A Story About the Lottery


The lottery is a game where bettors pay money to participate and hope to win a prize. Prizes may be cash, goods, services, or even real estate. Some lotteries are run by governments, while others are private enterprises. In either case, the basic elements of a lottery are the same: a means for recording identities and amounts staked, some method for choosing winners, and a mechanism for collecting and pooling all the stakes. A lottery may also use a random selection procedure to determine which numbers are drawn or symbols to mark on tickets, and some modern lotteries allow bettors to opt for a number or series of numbers that will automatically be chosen.

In this short story, the lottery takes place in a small town. The people are gathered around an old black box, which Mr. Summers, a man who represents authority in the story, stirs up before the lottery begins. People are not sure what the prize is, but they know that they must be careful to pick their numbers.

One of the themes in this story is the way that people mistreat each other in conformity with cultural norms and practices, and even though this is wrong, they seem to believe that the end justifies the means. Mrs. Hutchison’s death is a graphic illustration of this. People often think that if they can just get rich, then all their problems will be solved, but this hope is futile (see Ecclesiastes 5:10).

Another theme in this story is the way that people try to control each other by using fear. This seems to be the way that people feel about the lottery, because when someone wins, they become more confident and assertive, and some of them even act aggressively toward one another. People have to be aware of this dynamic and not allow it to happen at work or in their social groups.

The lottery is a way for people to try to gain wealth and power without having to work for it, but this is a dangerous and selfish goal. It is important to remember that God wants us to work hard and to earn our money honestly. He wants us to have wisdom, and he warns that if we are lazy, then we will not be able to eat (Proverbs 23:5).

Despite the fact that many people will never win the lottery, some people still buy tickets. These purchases cannot be accounted for by decision models based on expected value maximization, but they can be explained by risk-seeking behavior and utility functions that are defined on things other than the lottery results. These theories have not been tested empirically, however, so it is not known whether the purchase of lottery tickets can be predicted by these methods. Until then, lottery players will continue to be an interesting group to study. This is especially true when you consider that Americans spend $80 billion on lottery tickets each year, and most of them do not have emergency savings or are in credit card debt.