Lottery is a form of gambling where people purchase tickets for a chance to win a prize. The odds of winning are extremely low, but millions of people play the lottery each year and spend billions of dollars on it. People have been playing lotteries for centuries and they are a great source of income for many states. However, there are some concerns with the lottery that should be addressed. One concern is that it encourages covetousness and greed. The Bible teaches us not to covet our neighbors’ possessions, including money. Lottery players often believe that if they can win the jackpot, all their problems will disappear. However, winning the jackpot is very unlikely and only provides temporary riches. It is better to earn money through hard work as God has instructed.
The first recorded lotteries took place in the fifteenth century, when towns used them to raise money for town fortifications and charity for the poor. But it was not until the late twentieth century that states began to use lotteries in larger numbers, in search of ways to finance budget crises without provoking a tax revolt among their constituents.
As state legislatures struggled to solve deficits in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, they looked for new sources of revenue. While many critics of the lottery have argued that it is a “tax on the stupid,” others have pointed to its economic responsiveness. As Cohen explains, lottery sales increase as unemployment grows, incomes fall, and poverty rates rise; in addition, lottery advertising is most heavily promoted in neighborhoods that are disproportionately poor and black.
In 1964, New Hampshire became the first state to adopt a public lottery, and it was followed by thirteen others in a few years. The lottery’s appeal as a way to boost state revenues was reinforced by the nation’s late-twentieth-century tax revolt, which saw voters approve Proposition 13 in California and vote to cut property taxes dramatically in other states.
By the early seventies, advocates of the lottery had changed their approach to its promotion and marketing. Instead of arguing that the lottery would float the entire state budget, they began to claim that it would fund a single line item—invariably education but sometimes elder care or public parks or aid for veterans—and make the argument that a vote for the lottery was a vote in favor of that particular program.
This change in strategy also made it easier to promote the idea that a lottery was not a form of gambling at all. In fact, it was a tool that could be used to help people overcome the hardships of the times and make progress in their lives. While God hates covetousness, he is pleased when we work for our own sustenance. Lotteries are just another way to try to improve our financial situation, but they are not a solution to life’s problems. The real answer lies in God and his word (see Psalm 139:11). The best thing to do is to rely on Him and put our faith in him.