Did you ever play that game where you imagined you won the lottery or came into a large sum of money and daydreamed about all the things you would do with it? I know I have. I thought about the house I would buy, the car I would drive, the charities I would give to and businesses I would invest in. The funny thing is that I’ve actually never played, but dreaming about it was always fun.
It sure would be nice to win the lottery. Or would it? I got to thinking about this again after the news about Neal Wanless, the 23-year old rancher from one of the poorest counties in the U.S. bought $15 worth of lottery tickets in a town called Winner and wound up being the big winner of $232 million dollars.
Wanless, who is single and lives with his parents on the family’s 320-acre ranch in South Dakota, said he’s going to buy a bigger spread of land, repay the townspeople for the kindness they have shown his family and spend his fortune wisely.
“I want to thank the Lord for giving me this opportunity and blessing me with this great fortune. I will not squander it,” he said. I hope that’s the case for Neal, for history has shown other lottery winners haven’t had the greatest fortune with their fortunes.
Take for example West Virginia’s Jack Whittaker, who won $315 million on Christmas Day, 2002. Five years later Jack blamed the new riches for causing his granddaughter’s fatal drug overdose, his divorce, his inability to trust and for the hundreds of lawsuits filed against him.
“I don’t have any friends,” he told The Associated Press in 2007. “Every friend that I’ve had, practically, has wanted to borrow money or something and of course, once they borrow money from you, you can’t be friends anymore.”
This isn’t the case for every lottery winner, but there are countless stories on the web about winners squandering every last cent and wishing they had never even purchased the ticket. What every lottery winner eventually finds out is that true joy does not come from any amount of money.
On the surface it seems to me like life would be so much easier having that much cash in the bank, being able to buy whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. But it’s not true. Happiness derived from money is fleeting. It won’t last because it’s not designed to give us ultimate joy. We were made to find our full joy, satisfaction and treasure in worshipping and being in relationship with our great God. Jesus said to his disciples in John 15:11, “ These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Matthew 6:24 says, “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.” The danger of winning the lottery or having any amount of money for that matter is that it can lead us away from our great Savior and prohibit us from finding complete joy in Him.
Perhaps a wise prayer for us to meditate on is found in Proberbs 30:8-9:
“..give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”