These kinds of games are less attractive to middle-class people and upper-class people because adding $10, or $100 dollars even, to your bank account really doesn’t make that much difference to a middle-class person. But to a poor person — $10, $100, or $500 — that’s like a windfall. Therefore, the more frequent payout and the greater the likelihood of winning draws in disproportionately more poor people for these kinds of games than for, say, the big Powerball payout.

53 Cents to the Dollar

The poorest one-third of American households purchase one-half of the lottery tickets. The lowest one-fifth of earners in America have the highest percentage of lottery players. One study showed that the introduction of scratch-offs grew three times faster in poor areas than in others.

“The lottery did not become a million-dollar industry due to its large output of winners.”

But study after study has shown that, across the board, players lose on average 47 cents for every dollar. Or to say it another way, what you purchase, on average, when you spend a dollar on the lottery is 53 cents. And of course, that statistic is highly misleading because, to arrive at that average of millions of people investing, you overlook the fact that millions of those people got exactly nothing. To bring the average up to getting back 53 cents on your dollar, you have to reckon that some people have won a million dollars — a very, very few people. So it’s a truism to say the lottery did not become a million-dollar industry due to its large output of winners. That’s not the way it works.

It’s true that states have created lotteries to help pay for social services that aim at benefiting everyone, but there are ironies. Most states allocate some of the lottery income to providing services for gambling addiction, and some try to provide a good kind of education, which creates, supposedly, habits of mind and heart that are the opposite of the habits they exploit by the lottery itself. Very ironic. Addictive behaviors are more common among the poor, and living by immediate rather than deferred gratification is more common among the poor. Publicly funded gambling feeds these kinds of habits, which are destructive to people’s lives.

Regressive Tax

Now, for all these reasons, the lottery has regularly been called a regressive tax on the poor. Here’s what that means: it’s a way of luring the poor, who pay almost no taxes for social services, to pay a kind of tax in a way that worsens their situation rather than making it better, which is what taxes are supposed to do. They’re supposed to make life better for us, so this is a regressive tax in the sense that it may make life worse for the poor rather than better. Now, it would be easy to sarcastically say, “Well no, actually it’s not a tax on the poor — it’s a tax on the stupid.” I know there are a lot of people who think that way about the poor, as if the only factor in making a person poor is all their bad habits, or they might say stupid habits.

And of course, it’s true. Personal responsibility and the failure to act with righteousness, integrity, and dependence on God through grace, through patience, and through trust in Jesus Christ is a huge factor in why many people are poor. But there are many other factors as to why, say, a widow might be stuck economically — earning $20,000 a year working full time, and spending half her income on her apartment, and unable to afford a car, and facing physical and mental challenges few people know about that make advancement for her, of any kind, unlikely. There are more factors.

“When you already feel hopeless, then arguments against gambling lose most of their force.”

The number-one reason why people in such seemingly hopeless situations purchase scratch-offs is because things already look so hopeless for improvement that the so-called “stupidity” of wasting this dollar won’t really make anything worse. So why not try? That’s, I think, basically the mindset that drives most of the purchases: a sense of hopelessness. It’s not going to make things worse because there’s no hope that they could get better. And when you already feel hopeless, then arguments against gambling lose most of their force.

Consider the Poor

Now, from a biblical and Christian point of view, then, I don’t think we are the least bit encouraged by God’s word to stand aloof and roll our eyes at the stupidity of millions of dollars that roll into the state coffers from people who can barely pay their bills. I don’t think that is basically a Christian standpoint. When I read my Bible, I see a different disposition — a different heart, a different mind. For example,

  • “Blessed is the one and who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him” (Psalm 41:1).
  • “Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 17:5).
  • “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him” (Proverbs 14:31).
  • “Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:9).
  • “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap” (Psalm 113:7).

So, I think the upshot of all of this for Christians is that we should disapprove of and resist every form of gambling. I’ve written about that elsewhere. We’ve talked about that on APJ on several occasions. Just gambling itself is a major biblical problem. So, I think we should resist all forms of gambling, all forms of lottery, which fly in the face of how God intends for his creatures to use the resources he has entrusted to us. You don’t gamble with somebody else’s money. It’s all God’s, and we wittingly or unwittingly prey upon the vulnerabilities of the poor, and we should resist that kind of institution.

Instead, we should give our thinking, and praying, and advocating, and investing, and planning toward the removal of unnecessary barriers to productive work and gainful employment among the poor, the removal of incentives and allurements toward waste and squandering and irresponsibility, and instead seek to put in place encouragements toward deferred gratification, and finally, the creation of responsibility and hope, especially through the gospel in people’s lives.


