Lottery is an arrangement in which prizes, usually money, are allocated by chance. People buy tickets to increase their chances of winning. A lottery is similar to a raffle, but the prizes are larger and the winners are determined by chance. Originally, prizes were distributed by putting objects or names in a receptacle and shaking it, the winner being whoever’s name (or mark) fell out first; thus the expression to cast one’s lot with another (1530s). The word comes from Old English hlot “portion, share” and compares to German lotterie (1726), Dutch loterje (1660), French loterie (1832), and Genoese lottery (1290). Lotteries have been used for centuries as a way of raising money for a variety of state and charitable purposes.

Lotteries can be a fun way to pass the time. But it’s important to remember that winning the lottery is a game of chance and that the odds are very much against you.

Moreover, the lottery sends a message that money is the answer to all of life’s problems, and covetousness—God forbidding “coveting your neighbors house, or his wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that is his” (Exodus 20:17)—is a sin.

The most telling statistic is that 50 percent of Americans play the lottery. And the players are disproportionately lower-income, less educated, nonwhite, and male. Lottery operators often try to obscure these facts by making the process look fun and by implying that everyone plays and somebody has to win.