The Truth About the Lottery

The lottery is a game of chance in which people pay a small amount of money and either choose a group of numbers or let machines randomly spit out combinations. The winner gets a big prize. The lottery was a popular way to raise funds for state governments in the immediate post-World War II period when states were expanding their array of social safety net services and needed additional revenue without raising the burden on the middle class and working poor.

Lottery advertising typically focuses on two messages. One is that playing the lottery is fun. Many people who never gamble otherwise spend a small part of their incomes on lottery tickets. The other message is that winning the lottery will improve your life. It is a tempting message, particularly for those in the bottom quintile of income who have few other discretionary opportunities. The reality is that lottery winnings are often taxed heavily and spent quickly, and those who win have no more stability or opportunity than they did before the big win.

Those who play the lottery are likely to covet money and things that money can buy. God tells us to earn wealth through hard work, and warns that laziness leads to poverty (Proverbs 24:34). Lottery players are likely to covet their neighbors’ houses or cars, even though the Bible forbids coveting them. They may also be tempted to believe that winning the lottery will cure their problems, but God tells us that “there is no one who can profit from wickedness” (Proverbs 14:26). The only real benefit from playing the lottery is the feeling of hopelessness when they lose.