Is Life A Game?

A few weeks ago, Florida's state lottery reached $86 million, and Lotto outlets were stampeded. People drove for hours, from as far away as Tennessee and Ohio, to stand in line for a chance at the big prize. The number of Americans who play the lottery these days is staggering. During busy hours, Lotto machines in Florida churn out as many as 15,000 tickets per second. The state has flown in extra lottery machines to meet the demand. But Christians ought to take a moment and ponder what this trend means for America's soul. Why are so many people willing to sacrifice their time and money for something as elusive as luck? After all, the mathematical probability of winning a prize is far lower than the probability of being killed in an air crash or struck by lightening. When you think about it, the Lotto mania signals something deeper: a shift in fundamental beliefs about life. More people are giving up the historic Christian belief in a personal God, who exercises divine providence over our lives. And instead, they are worshipping at the alter of Almighty Chance. If you think I'm making a too much of a popular trend, consider that the same basic philosophy is showing up in the academic world as well. John Rawls, professor of philosophy at Harvard, teaches a theory of justice that starts with the premise that life is a lottery, that wealth and privilege are dealt out like cards in a poker game. From biological traits, like race and gender, to social traits, like family and education background, they're all distributed by chance in what Rawls calls "the lottery of life." His teachings exercise a wide influence in legal theory today. So we're seeing it everywhere: From the university campus to the convenience store with its lottery machine, Americans are abandoning belief in a personal God who lovingly guides our lives. They're reverting to an ancient belief in chance and fate. America is beginning to resemble the pre-Christian Greek culture, with its myth of the Fates—three goddesses who measured out each person's life as a thread from a cosmic spinning wheel. . . and then cut it off. So when your friends and relatives play the lottery, don't shrug it off as harmless fun. Instead, help them to see that gambling is a way of paying homage to an idol—one that for millennia has laid a rival claim to our ultimate allegiance. We may claim to be Christians, but our actions reveal whether we really worship the true God or an idol. That's partly what James meant when he wrote, "faith without works is dead." Of course, the verse is a command to Christians to practice their faith. But it also suggests a profound truth: that whatever our real faith is—our living faith—it will be revealed in our works, our behavior. The fact that Americans spend billions of dollars today on lotteries means that many of them place their real faith in the god of Luck. And the money they spend on lottery tickets are nothing less than their tithes and offerings laid on the altar of Fortune.


Chuck Colson


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