As the lottery prize is now expected to reach 1.3 billion dollars this week, it seems everyone has lottery fever. Last week, when the prize was a mere $400 million, I joked about all of the things I’d do with my winnings. Last night, when the prize was almost $950 million, I couldn’t even bring myself to buy a ticket. As they say on one Price is Right game, “That’s too much!”
As I thought about which numbers I wanted to play, I had this gripping realization that if I were to win that much money, my life would be over. Sure, I’d never have to worry about an old car breaking down or rent or anything else like that, but that comes at a cost. Instant fame and access brings out the worst in many people, and I know that I’d be included. I’ve read several stories of people whose lives were ruined by winning the lottery through ugly divorces, family feuds, thieves, lawsuits, addictions, even kidnapping and death. That much money seems like security, but in reality it’s the exact opposite.
When the Lord ruled over Israel, they demanded a king “like the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5) because that seemed like it would offer them security. When the prophet Samuel warned them,
“This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.” (1 Samuel 8:11-18, emphases mine)
In essence, Samuel told them, “What you’re hoping for & demanding will cost you everything.” P.S. it totally did.
I struggle with the tendency to look at what other people have and want it, too. It seems like their lives are easier, so I assume it must be because of some external factor that I must achieve. When I dream of stuff that I need or dwell in a life that isn’t mine, I’m doing exactly what Israel did when they demanded a king; I’m rejecting the Lord as king. I’m putting my hope in something that will fade instead of the Lord who is eternal. Worse yet, I’m rejecting the idea that he is exceedingly better than anything else.
Does this mean I can’t play the lottery or make personal goals or do anything but stay exactly where I am right now? Absolutely not! What I mean to say is that if we’re hoping that achieving a goal or having a certain amount of money or some other external thing is going to fulfill our lives, we’re misguided. Worse yet, we often fail to see just what the cost will be to arrive where we think we need to be.
Whatever we have to have, has us.
My prayer is that of Agur in Proverbs,
“…Give me neither poverty nor riches!
Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” (Proverbs 30:8b-9)
May our hope be in the Lord and may we be satisfied with his provision.