Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Powerball Lottery Winner

It is becoming so common that most of us pay little attention to it. The "it" I speak of is the national lottery craze that garners such media attention.  This time it was the largest lottery in history that gave Americans another opportunity to strike it rich to the tune of$365 million.  Some "lucky" guy won it all.

Why are so many fascinated by the opportunity to strike it rich?  Perhaps they believe the sweet promise of instant wealth because they think riches will satisfy the longing of their hearts.  They think wealth will cure their current struggles.  They believe there are quick answers to long term problems.  They are deceived.  In reality, the pursuit of riches robs them of the present in exchange for a distant and unlikely dream. 

Consider what the latest study indicates: seventy percent of those who win these big cash prizes go on to lead anything but an enviable life.  In short order, seventy percent wind up broke.  They experience what Jack Whittaker, who won $315 million in 2002, experienced.  He is now not only broke, he is in debt.  He has had repeated run-ins with the law and tragically lost his granddaughter to a drug overdose.  Bud Post calls the lottery he won "The Lottery of Death."  His life turned sour after winning $16.2 million. 

What happens to people who win the lottery?  Often, families sue one another.  Divorce becomes common.  One discovers long lost relatives previously unknown.  In fact, the best way to do a quick genealogy of your family tree is to win one of these mega-jackpots.  Why does all this happen?  It is too easy to label these winners as "poor suckers" or just bad money managers.  Yet, I believe there is a deeper problem. 

Jesus went straight to the issue.  A few years ago, a pseudo-theologian claimed that Jesus never addressed gambling or lotteries.  I beg to differ.  In Mark 4:18-19, Jesus told the parable of the four soils.  He described different receptions to the word of God.  "And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." Spiritual growth is hindered by the deceitfulness  and the desire for riches; an obsession for things chokes out the good seed, the word of God.

In all the hoopla about big jackpots, I wonder if anyone will study the impact of money used to purchase an extra lottery ticket rather than milk for a child.  How many loaves of bread are not purchased  because a ”chance” was bought?  How many churches and charity groups will pay a power bill for a family in need due to lottery fever?  The Bible is clear; a father is the chief provider in the home.  A father must base his provision on honest work and faith in God when there is need. First Timothy 5:8 warns us, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Things are important and even necessary, but they are also spiritual distractions when we cannot be satisfied.  Jesus said that riches are deceitful.  Give thanks for what you have and in many cases for what you don't have.

Ed Litton


Lodebar said...

Thank you,Pastor, for reminding us of what our priorities should be.

James Woosley said...

Pastor...you couldn't be more right. I've been studying lotter winners for a bit and most have very sad stories.

I don't know if Dave Ramsey said it first or simply repeated it, but the worst curse you could ever spit at someone was to wish they win the lottery.

Thank you for your leadership of our church and for this blog!

James Woosley

amberg said...

I am so thankful for the truth God is teaching my family related to this topic. In a quiet way consumerism had become an idol in our lives. We were proud of achieving new and better stuff. We struggled with this for the last five years. Knowing that riches weren't what made us happy yet not wanting to miss out on the new and better stuff that provide entertainment for a while. Everyone seem to be acquiring new stuff so easily. We created debt and struggles for ourselves by trying to rationalize our purchases. Our strategy was only to binge on occasion so that in our relationship to God we wouldn't seem consumed by riches. God so lovingly and justly began a journey with us to show us our unconfused idol, a prevalent idol in America, consumerism and the dollar sign as the mark of success. If we kept moving up to nicer houses or stretching to fill them with nicer things and wore the latest clothes, etc. We wanted a pottery barn dressed house with all the latest electronic gadgets and a family dressed by Gap. God simply provided for our needs. A difficult year of unexpected losses and a move across the country, having nothing left but to follow God and trust, left us open and willing to be taught. Our new pastor's messages have guided us down some paths where we have faced challenges and existing sin in areas we thought we were polished and poised. I have also come across a very necessary message spoken in a book by Bob Hostetler called " American Idols". I am thankful for the lessons God has taught us and how he has been pruning the thorns from the soil of our hearts. God bless you pastor and your church. I pray that the people would bear their hearts for the Lord's pruning. I pray that new lives would be reached because of the power of God's work in the church. My family is grateful for the foundational lesson of family that we learned from so many at NOMO. God was able to teach us early on that it is our greatest gift! We are committed to managing it according to God's word. May America bear its heart for God's pruning that the truly valuable things in life, especially family, come to be its greatest riches!

amberg said...

That was an unconfessed idol,oops!

Kathy H of Saraland said...

For our forefathers - thank you for those who gave their lives so we could be free, thank you
For those who dreamed new dreams, listened to your Word, brought revival, won souls, learned from wisdon and passed on the lessons, I thank you
For those who sought peace, and truth, and justice within our nation, I thank you and for those who remember like you do Pastor Ed - We are all thankful - Enjoyed your blog...