Sunday, January 9, 2022

Greg Morse @ Desiring God---Desperate For Distractions, Why We're Bad at Being Alone

January 9, 2022 Desperate for Distraction Why We’re Bad at Being Alone Article by Greg Morse Staff writer, 

A slight breeze of discomfort blows a thought through my mind: What am I doing here? The room I’ve known for years suddenly takes an awkward shape. The silence, the stillness gives everything an unnatural quality, like a deer’s head mounted on a wall. Eyes are open, yet nothing moves. 


As I finally settle into the stillness, distractions offer themselves from all sides. “My Father who art in heaven,” I begin to pray, “hallowed be thy name. In my city, exalt your name. In my life” — why are my feet so cold? 

After I tiptoe back with socks, I kneel. Where was I? 

 Oh yes. “Exalt your name in my life, Lord. And please make your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” — wait, what was that sound? One of the kids? What time is it? It cannot be. 

As I glance down the hall, I notice books disjointed on the shelves beside me. Hmm, I should really read Holiness again. . . . I still can’t believe Amazon shipped the book with that damaged corner — I should have returned it. Packages, packages . . . wasn’t something supposed to come yesterday? What was it again?

 Running from Solitude 

Of late, I’ve noticed I’ve been getting worse at being alone. That sanctuary of solitude with God, a place where hours could pass unnoticed, has fallen victim to a life filled with activity. “Quiet times” have become harder to bear. Money-changers now sit in my house of prayer, noisily selling pigeons and livestock. And what is worse, I invited them in. But why?

That sanctuary of solitude with God, a place where hours could pass unnoticed, has fallen victim to a life filled with noise.” Blaise Pascal explains well enough why the unredeemed world hates silence. “Diversion. Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things” (Christianity for Modern Pagans, 170). Pascal sees men without God fleeing their Creator, and themselves, at every turn. This world swirls with hustle and bustle, men busily chase what they don’t want because fallen humanity will not — cannot — endure the frowning thoughts that meet them in stillness. Thus, clamor keeps back the awful light of self-knowledge, the unwelcome truth that Adam’s race is a terminal patient, busy building vanities upon the seashore to keep him from considering that he is a creature, dying. Or as Jesus depicted, a branch withering, soon to be cast into the fire and burned (John 15:6). 

Read the rest....

Thursday, January 6, 2022

I'm With Jason Whitlock---So Good to See Tucker Brutally Confront Ted Cruz

 IT WAS A RARE, POIGNANT TV MOMENT TONIGHT  WHEN TUCKER CARLSON CONFRONTED ON HIS SHOW Senator Ted Cruz over Cruz's characterization of last year's January 6 Capitol rioters as 'violent terrorists.'  

Cruz evidently contacted Carlson aferwards asking to come on his show to  'explain'  his earlier mischaracterization of January 6 rioters as terrorists.   Cruz made a weak attempt to cover his tracts, but Tucker wasn't buying it.  said he didn't believe Cruz.  As the interview ended and Cruz, whom I have liked and supported,  weakly apologized, I thought Cruz had probably dug himself further in a political grave.  Jason  Whitlock who followed Cruz on the show congratulated Tucker for holding this elected official accountable. Whitlock said he was proud of Carlson, and so am I.

We need more, much more of this kind of interviewing.  And while both agreed Cruz was courageous to come on, it's hard to believe he did little to reverse the hard feelings engendered  with conservatives over his earlier remarks.

Monday, January 3, 2022

First Day of Snow, Cold

THE COVERED PORCH OFFERS LITTLE RESPITE in 20 degree temps.  But it's nice to have it be winter for now.  

Sunday, January 2, 2022

First Sunday January



Devotional by John Piper 

Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27–28)

The death of Jesus bears sins. This is the very heart of Christianity, and the heart of the gospel, and the heart of God’s great work of redemption in the world. When Christ died he bore sins. He took sins not his own. He suffered for sins that others had done, so that they could be free from sins.

This is the answer to the greatest problem in your life, whether you feel it as the main problem or not. There is an answer to how we can get right with God in spite of being sinners. The answer is that Christ’s death is an offering “to bear the sins of many.” He lifted our sins and carried them to the cross and died there the death that we deserved to die.

Now what does this mean for my dying? “It is appointed [to me] to die once.” It means that my death is no longer punitive. My death is no longer a punishment for sin. My sin has been borne away. My sin is “put away” by the death of Christ. Christ took the punishment.

Why then do I die at all? Because God wills that death remain in the world for now, even among his own children, as an abiding testimony to the extreme horror of sin. In our dying we still manifest the external effects of sin in the world.

But death for God’s children is no longer his wrath against them. It has become our entrance into salvation not condemnation.