Robert Powell of Orange Park, Florida, hit the jackpot in the Florida lottery last month. His total winnings? A cool $6 Million. Interestingly, he thought of his church, First Baptist Church of Orange Park. He offered the church a tithe on his winnings .. a check for $600,000.
And the church refused the money.
Pastor David Tarkington politely declined the offer, telling Powell that the church would not accept lottery winnings.
First Baptist Orange Park is not the first church to reject gifts from lottery winnings. I recall a few years ago that the new pastor of a Baptist church in Louisiana discovered that the church had accepted a tithe on lottery winnings. He demanded that the church refund the unwelcome cash. In the aftermath of the event he also discovered that one of his deacons was a lottery winner. (I tried my best to find a link to that story, but to no avail. If anyone remembers or has a link, please share it with us…) Surely there must be other instances of similar church actions. Perhaps IMPACT! readers know of specific instances they can share.
But, tell me … what is your conviction? Should a church refuse financial gifts from a lottery winner? Let me tell you my view.
First and foremost, I despise the lottery. I’ve never, ever bought a lottery ticket. But I have stood in line at the convenience store behind plenty of people who were making such a purchase. I affectionately call the lottery in my state the “idiot tax.” Because, in my view, it takes an idiot to think one will personally overcome the astronomical odds to win a major prize.
But as to the money generated by the lottery … I, personally, do not believe that money, in and of itself, is tainted or evil. It’s what is done with the money. And, besides, how many dollars of the Lord’s tithes and offerings have been diverted week in, week out, to play the lottery? I like what Dr. Jerry Falwell used to say when asked if he would accept money from a lottery winner, “Of course I would, the devil has had that money long enough!” So, knowing the financial needs and dreams of my church, I would have some (well, a lot of) difficulty turning down a $600,000 gift.
And let’s take it down to a more personal level. What about Christian families? Should they refuse the benefits offered from lottery winnings? My daughter, now a senior in high school, will have accumulated about $17,000 in a KEES (Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship) funds by the time she graduates. These funds are the product of the Kentucky Lottery. And I assure you … the Baggett family will NOT be refusing those scholarship funds. Of that you can be sure.
So … where do you stand? What would you do if someone showed up at your church with a half-million dollar gift, and it was all over the news that they had won the lottery? (This would have made a great, “You Make the Call” episode, eh?)
And by the way … does anyone have Robert Powell’s e-mail or phone number?