The Dangers of the Lottery

The lottery is a game in which numbers are drawn to determine the winner of a prize. It is one of the most popular forms of gambling and can be found in many states. The prize may be a fixed amount of cash or goods. The draw is based on chance, not skill or knowledge, so the odds of winning are low. The word is derived from the Latin Lottera, meaning “fate” or “fate decided by lot.” The practice of distributing property by lot has a long history in human culture. It was used in biblical times to divide land among heirs and in Roman times for public works projects. It was also used in the late 17th century to fund the founding of several American colleges, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, King’s College (now Columbia), and William and Mary.

Once a state has established a lottery, it is difficult to abolish it because of its broad public approval. The principal argument for lotteries is that they are a “painless form of taxation” because players voluntarily spend their money and the winnings are then given to the state government for use. This argument is most effective during periods of fiscal stress when voters fear higher taxes and cuts in public spending, and when political leaders are looking for new sources of revenue.

The real danger of the lottery is that it encourages people to covet money and its material accoutrements. It lures them into the game with promises that their lives will improve if they win, and it distracts them from heeding God’s warning against covetousness in Exodus 20:17.