A lottery is an arrangement for distributing prizes, as money or goods, based on chance. The term may refer to any lottery in which people pay to enter, and their names are drawn or otherwise selected for prizes, including complex arrangements involving multiple stages of competition where entrants can win by using skill. A simpler lottery, which relies only on chance, is often called a pure lottery.

Lotteries have a long history. They appear in town records in the Low Countries in the 15th century, where towns used them to raise funds for fortifications and poor relief. Francis I of France allowed the first European public lotteries awarding cash prizes to be held in several cities from 1520 to 1539.

Many states today sponsor state-level lotteries. These can involve a variety of prizes, such as cars and vacations. They can also be aimed at specific populations, such as the elderly or disabled. Other lotteries are private, such as those involving sports team drafts or kindergarten placements at a particular school.

The Bible warns against attempting to gain wealth through the lottery. We should earn our money honestly through hard work, as God wants us to do (Proverbs 23:5). This will prepare us for future needs and allow us to be generous to those in need. It will also help us avoid the temptations of speculative investing and greed, as we are reminded that “lazy hands make for poverty” (Proverbs 10:4).