Oh, to Powerball or not to Powerball! Though I never buy lottery tickets, I can’t help but consider it now. After all, with a record-breaking pot of $1.3 BILLION at stake, how can one not get caught up in all the hype? Lightning is sure to strike sometime soon! So why not step into the storm with a long metal pole and see if I get hit – hit big!
And what would I do with all that money? I’d like to give the majority to several ministries that help impoverished areas and spread the gospel . . . I’d help out my own local church, of course . . . help out loved ones . . . and get a debt-free home and some college funds for my children. I can even find Bible verses to back up these intentions, so surely God would not oppose!
It’s easy to look at all the “good” we could do if a sum that size fell into our laps. What we tend to forget is all the bad the money itself can do to us. Rather than being the blessing many hoped it would be, it has a history of being otherwise, so much so that it’s been dubbed “The Lottery Curse”.
But let’s not look at the frightening statistics of lottery winners going bankrupt, getting divorces, sinking into depression, and committing suicide. No, everyone dismisses those statistics and assumes they’d be an exception. Rather, let’s see if there is any Biblical direction when considering whether to buy that lotto ticket or not.
Here are 8 reasons that convinced me NOT to buy:
- Reaping what you sow: Here’s a well-preached message from Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Though I’ve never heard it preached negatively when it comes to money, its application certainly spans that far. Here’s the kicker: If you get money quick, you will most likely lose it quick. Quick in-quick out!
Here are three different translations of Proverbs 13:11 to prove this very application, just in case you doubt me:
* “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase. (King James)
* “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (English Standard)
* “Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time.” (New Living)
- Misplaced Glory: Many Christians may want to give God glory for winning the lottery, calling it “God’s favor.” Unfortunately, that’s just not how the world will see it. When one looks to a lottery winner, to where does glory go? To the lottery!
Abram (Abraham) realized this dilemma when he was offered riches from the King of Sodom. Surely, he could have played the “God’s favor” card and given in to the temptation to accept the king’s offer. But he did not. He rather responds in Genesis 14:23, “I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’”
- Gifts vs. Hand-outs: I will not be the naysayer claiming that God will never drop large sums of money into someone’s mailbox. God likes to bless and it may occasionally be in this form. However, a more biblically common form of God’s monetary blessing is in the form of “ability” or “gifting” rather than a hand-out.
Deuteronomy 8:18 states that “it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” Simply look at the richest man the world has ever known, King Solomon. He did not receive a hand-out. He chose to ask God for wisdom rather than riches, and thus it was through his wisdom that his riches increased (see 1 Kings 3). His proverbs repeatedly confirm the order of relationship between the two: the causal (gift of wisdom) and the consequential (riches).
- False Entitlement: Many people live under the assumption that they are entitled to “their” money. Jesus would call this wrong mastership. False entitlement is simply a symptom of money being our master, not of ourselves mastering money. Many minimize God’s ownership of their finances to the 10% tithe, though He is entitled to everything.
This can be a difficult admission for both poor and rich alike, obviously, so the difficulty does not arise just because you won the lottery. It isn’t easy for a poor person to give everything, thus the reason Jesus marveled at the poor widow who gave all that she had, though it was only “two very small copper coins”. (Mark 12:41-43). Jesus marveled because he knew it wasn’t easy.
I would suggest, however, that it is easier for a poor person to give everything than it is for a rich person. The more money . . . the more strings . . . the more entitlement . . . the more money-masters holding onto you! Jesus points this out after dealing with the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-37. This particular rich man heard the audible words of Jesus instructing him to sell everything and give to the poor – even better than seeing “writing in the clouds”! Unlike the poor widow with the copper coins and unlike the poor widow giving Elijah her last bread, however, the rich man failed.
His financial status is not coincidental to his failure. Scripture is clear: ” He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Thus Jesus’ following statement: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
- Disowning God: I know this title might befuddle some. It sounds so harsh, after all. Yet, it is the very word used in Proverbs 30:8-9 in which Agur prayed, “give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?'”
There are degrees of disowning God. I’m not trying to assert that lottery winners will reject their faith in God entirely. There is a form of disowning, however, that is all-too-common among the wealthy, and it has everything to do with where their trust is placed. This is why Paul feels he must warn the wealthy in his letter to Timothy to “not trust in uncertain riches” (1 Timothy 6:17). As with #4, this is simply a sign that we too often dethrone God and look to money instead.
- Becoming a Stumbling Block: Your own heart may be ready to deal with big lottery winnings, but you don’t live in a bubble. Even if you had, you likely won’t after the big announcement!
We’ve all heard of lottery winners’ relationships being destroyed. Most family and friends can’t resist the covetous thoughts that will inevitably attack them. They may measure the value of their relationship with the $$ offered to them out of the winnings and become hurt and angry if they feel shorted. There are devastating stories of lottery winners being murdered over their money. Yet, one doesn’t have to be faced with murderous threats to feel devastated.
So does the Bible offer any hint of direction? I’ve heard some prosperity preachers claiming that it’s good to make people jealous of how God has blessed your finances, since that will make them want God. If that’s the case, then those jealous “converts” are only turning to God to get money. That’s not the type of conversion God wants! I’ve heard another preacher laugh about the fancy car he drove which elicited offended stares. There’s also been more than one minister criticized for overindulgence in their choice of home . . . or number of homes. Some people don’t think preachers, nor any Christian, should “spoil” themselves. But should we be burdened by other people’s decision to be offended? Love, after all, is not easily offended (1 Corinthians 13:5). What we do with our money is just between us and God, right?
Let’s look at a few examples from Paul. Though Paul clearly states that workers in the church deserve honor and payment in 1 Timothy 5:18, “the worker deserves his wages”, he also makes it a point to deny his own rights in 2 Thessalonians 3:7, “We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.” In other words, Paul didn’t exercise his “right” for the sake of others.
Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 9 Paul states, “. . . it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”. . . If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.”
Again, Paul lays down his own rights when it came to what he ate and drank: “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” (1 Corinthians 8:13) and “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” (Romans 14:21).
What does this have to do with the lottery? Even if it’s not your “fault” you won the lottery and that others are jealous and offended . . . even if it’s your “right”, you should consider whether it’s really worth causing them to stumble. Is it worth the broken relationships? It may not only hurt you, but hinder the gospel of Christ as well.
- Little Things Matter: You may reason with yourself that a Powerball ticket is only $2.00. What’s the big deal? But that $2.00 has the power to dramatically change lives. Have you asked God whether you should use His $2.00 with so much risk involved? If your response is that “I won’t win anyway”, then I’d have to ask why you intentionally decided to waste God’s $2.00.
Just remember, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10). The lesson here is that the little things matter!
- A fool thinks he’ll be the exception: Fools despise wisdom and disregard counsel. They always think they know better! There is a large part of me that thinks I’d be an exception as well. There obviously are exceptions! So I don’t want to offend by calling someone a fool. There’s a bit of a fool in me also!
There’s a quote that comes to mind from one of our family’s favorite movies, Prince Caspian.” In it, Aslan has just acknowledged Prince Caspian as a Narnian king. Prince Caspian rises hesitantly and states, “I do not think I am ready.” Aslan’s response? “It is for that very reason I know that you are.”
Don’t misconstrue that to mean that doubting your ability to handle a lottery winning means you actually are ready. It simply means that at least you’re not a prideful fool and you’ll prayerfully consider which action to take.
So consider carefully. God bless!