It's amazing to see the pictures of people lined up outside grocery and convenience stores waiting to buy their tickets. I wonder what it is about the astronomical jackpots that brings people out--when the jackpot is $5 million, wouldn't that be similarly life-changing? My dad and I were talking last night, and he mentioned that it would be far more beneficial to society if 1,280 people won $500,000 rather than 1 person winning $640 million.
But the success of the lottery is based on dreams. And I'm not going to pretend that I'm above dreaming--I'm sure I could come up with plans for $640 million, or whatever it ends up after taxes. I could have fun spending $20 million a year for the next 25 years--and I can even pretend that I'm stable enough that it wouldn't ruin me, that I could spend it for good causes and spread it around to help those in need. Oh, I'd certainly take some luxurious trips, and I'd fly first class, discovering what it's like to sit in those cushy seats up in the front of the plane, where legroom isn't just something to dream about as you cram your bag under the seat in front of you.
But I'm aware enough of my sinfulness to know that it would corrupt me, just as it has so many others--for money has such a powerful influence in our lives, in our society, in our world, that I wouldn't be immune from its power. I'd begin to believe that money could solve any problem, and I'd listen to the siren song of riches corrupt the relationships in my life. I know that, despite every good intention, sudden wealth can be far more of a curse than a blessing.
In 1 Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy that we should be exhorted to 'be rich in good deeds'. I think this definition of wealth is far richer than one that defines it solely based on money. Having money allows us to be fiscally generous, but I think that when we look at wealth as the sum of all the blessings that God has put into our lives, be it family or friends or a church community, gifts that allow us to work and share with the community, love and laughter and beauty, we begin to see a more full picture of what it means to be wealthy. A community of people to dwell with us in the darkest parts of life and celebrate with us on the mountaintops is a far greater gift than a vast sum of money. When we measure wealth with an eternal view, one looking at God's kingdom rather than this world's kingdom, we begin to see wealth defined as how we live and interact with others, and we see relationships as far more valuable than money. Someone who loves us through thick and thin is far better than a fancy car. Faith in a God who is willing to die for us can never be replaced by the nicest mansion. Trust that death is only a shadow through which we pass gives us a peace of mind that money cannot purchase.
Money can do wonderful things in this world. The lack of it can cause stress and anxiety that can affect every part of life. But money cannot solve the deepest questions of life, and it cannot replace the relationships that matter most. Money cannot buy us God's love--for that is given freely, and the ability to accept that and live within God's grace is far more valuable than anything that can be won in a lottery drawing.