The Lottery and Its Dangerous Side Effects

The lottery entices people to risk a lot of money for the chance to win a big prize. Its advertising campaigns play on addiction psychology. Its tickets resemble Snickers bars, and the prizes are framed in terms of instant riches. The lottery also exploits the American dream of upward mobility. It offers the promise that hard work and good fortune will make you better off than your parents. But it also coincides with a steep decline in income security for many Americans, as the gap between rich and poor has grown, wages have flattened, retirement funds have eroded, health-care costs have risen, and unemployment has increased.

The people who play the lottery, as I’ve discovered in talking to them, often don’t take it lightly. They spend a substantial share of their incomes on tickets. It’s not just an inextricable human impulse, but a response to profound insecurity, and the feeling that the lottery, however improbable, is their only way up.

Despite God’s commandment against covetousness, the lottery’s lure is seductive. Lotteries promise that you can have the house, the car, the vacation, even the family life that you’ve always wanted if only you buy one ticket. But the lust for wealth and things money can buy is ultimately empty (see Ecclesiastes 5:10).