What is a Lottery?


A lottery is a game of chance in which participants pay a small amount (typically one dollar) to have a random drawing for a prize. Some governments outlaw the game, while others endorse it and organize state or national lotteries. Some governments also regulate the operation of lotteries.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, public lotteries were a major source of revenue for the new United States. These lotteries helped to finance roads, jails, factories, churches, libraries, schools, colleges, canals, and other infrastructure projects. In addition, famous American leaders like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin held private lotteries to try to relieve their crushing debts or to raise funds for important public projects such as cannons for Philadelphia.

The word “lottery” is probably derived from Middle Dutch loterie, a diminutive of Middle French loterie “action of drawing lots” (Oxford English Dictionary, third edition). The first state-sponsored lottery in Europe was held in 1569; and by the mid-1700s, most states had adopted such games.

Lotteries may appeal to our greed and our lust for riches, but the Bible warns against playing them as a get-rich-quick scheme. Instead, we should earn our wealth honestly through hard work (Proverbs 23:5). The Bible says that lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth (Proverbs 10:4). Rather than spending our time on the lottery, we should use it as a tool to help us gain eternal riches in heaven by following Christ’s example of faith and obedience.