Why Christians Should Avoid the Lottery


A lottery is a game of chance in which participants pay a small sum to win a larger sum. The prize money can be anything from cash to goods to services, and is usually drawn at random. Some states organize state-wide lotteries to raise funds for public purposes, while others have local lotteries to support charitable organizations. In addition to state-run lotteries, there are also privately run lotteries for items such as subsidized housing units or kindergarten placements.

A modern lottery typically consists of a central computer system that records ticket purchases and determines winners. The system is connected to a network of retail outlets, where people can purchase tickets and stakes. In the United States, these outlets are typically called “lottery retailers.” Tickets may be purchased either in advance for a drawing at some future date, or in the moment for an instant game. Instant games are characterized by lower prize amounts, such as 10s or 100s of dollars, and by higher odds of winning on the order of 1 in 4. In some states, tickets are sold in the form of fractions, such as tenths, that cost slightly less than the price of an entire ticket.

The modern lotteries that have evolved since New Hampshire began the practice in 1964, raise a great deal of money each year. This money is often used for a variety of purposes, including education, public works, and statewide tax reduction. Many lotteries are heavily promoted, especially through television and radio advertising.

Despite their enormous popularity, lotteries have some serious flaws and are largely unregulated. The problem is that the lotteries are designed to appeal to a particular audience, which includes convenience store owners who sell the tickets (and frequently benefit from the revenue stream); lottery suppliers who donate generously to political campaigns; state legislators who quickly become accustomed to the increased revenues; and the general population, who buys lots of tickets.

Lottery advertising is not only misleading but often deceptive, as it focuses on the large prizes and glosses over the low likelihood of winning. In addition, the large jackpots are often paid out in equal annual installments over 20 years, which can be eroded significantly by inflation and taxes.

Aside from the obvious economic problems with this type of gambling, Christians should avoid the lottery for other reasons. Playing the lottery as a get-rich-quick scheme is statistically futile and distracts players from God’s plan of gaining wealth through diligence, as illustrated by Proverbs 23:5. God wants us to build our finances through honest work and save for emergencies, instead of spending money on this sort of frivolous activity that has very little chance of producing real financial riches. In fact, it is a good idea to keep a surplus of $400 in savings, so that in case you lose a job or need to pay for something unexpected, you won’t have to resort to the lottery.