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.