Powerball ticket

Tempted by Half a Billion Dollars

Powerball ticketDo you remember the 1993 movie, "Indecent Proposal," where Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson's characters (married in the film) are offered $1,000,000 by Robert Redford's character if she will just spend a single night with him? Or perhaps 2009's "The Box," where the couple played by Cameron Diaz and James Marsden are offered an equal amount if they'll simply press a button? The catch with their opportunity is that when they push the button in the box someone will die (although it won't be a person they know).

Would you take either offer? I'm assuming most people would immediately reject the second one…but I suspect there are some out there…folks in especially dire financial straits…where the first proposition might result in more than just a quick passing thought. One doesn't have to actually be greedy for money to be a terrible temptation—sometimes just wanting to be able to pay your bills can cause you to make questionable decisions. There immense of wisdom in Agur's words in Proverbs:

Two things I ask of you;
  deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
  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 (Proverbs 30:7-8, English Standard Version).

Now, whether you were familiar with either one of those films, were you aware that this past Wednesday the Powerball jackpot reached over $587 million dollars?

Did you buy a ticket? Multiple tickets? A whole bunch of tickets?

You know, I will admit that when I heard the pot had broken a half a billion dollars, I considered buying a ticket. Not because I thought I'd actually have any possibility of winning, but because a dollar is so little for a chance at $500,0000…

And boy, if I did win, it would be great!

That's because, as I mentioned in last week's article, I recently became unemployed and have a "dwindling bank account." There is no question that that obscene amount of money would solve the "dwindling bank account" problem, eh? 🙂

Even when money wasn't short I'll admit when jackpots got especially large I might contemplate grabbing a lottery ticket—doing so is almost like joining in on a community activity. Everybody talks about the huge pay-out (even after taxes), buys tickets, chats about what they'd do if they actually won, and then jokes about having to go back to work because they didn't. It's not greed or desperation that drives a purchase like that.1

But when I pondered grabbing a Powerball ticket this week while driving around Antrim, there definitely was a bit of desperation behind the notion. A single dollar out of a shrinking bank account seemed like a reasonable amount given that if, by some fluke, I actually won, then we wouldn't be worrying anymore about how we are going to pay all the bills coming due in December.

Sure, I didn't really think I'd win…but if I did…if I did…

But, speaking of wisdom, there is quite a bit of it in my friend's post earlier today on Facebook:

Lottery tweet

The lottery preys on the foolish hopes of the poor. I will not participate.

Now I probably would have sugar-coated it a bit more than she did, but I've long said that lotteries, scratch tickets, and the like are regressive taxes on the poor. However, the issue with the direction my thoughts took during my local vehicular jaunt wasn't with American states tricking folks into fruitless gambling…it was with my looking to the wrong source for help. Instead…

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
  From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
  who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2).

If you bought Powerball tickets this week I am not saying that you sinned. You may have…but, regardless, if I had bought a chance for half a billion dollars before the drawing on Wednesday night I would have. Why?

Because it would have been a sign of me putting trust in something other than the Lord to help me out of my present predicament. And no, as much as I might wish it I don't think it is likely that the Almighty's way of solving my financial plight would be by causing my six numbers to magically be chosen. "God works in mysterious ways," but there is nothing mysterious about a lot of people being duped into thinking even one dollar is a wise investment in government-sponsored charlatanry.

Consider, instead, how Psalm 118:8-9 says:

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
  than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
  than to trust in princes.

I'm going to add a verse:

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
  than to trust in lotteries.

Unlike the first two from Psalms, my verse isn't inspired by the Holy Spirit, but I am convinced it is still pretty reliable, because…

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
  in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
  and with my song I give thanks to him (Psalm 28:7).

God has never failed me, and He isn't about to start. Does that guarantee that I am going to have a job in time so all my bills will get paid? No. But He knows what is best for my family and me, and His care is worth more than half a billion dollars…or all the riches of the world.2

1 Well, I suspect anytime someone hopes to win (not earn) a large amount of money there is at least a little greed involved.
2 And in case you were wondering, no…I did not purchase the Powerball ticket in the picture. A friend of mine at a local convenience store grabbed it from the trash…which is where pretty much every lottery ticket ends up…and all they are really worth.

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Alan is an ordinary guy, living in a small, high plains Colorado town...and humbled to be a minister of God...

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