To Raffle or Not to Raffle, Part 5: Stocks & Prizes

“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (1 Timothy 6:9)

Some people consider the stock market to be gambling. It can be, if you are putting all your eggs in one basket. But if you invest in well-managed, diversified, stocks, it is not gambling, because history shows that, over time, these are guaranteed to return a higher investment than what was invested. One or more companies may fail, but if you invest properly, then these will be balanced out by the successful ones, and the return on your investment, on average, will be (as history demonstrates) a moderate 10% or more. Some people are not satisfied with these numbers, so they invest in just a few companies that they think have a chance of doing “super well”. I did it myself when I was working for Nortel. The end result was that Nortel bottomed out completely … from over $100 per share (Canadian) to less than $2 per share. Yikes!

Now let’s get a good picture on this, if you will. In the midst of my investing, I felt like I was doing the right thing. But there was a greedy element at work within me. To prove that there was a greedy element inside of me, the Lord did two things to leave himself without excuse when the stock crashed. First, he put it in the heart of my wife to urge me to sell the stock that we owned when it was essentially at its peak. But I refused, saying that it would earn more, still (that was greed, my friends). Secondly, the Lord sent a man to our door — a fine man with whom I was able to share the love of Jesus Christ with (yes, even in our imperfect state, God uses us!). This man urged me to diversify and invest some of my money in a low returning but rather secure stock, instead. Again, I refused and stayed with Nortel. I blessed him by sharing Jesus with him. The problem was, I didn’t let him bless me! And I paid dearly for it!

Was my behavior gambling? Yes, it was gambling. Enter the whole issue of motives. In particular, gambling is gambling when the motive is greed. And where there is greed, there is usually addiction. That is why, in a previous article, I said that the man who purchased a raffle ticket in order to bless the ones giving the raffle was not in the wrong. His desire was to bless and not to receive. Is it wrong to desire to receive? No, but it’s wrong to want to receive at the expense of serving God. Again, in a previous article, I did not condemn the man who called into the radio station to win a prize … as long as he did not let his desire for the prize affect his devotion to Christ. Winning a prize is not wrong. Desiring to win a prize is also not wrong. In fact, in a positive sense the apostle Paul uses the analogy of winning a prize to encourage Christians to compete for the ultimate prize, the reward that God gives to those who serve him faithfully.

Paul writes, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” (1 Corinthians 9:24) And again, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:4) Receiving prizes, or competing in races in order to win prizes, is not condemned in Scripture. What is condemned is poor stewardship of our money. You may not consider it poor stewardship of other people’s money for them to give to support your cause, but because you are using it as an enticement to give, and it is guaranteed to produce losers, you are training people to “gamble” with their money. It is that simple. This is not the same as someone who says, “For every $100.00 that you give to our ministry, we will give you a gold plated (something-or-other). In this case, you are exchanging value (their money) for value (your gold plated something-or-other). Do you see the difference? Everyone receives the gold-plated something or other in this case, not just some.

You will notice that television evangelists do this all the time. “Give to support our ministry and we’ll give you a plaque” — or “a video tape” — or “a T-shirt” — or “a colorful brochure” — or any such thing which is “value” in the eyes of the giver. Is this legitimate? Yes. There’s no “gamble” to it. Although there is an enticement to give, yet you are not promoting gambling — that which leaves some people as winners, and others as losers.