Tainted Money?

Today we will tackle the topic of tainted money. Is there such a thing as money being “tainted” because it was obtained sinfully, and therefore a Christian organization should refuse it on moral grounds if it is offered?  Two large ministries were offered huge sums of money by people involved with gambling. One took the money and said, “The devil’s had it long enough, now let’s see what God can do with it!”  The other refused the donation and said, “If we receive this, we are putting our stamp of approval on the way it was obtained (gambling) and we can’t afford to look like we condone the practice.”   (These are both true stories.)

The story that comes to mind first might be the one about Judas and his “blood money” (Matthew 27:6) that the priests said could not be lawfully put into the treasury.  But I don’t know of any law written by Moses that forbade any kind of money from being used in God’s temple.  They actually bought a field with it, so they did use it after all and said, “Hey Jude, the guilt’s your problem.”

There actually isn’t anything in the Bible that prohibits participation in (or even sponsoring) lotteries or raffles.  We will never do it here because it’s not my style; I believe there are better ways to raise money, and I won’t play the lottery personally because it’s statistically unsound – the expected return is less than the ticket price. But people I respect have held raffles to raise money for their youth groups.  My main point to them would be that you can’t preach that it’s wrong to buy a lottery ticket but that it’s right to buy a church raffle ticket.

I heard a story recently about a church building that was financed in full by a large lottery winning. (Note: Please DON’T go buy a ticket hoping to buy us a building.) A preacher commented that God could never bless that ministry because the money was obtained that way.  How can we know if that’s true? Let’s look at some things the Bible has to say about “tainted” money and its use in God’s kingdom.

Would money brought to Jesus be acceptable if it had been made by fortune telling and/or astrology? Absolutely!  That was almost certainly how the Magi (the “Three Wise Men”) had earned their living, yet their gold and incense were obviously acceptable gifts. Please understand that God does not condone astrology (Isaiah pronounced woe on astrologers). As they say, you should trust in the One who made the stars, not the stars themselves.  But the gifts were still acceptable.

The “-ite” tribes that occupied what became Israel were wicked baby-sacrificers. Yet God told Israel to take the land and possess vineyards they hadn’t planted and houses they hadn’t built. The fact that the vineyards and houses belonged to evil men did not make any difference.

Israel quite frequently went to war and snagged significant spoils from their wicked enemies.  God did not seem to have any problem with this.  When they left Egypt, which had no respect for God and His ways, they “spoiled” the Egyptians by asking for and receiving their treasures.  God actually commanded them to take the riches of the wicked in this case.

We read in Proverbs that the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.  This verse alone should prove that money gained through wickedness is perfectly acceptable in the hands of the righteous. (Ah, you might ask, but what about those proverbs about gains gotten by wickedness vanishing?  They vanish from the wicked who made them, not from those to who they leave them!)

Money is neither good nor evil; it is just a tool that can be used for good or for evil. (Only the Biblically illiterate believe that money is the root of all evil.  The LOVE of money is the root of different kinds of evil.)

So here’s my quick response if you ask me if there’s any such thing as tainted money:  “T’ain’t!”