Thank God I Didn't Win the $1.337 Billion Lottery
What if the assumed blessing were unmasked as a curse?
Today’s post is below. But first this.
How believers become blameless and beautiful in the Father’s eyes.
Ironic, isn’t it, that sin promises deep and lasting satisfaction, only to deliver intense and abiding guilt.
What if the blood of Jesus not only covers completely but also covers permanently?
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Now, today’s devotional post…
1 Timothy 6:9, "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (ESV).
On July 29, 2022, a lottery ticket purchased at a Speedway gas station in Des Plaines, Illinois, outside of Chicago won the third largest mega-millions drawing in US history.
Writing for CNBC, Cameron Albert-Deitch began his article about the jackpot, saying, "One lucky lottery ticket-buyer in Illinois may soon be a billionaire."
As of this writing, the ticket has not been claimed. My guess is it will be.
The question is this. Would winning a massive jackpot really be a stroke of "luck?” Or would the apparent blessing actually be a curse?
I have bought lotto tickets three or four times.
Each time I have rationalized what I'd do with the winnings. Fund church planting endeavors around the globe to advance the gospel of kingdom. Start foundations to support theological education in underserved areas. Build a worship facility for Creekstone Church and create an endowment for Metro Atlanta Seminary.
There are many good things millions of dollars could accomplish. And I'm not saying it is wrong to possess Himalayan sized mountains of mullah.
Even John Wesley challenged believers to make as much as they can so they could give as much as they could. As someone raising support right now to fund a newly founded academic program for pastors and ministry leaders, I say amen to that.
The kingdom is blessed by the generosity of those who possess a ton of the Lord's money.
Furthermore, being rich is not sinful. There are plenty of folks who have inherited wealth. Others have accumulated financial resources as a result of honest work that simply pays a significant wage.
The evil is not the riches. It is the desire for the riches, where money takes the place of Jesus as my Savior, Lord, and Treasure.
Nevertheless, as I began to think more deeply, I realized why I (speaking for myself, not necessarily for you) should thank God I didn't win the lottery.
Paul warns believers in 1 Timothy 6 that desire monetary riches is a temptation and trap (a “snare”) that often leads to tragic consequences. In the next verse, he speaks of how the love of money has led many to shipwreck their faith. The allure of wealth is a siren song. And Mammon's shores are perilously rocky.
Without enumerating the many negatives of going from a reasonably comfortable existence to the ability to live an unthinkably lavish lifestyle (not to mention what an overnight change in financial status would do to my children), the biggest threat for me is losing my longing for heaven.
A few hundred million dollars would provide the resources to create heaven on earth. No need to wait. I could have it now.
This is an obvious trap of the enemy. Siren songs are deadly for a reason.
With my longing for heaven reduced to a nominal desire, my love for Jesus as my true prize and great treasure certainly would fade in comparison to the possession of mega millions. I’m sure I’d continue to give God a nod. But my true precious would be obvious by my deep desire to possess it and great fear to lose it.
Truth be told, I was shocked at how closely I held onto the last ticket I bought, as if it were the ring of power, shiny, alluring, mesmerizing, enticing with all its promises of a worry-free life.
However, those who possess a financial fortune will tell you that a worry-free life is a mirage, regardless of the size of one’s investment portfolio. Money does not buy happiness. Yeah, as Chris Janson tells us, it can buy a boat, a truck to pull it, and a Yeti 110 filled with silver bullets.
But it cannot not fix the fall.
And let's be honest. We do believe money can provide happiness.
We’re convinced it is the cure to all that ails us. It's the elixir for comfort, rest, freedom, peace, and joy.
Don’t we assume winning $1.337 billion would be a blessing? But idols are designed like attractive lures with a hidden hook for a reason.
So, in this moment of sanity, I’m glad I didn’t win the lottery. But what if I had? Maybe it wouldn’t affect me so tragically. Surely, I could manage to keep my heart burning for heaven’s shore. I’d give most of the money away anyway, right?
I’d keep just enough so I’d no longer have to live by faith in God to provide my daily bread. Maybe I’d tell myself that God did provide it. Just in a lump sum.
You see, I'm not writing as someone who is immune. I’m as tempted by the snare as anyone.
As the stock market dips and inflation rises, I feel acutely how closely my heart is connected to the love of money.
I’m asking, “Will I buy another lottery ticket?” Part of my wants to say, "No way." But the other part is a bit more realistic, knowing my propensity to rationalize, “Maybe if I only won $50 million the potential spiritual harm wouldn't be so bad.”
But the harm isn’t only in winning. According to 1 Timothy 6:9, the danger is in the very act of desiring, wanting, longing, fixating, obsessing, and dreaming for the life riches could provide.
Yes, the struggle with idolatry is real.
Maybe you can relate.
Yet, at the intersection of the struggle is an opportunity for fresh repentance and a renewed faith.
For the believer, every issue to process and decision to make takes place in the shadow of the cross. This gives me the freedom to be honest, confessing that my flesh longs for the faux security money promises, while my true self, the regenerated believer indwelt by the Spirit, longs for the true security Jesus has secured.
My flesh looks to the orange ticket as my hope of glory for the temporal.
But the Spirit within enables me to see the blood-stained cross as my hope of glory for the eternal.
So, I repent. "Jesus, I have longed for the temporary promise of riches more than rested in the eternal promise your blood has purchased. I have put money in your place as my salvation."
And I believe. "Yet, Jesus, I believe even my idolatrous love of money has been crucified. As much as I held my lottery ticket in my hand as my precious, you hold me in your nail-scared hand as your precious. So, give me the grace to look beyond the lesser saviors of this world to you alone as my true hope, my only righteousness, and the one whom I long to know and honor and find my life in more than any other."
Refusing to put money in the place of Jesus as my precious will be an ongoing battle. But it is a worthy war to wage.
I will need to become increasingly skilled at using the weapons of repentance and faith. Honesty to confess my sinful desires and tenacity to embrace the implications of the gospel.
Becoming more generous will help. Giving while trusting God to supply the lack that I may have plenty, unto greater generosity. Putting myself in a posture of financial dependency is one way to keep the Lord’s prayer for daily bread a living reality as I fix my eyes on Jesus more than on lottery tickets.
But the most powerful tool in the arsenal against the insurrection of the materialistic idolatry in my heart may be, when I hear the sirens’ song, to consciously tether my heart to the mast of Jesus’ cross, abiding in the promises of true riches beyond measure that are mine in the one who was nailed to the cross and rose from the grave, securing for me an eternal inheritance.
Oh, that I would be gripped by the glorious and gracious promise of 1 Peter 1:3-4,
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (ESV).
“An inheritance… kept in heaven for you.” Just waiting to be revealed.
Based on that promise, we can say that in the gospel every believer already has won a jackpot more glorious than any lottery on earth can produce!
Now, with full confidence, we can pray with Asaph, who, in a moment of gospel sanity, confessed, "There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:25b-26, ESV).
In other words, Jesus is the priceless Treasure. He is the pearl of great price. He is the prize our hearts truly desire.
May we look upon him today and have all longings for lesser saviors fade away.
Other texts to consider:
Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (ESV).
In Matthew 26:26, Jesus asks, "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul" (NLT)?
Psalm 32:1, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (ESV).
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