What is the Lottery?
The lottery is a game of chance in which numbers are drawn for prizes. It is an ancient pastime (Nero was a big fan, so the history books say), and it is attested in biblical texts as well, including the casting of lots for everything from who would get to keep Jesus’s clothes after his crucifixion to who should be in charge of the Temple. In modern times, lotteries are usually run by state governments for funding purposes. Some are based on skill, such as in sports or chess, while others are purely random, like the one in which the National Basketball Association selects its draft picks each year.
Most people who play the lottery know that they have a very small chance of winning. But they play anyway, and often with a sense of purpose that goes beyond “having fun.” They have quotes-unquote systems for picking the winning numbers based on things like lucky stores or types of tickets or times of day to buy them, and they spend a significant portion of their incomes playing the game.
This is a morally problematic activity, and not just because it’s a regressive tax on the poor. It exacerbates the desperation of those living below the poverty line, who feel that the only way to get out of their dire circumstances is to win the lottery. It also reinforces the false idea that wealth comes from luck, as opposed to hard work. It’s important to teach our children that true wealth comes only through diligent effort, not the short-lived riches of a lucky draw.
Lottery is a dangerous activity that can lead to depression and addiction. Those who gamble should be carefully monitored and encouraged to seek help if necessary. If your child is struggling with gambling, you should talk to your pediatrician about it. They can recommend resources for help and offer tips to keep your child safe while they are trying to manage their symptoms.
In Shirley Jackson’s story, Lottery, the characters act in a very believable manner that reflects the hypocrisy and evil of human nature. She makes clear that even though the participants have the utmost good intentions, they can still be victims of tradition and do very bad things to each other.
The prevailing message of the lottery is that you have a chance to get rich quick, but it’s mostly just a scam. It’s statistically futile and distracts people from the real ways to get wealth: “The hands of the diligent make for wealth” and “Lazy hands will never become wealthy” (Proverbs 23:5). We should encourage our children to work hard and save for a rainy day, instead of spending their money on hopeless lottery tickets. They will end up much happier with their lives in the long run.