Full disclosure: I am the last person you should go to for reliable information on the lottery. I deliberately avoid these stories — not because I want to limit my exposure to temptations of the flesh, but rather because I detest stupidity and because I wish to expect the best out of my fellow Americans.
That said, the figure $1.5 billion grabs the attention of even the most callous of ‘net-surfers. So I poked around a bit. Sure enough, they are promising that very figure to anyone who can correctly predict six numbered Ping-Pong balls.
That person won’t be me. These are the reasons why.
Because nobody will win it.
Try to wrap your mind around the probability. The advertised chance of winning the jackpot is 1 in 300 million. You are almost three times more likely to be killed by a vending machine, according to one source. Tracie and her fellow lefties have one chance in 4.4 million of dying from using a right-handed product incorrectly. “Yeah, but there is that chance,” the eternal optimist says, just like the commercials teaches him to say. Do the math, I say. You’re far better off taking $223 (what the average American spends on lottery tickets in a year) to the track and backing the biggest longshot in every race, hoping they all come in winners.
Lottery organizers have this odd notion that they will increase the participation in the jackpot by making it more difficult to win. I call it “odd” because it is working. Fewer winners means the jackpot goes up and up with every failure. So you have an infinitesimal chance of winning a billion dollars instead of an almost equally infinitesimal chance of winning just a few dozen millions.
I blame Common Core math for this.
[This just in: Authorities say the $1.5 billion ticket was sold last week in Simpsonville, S.C. The “winner” has not shown his or her face yet, and for obvious reasons may never do so. He/she doesn’t want to get mobbed, solicited, robbed or killed. If he/she actually exists, that is. I’m not saying. I’m just saying.]
Because if, even if someone won it, no one would win it.
Read the fine print. The money is paid out in 30 annual installments. If you think you might die before then, or you don’t think $53 million a year constitutes a living wage, you can take a lump sum up front. But it will be dramatically reduced. Only $878 million, before taxes. That is enough for three or four stealth fighters, sure, but you won’t be able to afford a runway. Bummer.
The real reason, though, that I won’t win is because I won’t play. And that subject calls for its own set of subtitles.
It’s a scam.
Most lottery states convinced voters to support their scheme by promising greater school funding. “For the kids” is a cry that is tough to resist. But the earmarking of government revenue is largely hype. Government collects money, and it spends money. That’s basically it. North Carolina reportedly is actually spending less on education now than before the lottery. I disapprove of money taken under false pretenses, and I do what I can to discourage it.
It’s a waste.
Sure, it’s only $2 at a time. But how many pennies can you flush down the toilet before you become a bad steward of God’s gifts? “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10). We are tasked with the obligation to work, satisfying our own needs and the needs of others as we have opportunity (Ephesians 4:28). If I want to serve my family, there are responsible ways to do that. If I want to serve my community, there are responsible ways to do that. The lottery is equally horrible in both of these endeavors.
It’s a crutch.
The search for a quick fix — whether it is found through get-rich-quick schemes, narcotics, or the latest diet fad — almost always ends in disappointment, and frequently in disaster. It keeps us from doing the real work. Ultimately such a person becomes the sluggard of Proverbs 26:15, incapable or unwilling to do even the slightest thing to pursue his own welfare. Any parent of a teenager can tell you, simply handing a huge wad of cash to someone, without asking them to earn it or training them in the use of it, is a huge, huge mistake.
It’s a cancer.
The more mainstream gambling becomes, the worse society becomes. This is common knowledge, even among gamblers. An increase in crime has always been attached to increases in legalized gambling. Those who believe that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10) will not be surprised at this. As people see and idolize the occasional success story — and even the occasional jackpot winner — resentment builds. Greed, “which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3:5) builds a stronghold in the hearts of individuals and eventually an entire culture. And even the winners themselves wind up far worse off after winning than before. A majority of jackpot winners are worse off financially two years after their windfall than they were before. Blessings that are not properly earned are quickly squandered.
I’m hard-pressed to find a Bible-based argument that condemns someone to hell for buying a $2 lottery ticket. But I challenge anyone to show how it brings a soul closer to Jesus. Surely, by encouraging the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10) and discouraging work (Ephesians 4:28), the lottery is far better at doing the opposite.