What Is the Bible’s View?
Should Religions Raise Money by Bingo?
AN UPRAISED arm and a shout of “Bingo!” How often that scene is reenacted! Particularly drawn to this game of chance are women with grown children, as well as retired and widowed persons. Many get pleasure and excitement from it. The game may be sponsored by a fraternal, civic or charitable organization, or by a Jewish synagogue. Very often eager players flock to bingo tables at a local Roman Catholic church.
Participants in bingo games may range from a few to hundreds at a single location. Bingo is played with nonduplicate cards, each having five columns of five numbered squares, except for the center “free” square. Some individuals buy and play on several cards at a time. As an announcer calls out numbers drawn at random, players cover these with bingo buttons. The first person able to cover five of the numbers in a row—either horizontally, vertically or diagonally—shouts “Bingo!” As the winner, that player gets a prize, perhaps cash.
Why do organizations sponsor bingo games? To raise money. For instance, a Roman Catholic church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recently reported a profit of $30,000 in a year from its Thursday-evening bingo games. So, bingo has proved to be a very lucrative means of raising money for religious purposes. But are there factors you should weigh in deciding whether to play bingo? Yes, there are.
Bingo actually is a lottery. Hence, in many places it is considered illegal gambling. Though local officials may not enforce the law in connection with religious organizations sponsoring bingo games, how do you feel about obeying the law? Jesus Christ told his followers to ‘pay God’s things to God and Caesar’s things to Caesar.’ (Mark 12:17) God expects those who desire his favor to obey all the laws of governmental “superior authorities” that do not conflict with his commandments.—Rom. 13:1; Acts 5:29.
Considerable skill and mental effort are required to win some types of games. But is that true of bingo? No. Its players trust in luck. Is that wrong? From God’s standpoint it is, for the Scriptures do not approve of trusting in luck.—Isa. 65:11.
By playing bingo some people obtain money that they can spend for things they need. But there is more to think about than that. Since the proceeds benefit a sponsoring church in some cases, adherents of other religions may choose to refrain from participating because they do not desire to support another form of worship. The average bingo player is not likely to think about how the proceeds will help a church or some charity, however. Rather, many individuals are enticed by bingo to part with their money in the hope that, instead of giving, they will be getting. How easily this could develop into greed! And did you know that the Bible says “greedy persons” will not inherit God’s kingdom? The Christian apostle Paul said so.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10.
Granted, the average bingo player is not like many professional gamblers who may resort to dishonesty and display intense greed. Yet, does not bingo actually promote greediness? All participants spend money to play, and each player keenly desires to win some of the money thus accumulated or to obtain the prizes purchased with it. Yes, bingo fosters selfishness and lack of love for other persons.
Not a selfish attitude toward others, but love for fellow humans is what God requires of those desiring his approval. The apostle Paul wrote: “Do not you people be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another; for he that loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”—Rom. 13:8.
In view of God’s requirements and the undesirable fruitage of bingo playing, can you visualize Paul, or perhaps the apostle Peter, seated for a game of chance in some religious establishment, listening intently to announced numbers, then raising a hand and excitedly yelling “Bingo”? That is hard to imagine, is it not? Could you put Jesus Christ in that position? Hardly! Well, it is good to remember that godly persons should look to him as their Exemplar.—Heb. 12:1, 2; 1 Pet. 2:21.
How may individuals wishing to please God acquire funds or material things? One cannot rightly object to properly motivated giving and the receiving of gifts. The Scriptures speak of ‘carrying a gift into Jehovah’s courtyards,’ and God is described as the Giver of ‘every good gift and perfect present.’ (Ps. 96:8; Jas. 1:17) Yet, can anyone say that generous, good-hearted gift giving is associated with bingo? No indeed!
Christians customarily obtain needed or desired things through their productive labor. The apostle Paul urged fellow believers to ‘work with their hands.’ That is just what he did.—1 Thess. 4:10-12.
Games of chance have been known for thousands of years. One resembling bingo reportedly was played in Egypt before the pyramids were constructed. The Romans of later centuries held lotteries. But did God’s people of old use such games to raise money or acquire goods for religious purposes? No.
Shortly after the Israelites were released from Egyptian bondage, Jehovah’s tabernacle was built as a center of worship. Games of chance were not held to accumulate valuable things for it. Rather, the people “came, everyone whose heart impelled him, and they brought, everyone whose spirit incited him, Jehovah’s contribution for the work of the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments” of those serving at God’s sanctuary.—Ex. 35:20-29; 36:4-7.
Neither did the early Christians hold gambling events to obtain funds for religious purposes. Instead, they made voluntary contributions. Wrote Tertullian: “Even if there is a chest of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in entrance-fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest coin—or whenever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering.” (Apology, XXXIX, 5) That harmonizes with Paul’s advice: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Cor. 9:7.
Jehovah’s witnesses of today do not raise money by bingo, because it is gambling, is illegal in many places and promotes selfishness, greed and a lack of love for other persons. To acquire funds and things needed for their families, they engage in productive work. Then, to advance the interests of true worship, they, like Jehovah’s servants of the past, make voluntary contributions. They ‘honor Jehovah with their valuable things.’ In turn, God ‘enriches them for every sort of generosity.’—Prov. 3:9, 10; 2 Cor. 9:8-12.