Is the Lottery a Good Thing?

A lottery is a process for awarding something of limited value to paying participants by random selection. It can be used to select individuals for jobs, to fill units in a subsidized housing block, or to get one’s pick of kindergarten spots at a reputable school. It can also be used to choose the draft picks of professional sports teams.

The lottery is a form of gambling, and people who play it often end up worse off than they were before. Those who win big can become addicted to the gamble, which can drain their bank accounts and deprive them of the opportunity to save for retirement or college. In addition, winnings can sometimes bring on a downward spiral in life that leads to depression and other problems. (See Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Many states advertise the lottery as a good thing, claiming that it raises money for education and other public services. But that message is misleading. Lotteries are not the answer to poverty, as they only divert public funds away from what would be better spent on programs such as job training, health care, and affordable housing. They also encourage people to spend money on a dream that is statistically futile, focusing them on the temporary riches of this world rather than what God wants us to pursue—a richness of character and eternal life. In the long run, only God can provide true wealth. Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent work brings riches (Proverbs 10:4).