What Is the Bible’s View?
Should You “Take a Chance” on the Lottery?
LOTTERIES have become quite common in many lands. This form of gambling generally consists of selling chances for a small sum of money. At a drawing, the possessor of a winning lottery ticket receives some prize, often money in a far greater amount than what he spent in buying the ticket.
Perhaps you have thought about “taking a chance” on the lottery. But there are various factors to take into account.
Since a lottery appeals to the hope of getting much for little, it can be a great lure, especially for poor people. Yet, it actually has made many of them poorer. To buy lottery tickets, some spend money that they really need for food, clothing and other necessities. In India, for instance, some people have spent a whole month’s wages and others have borrowed money at high interest rates so that they could participate in lotteries.
But, suppose a person wins the lottery. Would that not be fine? Not necessarily. One winner of $1,000,000 received letters from all over the world asking that he donate money to aid those writing to him. “I couldn’t distinguish between legitimate requests and fakery,” he said.
While noting such factors, however, a person desiring to please God is concerned principally with what His Word, the Bible, indicates. Likely, that is your chief concern, too. And happily the Scriptures provide the information needed to decide intelligently whether to “take a chance” on the lottery.
Probably you will acknowledge readily that legality of lotteries in one’s community is not the main factor to consider. A state might legalize various things that a godly person would not do. If prostitution were legalized, for example, surely a Christian would have nothing to do with it, for loose morals do not befit persons who have reverence for God, and individuals who are incorrigibly immoral will not inherit His kingdom. (Lev. 19:29; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10) So, we need to look at other aspects of this matter of taking a chance on the lottery.
As you probably realize, a person could be enticed by the lottery to begin trusting in luck. Does God’s Word say anything about that? Yes, it does. At Isaiah 65:11, 12 it is written: “But you, you that leave Jehovah, you that forget my sacred mountain, you that set a table for Lady Luck [or, “the god of Good Luck,” New World Translation] and fill mixed bowls for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword and you shall all stoop for slaughtering.” (The Bible in Living English, Byington) It is very obvious, is it not, that God does not approve of trusting in luck?
Lotteries can encourage something else that is undesirable—laziness. Many who participate in the lottery and other forms of gambling want to win such a large sum of money that they can ‘take life easy.’ But the Bible speaks very unfavorably of the lazy person.—Prov. 6:6-11.
There is, of course, no Scriptural objection to properly motivated giving and receiving of gifts. Jehovah God himself is the greatest Gift-Giver and he is represented as receiving good-hearted gifts from his worshipers. (Jas. 1:17; Ex. 35:21) Surely, however, one cannot say that lotteries involve unselfish, generous gift giving. Furthermore, the principal way that godly persons acquire funds and valuables is by working for them. “If anyone does not want to work,” remarked the apostle Paul, “neither let him eat.”—2 Thess. 3:10.
We should also think about others. True, people willingly participate in lotteries. Yet, winners take the money of other people without giving them anything in return. Is this a way to show love for fellow humans? No. It really is unloving and runs counter to the Scriptures. These say: “You must love your fellow as yourself.” “Do not you people be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another . . . Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor.” (Lev. 19:18; Rom. 13:8-10) Godly persons show love, which is unselfish and “does not look for its own interests.” Moreover, the apostle Paul urged fellow Christians: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person. (1 Cor. 13:4, 5; 10:24) An individual is not really fulfilling these requirements when participating in the lottery, is he?
Another point to consider is that lotteries can engender a love of money in the hearts of participants. But this love is inappropriate for godly persons, as the apostle Paul showed in saying: “Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a trap and many stupid and harmful desires which sink men into destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all things bad; hankering for it, some have strayed away from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains.”—1 Tim. 6:9, 10, Byington.
Participating in lotteries can also cause greed to develop in a person’s heart. Yet, the apostle Paul admonished fellow believers: “Let unchastity and any sort of uncleanness or grasping greed not be even named among you,” as this would not befit God’s people. Moreover, the apostle wrote: “Know this well, that any unchaste or unclean person or greedy grasper, which is the same as to say idolater, does not have an inheritance coming to him in the reign of Christ and God,” or “in the kingdom of the Christ and of God.”—Eph. 5:3-5, Byington; compare New World Translation.
As it is, though, for advertising purposes a business place may have a “drawing” that is supposed to be an impartial way of selecting customers to whom prizes are to be given. The purpose may be to encourage people to come into the store or to stimulate interest in a certain product. Gambling is not necessarily involved, as no one pays out money or other valuable consideration to obtain the ticket. Neither does acceptance of the ticket imply that the god of ‘Chance’ or ‘Good Luck’ is being invoked. Yet an individual trying to decide whether to participate could well ask: Might my participation stumble someone? In the final analysis, the responsible adult must make a personal decision, being aware that “each of us will render an account for himself to God.” (Rom. 14:12) Of course, if a person participates, wins and only then finds out that the gift is a lottery ticket, he is under no obligation to accept it.
So, there are good reasons why individuals desiring to abide by the counsel of God’s Word do not “take a chance” on the lottery. They do not trust in luck. They are on guard against laziness and unloving acts. They recognize that the love of money is spiritually ruinous and they do not want to be overtaken by the greed that gambling can produce in one’s heart. Instead, they acquire funds and valuable things by upright means that befit those who love God.