What is a Lottery?

Lottery is a form of gambling in which participants pay for a chance to win a prize based on random drawing. Financial lotteries are run by state or federal governments. People purchase tickets for a small fee and are rewarded with a large sum of money, often in the millions or billions of dollars.

The word “lottery” probably originated in the 15th century, from Middle Dutch loterie, a combination of the Middle English words for “action of drawing lots” and Old French lote “fate” (from Latin, luctus “fate”), with the sense of a “game of chance.” Early state-sponsored lotteries were largely in the Low Countries, where towns held them to raise money for town fortifications and to help the poor.

Today, lotteries continue to enjoy broad public support. In the US, for example, about 60% of adults report playing the lottery at least once a year. They also have extensive specific constituencies: convenience store owners and suppliers (lotteries are often sold at these establishments); teachers (in states in which lottery revenues are earmarked for education); state legislators; and players themselves.

A lottery is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Even a hefty jackpot isn’t enough to provide for long-term needs or secure a comfortable retirement. Instead, Christians should focus on earning wealth through diligence and avoiding the temptation to spend money on lotteries and other get-rich-quick schemes. We should also remember that God wants us to earn wealth through fair means, as he says in Proverbs 22:7: “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring riches.” (ESV).