Thursday, we found out that three winning lottery tickets were sold in the record-setting Powerball jackpot. Each is worth $528.8 million dollars. That’s an attention-getting number. Here is one more: $70.1 billion. That is the amount Americans spend on lottery tickets each year (more than sports tickets, books, video games, movies, and music combined). That is $300 for every adult in the 43 states where the lottery is played. The poorest third of households buy half of all lottery tickets (theatlantic.com “Lotteries: America’s $70 Billion Shame”).
Newscasters often report on these jackpots and encourage viewers to “check the numbers.” In the media, the lottery is usually portrayed as a harmless, even exciting, diversion. Perhaps many have failed to look more closely at what these numbers mean for a person’s ethics and morality. The most dangerous aspect of things like playing the lottery is what the Bible calls “covetousness.” It is an irrational, often compulsive, attempt to obtain wealth.
The BDAG lexicon defines the covetous person as “one who desires to have more than is due, a greedy person.” What is clear is what Scripture says about covetousness: it prevents one’s inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10), it is idolatry which again prevents inheriting this kingdom (Eph. 5:5), it is a failure to love one’s neighbor (Rom. 13:9), and it is a defilement of the heart (Mark 7:22). Let’s make sure that greed and covetousness do not “have our number.”