The Truth About the Lottery


The lottery is a popular game that uses numbers to determine prize winners. Its roots stretch back to ancient times. In the 15th century, town records in the Low Countries mention public lotteries raising funds for town walls and fortifications. And, as we shall see, the practice grew rapidly when states began seeking ways to solve budget crises that would not enrage their tax-averse constituents.

A state-run lottery is an alternative to increasing taxes or cutting programs that citizens care deeply about, such as education, elder care, and aid for veterans. It is a game that relies on two main messages: 1) The fun and excitement of playing the lottery. And, 2) That lottery revenue will benefit a specific line item in the state’s budget.

Lottery commissioners are adroit at selling this message, in part because the game’s popularity makes it difficult to argue that it is simply gambling. But the fact is that a lottery is a form of gambling, and its proceeds do not necessarily benefit everyone equally.

People play the lottery largely because they believe that winning will help them improve their lives. The belief is often based on the notion that money is the solution to all problems, which runs counter to biblical teachings that forbid coveting anything that belongs to one’s neighbor (Exodus 20:17; Ecclesiastes 5:10). People also play the lottery because they believe that the money they win will give them a life free of pain and sorrow.

Posted in: Gambling