To Raffle or Not to Raffle, Part 3: Hope Deferred

“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick”. (Proverbs 13:12a)

My son and I went to see a hockey game with our church some time ago. Throughout the game, they gave away some door prizes. One of them fell to the person sitting next to us, but by the time their number was drawn, they had already left and the seat was empty! The woman came to deliver the prize — a $125.00 sporting goods voucher — and our pastor said to the lady, “Hey, why don’t you give it to that little boy (my son) sitting right there, instead?” So she did! We got the door prize, and because of it, we were able to purchase two brand new baseball gloves for our children. Praise the Lord! He used the door prize to give us what we would have never likely been able to purchase otherwise.

Are door prizes and raffles the same? No, not at all. We didn’t go to the hockey game in order to win the door prize. We went to see the game. It just turned out, however, that we won a door prize in the midst of it. The door prize was a blessing — not a means of enticing us to go to the game. Door prizes act as “salt and spice” on the game — an added blessing, as it were. They are not provided as an incentive to attend the game. Door prizes, then, are not the same as raffle tickets, because of the issue of motives. One is intended to “lure” you to give, the other is intended to bless you simply for being there. No one goes to a hockey game to receive a door prize. But when they receive a door prize, they are blessed indeed.

Now there’s a local radio station where we live that gives out prizes sometimes to those who call in. Like a raffle, a person may feel “lured” to participate in order to win the prize. A person may even become “addicted” to wanting to win the prize. My own grandmother was caught in this trap years ago (she died maybe twenty years ago). One day the local radio station randomly called her telephone number. The man at the other end of the line said, “If you had said, ‘I listen to station XXXX,’ you would have won (some amount).” From that moment on, my grandmother answered the phone by saying, “I listen to station XXXX” — and I don’t believe the radio station ever called again!

If, because of a radio station, you have ceased serving God and have begun serving the radio station, then you have crossed over from righteousness to sin. Nevertheless, generally speaking, prizes won through radio stations are not the same as prizes won through raffles, because the raffle causes you to have to make a financial expenditure each time in order to qualify for the prize, whereas the prize offered by a radio station does not. Radio stations give away prizes as a means of promoting their station and of engaging their audience. No ongoing financial expenditures are required on the part of the audience, and so these do not fall into the same category as do raffles and lottery tickets. (Yet, keep in mind that one can become addicted to these things, too, so one must exercise due caution.)

When you use a prize to “lure” a person into giving his money to you or supporting your organization, and yet “fix” the situation such that most people are guaranteed not to win the prize, then, as the sponsor of that event, you’ve crossed the line from righteousness to sin. Raffles do that. Lotteries do that. In Proverbs 13:12a, we read that “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick”. Raffles and lotteries actually promote sick hearts, because for almost every single person their hope will be deferred — that is, never realized. And yet Jesus said, “Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8). Those who are not pure in heart will not see God. Do you see where we, as a nation, are going with our raffles and our lotteries? We are leading people astray from God and away from his purposes. A whole generation is being led away from God as a result of these things!