The Drawbacks of Playing the Lottery

In a lottery, people pay to enter a raffle where they are drawn at random to receive prizes. Some governments outlaw lotteries, while others endorse them and organize state-wide or national games. In the United States, for example, many people play the Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries. The prize money for these contests is enormous, but the odds of winning are very low. Many people are still drawn to these games because of their promise of quick riches.

The biggest drawback to playing the lottery is that it promotes covetousness. In addition to the biblical command against covetousness (Exodus 20:17), there are other spiritual reasons to avoid it. One of the biggest lies is that money will solve problems. It may make some people feel better for a while, but it will not change fundamental issues in their lives or bring peace of mind. In fact, many of life’s most serious problems can only be solved through a spiritual transformation.

Moreover, many states have a problem with compulsive gambling and an alleged regressive impact on lower-income groups. These concerns often arise from the evolution of a lottery that is designed piecemeal and incrementally, with little or no overall public policy in view. In this way, the lottery industry is a classic case of “policy drift” in which a public policy that was originally intended to benefit the general welfare gradually evolves into a revenue source that benefits a few favored constituents and penalizes others.

In the immediate post-World War II era, lottery advocates promoted the idea that a lottery would help states expand social services without undue burdens on middle and working class taxpayers. Then, with inflation, the lottery came to be seen as a tool for keeping current spending in line with inflated tax rates and the cost of the Vietnam War.

Lottery officials know that super-sized jackpots generate huge sales and attract free publicity on newscasts and websites. So they deliberately make the jackpots grow to newsworthy levels, even if that means keeping the prizes a bit lower than they might otherwise be.

Richard Lustig, a former lottery winner, has a few tips for beating the odds. He says to buy tickets in different groups and avoid numbers that end with the same digit. He also advises people to keep their tickets safe in a secure place and to check the results carefully after every drawing.

While there is an inextricable human impulse to gamble, most people who play the lottery understand that the odds of winning are long. They play for the thrill of it and for the hope that they will win enough money to improve their lives, but they recognize that the chances of doing so are extremely slim. In the end, they are buying into a lie. In the process, they are violating God’s commandments against covetousness and coveting the wealth of other people. The Bible teaches that money does not solve problems or give happiness.