The Bible does not directly forbid playing the lottery. However, there are some principles and themes in Scripture that can guide Christians in thinking about whether participating in lotteries is wise and godly.
Gambling and Stewardship
The Bible teaches that everything we have – our time, talents, and treasures – are gifts from God to be used for His purposes (1 Corinthians 4:7). As stewards, we are called to invest what God has given us in ways that honor Him and advance His kingdom. Gambling, including playing the lottery, does not necessarily violate this principle. However, Christians should examine if buying lottery tickets is the best and most responsible use of the money God has entrusted to them, or if it feeds an attitude of greed or materialism.
Proverbs 13:11 – Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.
Some Christians make a distinction between investing, which they see as a wise stewardship of resources, and gambling, which is more akin to games of chance. Investing seeks reasonable returns through productive enterprise, while gambling seeks windfall profits through mere luck. This is why some view playing the lottery as poor stewardship.
Gambling and Greed
The Bible warns against greed and love of money as idolatry (Matthew 6:24, Colossians 3:5). Gambling often feeds covetousness and a “get rich quick” mentality. Even when played recreationally, the lottery promotes the idea that the path to happiness and fulfillment lies in attainment of wealth. This contradicts Jesus’ teachings that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15).
Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
For some, playing the lottery can border on addiction, becoming a consuming fixation. Christians with a tendency toward compulsive gambling should abstain from anything, including lottery participation, that enables irresponsible attitudes toward money.
Gambling and Motives
Why someone chooses to gamble can reveal good or bad motives. Gambling with greedy motives or in a way that harms oneself or others is unwise and unbiblical. However, some participate in raffles, office pools, or lottery drawings simply for entertainment without unhealthy addiction. Their motive may not necessarily be coveting winnings, but social enjoyment and conversation.
1 Timothy 6:10 – For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Discerning motives and examining one’s heart is important. If playing the lottery breeds negative attitudes toward work, wealth, and loving one’s neighbor, it may be best to refrain.
Gambling and Wise Investments
Playing the lottery gives an illusion of “investing” toward future security. However, the astronomical odds of winning make it extremely unwise as a strategy for growing wealth compared to options like saving, investing, working, or entrepreneurship. While playing for recreation has a different dynamic, relying on lottery winnings as a retirement plan displays poor wisdom and stewardship.
Proverbs 21:5 – The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
Even when played merely for entertainment, Christians should consider whether the money spent on lottery tickets would have been better used to care for their families, give to others, or further God’s work.
Gambling and Loving Others
Most of the revenue from lotteries goes to fund government programs that can benefit the public good. However, Christians should thoughtfully consider if participating in a system funded by underprivileged communities playing against nearly impossible odds is truly loving one’s neighbor. Though neutral in moderation for some, many view lottery participation as preying on the vulnerable.
Philippians 2:4 – Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Christians are called to consider how their actions and consumption impact others, resisting anything that exploits. Playing the lottery occasionally may have negligible effect. But sincere reflection should assess if it prophetically speaks against unjust systems in society.
Gambling and Trust in God
While playing for recreation can be harmless for some, trusting in gambling winnings for financial provision rejects faith in God’s care and provision. Christians are called to seek first God’s kingdom, trusting that needs will be met according to His will.
Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
While playing for entertainment is a matter of Christian freedom, finding security and identity in gambling winnings corrodes childlike dependence on God. Faith leads Christians to find sufficiency in Christ, not chance.
Gambling and Government Restrictions
Where legal, playing the lottery does not necessarily violate governmental authority. However, Christians should be mindful that participating means directly supporting state-run gaming systems. In places where certain forms of gambling are deemed illegal or socially undesirable, Christians should submit to governing authorities and refrain from unlawful activity.
Romans 13:1 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
The Bible does not forbid gambling outright, but where prohibited, Christians should avoid it. Where allowed, they must exercise Spirit-led wisdom. In either case, believers should thoughtfully reflect on if lottery participation appropriately glorifies God.
The Bible does not directly prohibit playing the lottery, though principles of stewardship, greed, motives, loving others, and trusting God should all inform wise and loving decisions. With prayerful wisdom, Christians can thoughtfully determine if recreational gambling through lotteries is edifying and permissible, or if abstaining is the best choice.
There are good arguments on both sides. The key is approaching the subject with an open heart, allowing Scripture to shape our values. For some Christians, playing the lottery is a matter of freedom. Others out of conviction find it incompatible with their faith and calling.
As with any gray area, the Bible calls Christians to graciously extend freedom to one another, respecting that sincere believers can differ in their views. The ultimate guide must be one’s own conscience before God through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.