A lottery is a game of chance in which people purchase numbered tickets and prizes are awarded if their numbers match the winning ones drawn by random selection. The prize may be money, goods, or services. Lotteries are often run by state or federal governments as a way to raise money for various purposes. Financial lotteries are criticized as addictive forms of gambling, but they also raise funds for a wide range of public projects.
I’ve talked to a lot of lottery players, people who play regularly for years, spending $50, $100 a week. Their behavior defies expectations. It’s irrational, they know the odds are bad, but they still believe that somehow, in some way, their ticket will be the one to hit the jackpot. The ugly underbelly of this is that a lot of people who play the lottery covet the things that money can buy. The Bible forbids covetousness (Exodus 20:17), but the lure of a big payout is too much to resist.
The word lottery is derived from the Latin word lotteria, meaning “drawing lots.” The ancients used the method of drawing lots to distribute property and slaves; Moses’ instructions for dividing the land were a form of a lottery (Exodus 24:1–7). The lottery became popular in the 17th century as a way to raise money for religious purposes, for civic improvements, and for a variety of other uses. Today, the majority of lotteries are commercial and offer a choice between cash and goods or services.