The lottery is played by many people every week in the United States, contributing billions of dollars to state coffers. Some play for fun, others believe the lottery is their answer to a better life. The reality is that the odds of winning are very low. This is why it is so important for Christians to avoid this type of gambling.
The Bible warns us against covetousness (see Proverbs 23:4), and yet many people who participate in a lottery feel they are not coveting their neighbor’s property since the prize money is only cash rather than something tangible. Lotteries are often advertised as “get rich quick” schemes, and they lull players into the false hope that their problems will disappear if they win. But God has made it clear that true riches come only from hard work, not the haphazard pursuit of money that is often associated with gambling.
In the early days of the American colonies, large public lotteries were commonplace and a major source of revenue for both private and government ventures. They funded colleges, roads, canals, bridges, and even the Continental Congress’ attempt to hold a lottery to raise funds for the American Revolution. Many private lotteries were held, as well, including those for the sale of slaves and property.
These early lotteries did not have the same popularity as today’s super-sized jackpots, but they were still a big draw for people who could not afford to invest a substantial sum of their own money. In fact, the larger the prize became, the more people wanted to play. Lottery commissioners soon figured this out, and began to increase the odds of winning in order to attract more customers.
This strategy backfired in the long run, as it shifted the emphasis from the value of hard work to the importance of playing the game. While this is not a problem in itself, it obscures the regressivity of the lottery and distracts from the real message that money cannot solve all of our problems.
Instead of promoting the idea that playing the lottery is a great way to get rich quickly, Christians should be encouraging people to take up hard work in order to obtain wealth honestly (see Proverbs 23:5). They should also remind people that winning the lottery is a form of gambling, and that God forbids it. Trying to win the lottery is not only statistically futile, but it also encourages the kind of greed that leads to a world in which one’s own neighbors are robbed of their property by crooks and swindlers. This worldly greed will lead to an eternity of despair (see Ecclesiastes 10:20). Instead, let’s focus on the true riches that are found in a life of hard work and devotion to our Lord. His blessings will surely follow (see Psalms 11:4).