Is the Lottery a Symbol of Covetousness?

Lottery is a classic example of the human need to gamble. People like to try their luck, and it’s hard to resist billboards beckoning with a Mega Millions or Powerball jackpot that could change your life. But lottery players, just like all gamblers, are buying into a big lie—the promise that money can solve all their problems. Lottery promoters know what they’re doing. They’re dangling the carrot of instant riches in an age of inequality and limited social mobility. But the real problem with the lottery is not that it’s a game of chance. The real problem is that it’s a symptom of covetousness, an impulse that is contrary to the teachings of God. It is against the biblical commandment not to covet your neighbor’s property, and the hope that money can buy happiness is an empty hope (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

The practice of distributing goods or property by the drawing of lots has a long history, with several instances recorded in the Bible. The first recorded public lottery, however, was in the 15th century, when various towns held lotteries to raise funds for town fortifications and help the poor. This type of public lottery is the ancestor of modern state-run games.

Private lotteries are also common, although their prizes tend to be of less monetary value than public ones. Benjamin Franklin held a lottery in 1776 to raise money for cannons for Philadelphia, and he encouraged his fellow citizens to do so as well. Other private lotteries were popular in the United States, and by 1832, the Boston Mercantile Journal reported that 420 lotteries had been held that year alone. Many of these lotteries used a form of “voluntary tax” to fund colleges, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, King’s College (now Columbia), and William and Mary.

In the old days, lottery games were basically traditional raffles, with players purchasing tickets that were then used in a drawing at some future date, usually weeks or months away. In order to maintain or increase revenues, innovation in lottery games was needed. This led to the development of scratch-off tickets and other instant games.

While the odds are much better on these new types of lottery games, their popularity has also decreased. This is because the new games provide a similar experience to the old-fashioned ones, with the only difference being that players aren’t waiting around for weeks or months to find out whether they won or lost.

The truth is that it takes a lot of work to win the lottery. Rather than relying on the “luck of the draw,” savvy winners use a proven strategy that has been successful in the past: find lotteries where the jackpot is three times or more than the number of possible combinations. They then invest the prize pool in an annuity, a financial instrument that offers a first payment when you win and 29 annual payments that increase by 5% each year. This strategy can make winning the lottery possible for just about anyone.