Don’t Think of the Lottery As a Game

Whether you’re playing the national lottery or your state’s weekly drawings, winning isn’t easy. You need to have a predetermined budget and understand the slim odds of winning. Educating yourself on these factors can help you contextualize your purchase of lottery tickets as participation in a game rather than proper financial planning.

The history of lotteries dates back to the earliest recorded signs of gambling. The casting of lots to determine fates and distribute wealth has a long record in human history (it’s even found in the Bible), but lotteries as an instrument for raising public funds are much more recent, dating from the Low Countries in the 15th century. Records from Bruges, Ghent, and elsewhere show that towns held lotteries to raise money for walls and town fortifications, as well as to help the poor.

State governments legalized and promoted lotteries to provide a source of tax-free revenue. They set up a public corporation to run the operation; begin with a small number of simple games; and, under pressure for additional revenue, progressively expand in scope and complexity.

Lotteries are popular because people like the idea of a modest risk for a substantial prize. However, the Biblical principle of earning wealth through diligence, not chance, is more likely to provide lasting riches than a quick fortune from a lottery. Besides, God wants us to be careful with our resources because “lazy hands make for poverty” (Proverbs 24:34). Despite their limitations, lotteries can be useful instruments for fundraising when other methods aren’t available.

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