Jan 112016 6 Responses

Why Pastors Don’t Have to Buy a Powerball Ticket

I don’t have to buy a Powerball ticket. It’s one of the perks of the job–like a good parking spot at the hospital and always being able to claim “I have to work” when you don’t want to attend family reunions.

Why don’t I have to buy a Powerball ticket? Because in an attempt to up their odds, several church members and non-church members add me to their ticket for free in hopes of getting a little divine intervention.

It doesn’t work that way. I’m sure most people know it. Whenever I’m playing golf and a storm suddenly forms, someone always says, “Well, with the Preacher here, we know we won’t get hit by lighting.” I always remind them I don’t have a special connection with God. If I did, attendance at our church and my salary would both be much higher. (See: Money Can Make You Happy)

I get no special treatment in avoiding lightening strikes or winning lotteries.

But for some, it’s worth a shot. So they add me to the ticket. And I have to admit, the move does have one spiritual influence–it does change my prayer. Without a ticket, I don’t pray about the Powerball. Being added to a ticket I pray, “Lord, test me.”

A Proper Powerball Prayer

“Test me,” is not what I should pray. A proper prayer would be, “Lord, please don’t let me win.”

In my home state, the statewide lottery scholarship is also tied into the national Powerball game. Powerball offers a minimum of $40 million dollars per drawing, but as games pass without a winner, the jackpots grow to astronomical values. This week’s drawing will be worth more than one billion dollars.

It’s human nature to fantasize about what it would be like to experience a financial windfall. We dream about:

  • vacations
  • cars
  • paid off mortgages
  • new homes
  • giving to charities

While it is normal to have these dreams, it’s interesting that we never consider the realities of winning a large sum of money:

  • marital stress
  • betrayal from close friends
  • jealousy from our peers
  • strife with extended family
  • difficulty in creating a new life
  • insecurity
  • loneliness

Have you ever considered that money brings as many negative consequences as it does positive ones? I doubt it. The human mind has been well trained to assume money is the answer to problems.

Ask a politician how to solve a problem and they will say “more money.”

Ask an educator how to fix a school and they will say “more money.”

Ask an employee what would make them work harder and they will say “more money.”

In nearly every scenario, we believe money will solve our problems.

And sometimes it does. On occasion, money can change a life, contribute to happiness, or fix a problem. However, it happens far less than we realize. Even when money helps a situation, it has unintended negative consequences as well. (See: Stop Spending Your Spouse’s Dreams)

While limited money may have a positive impact on some circumstances, it has long been known a lottery win can be the worst thing to ever happen to a person. The money might solve some of their problems, but it will create even more problems and it will not positively impact the deep issues of life–identity, relationships, self-worth, value, meaning, etc.

The proverbial truth–riches are just as troublesome as poverty. One of the lasts things I want for my children is to be rich. I pray they aren’t poor. I don’t want them to struggle for money. However, I equally pray that they do not have an unending stream of money.

“Give me neither poverty nor riches.” Proverbs says, “Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.” (30.8, NLT) The wisdom writer knows what he is talking about. While we think riches are an unending source of happiness, the writer of Proverbs warns us it is not. While their are exceptions, the average person would greatly struggle with a good amount of wealth.

Doubt that? Consider past lottery winners.

Still doubt that? Look at many professional athletes.

Still debating it? How many truly rich people have the moral character and joy in life you desire?

Clearly there are good people who inherit great amounts of wealth. There are others who have more money than we can ever imagine and they do tremendous good with that money. However, wealth is not something we should seek. It’s not a worthy goal.

And it’s clearly not something we should pray for. “Daily bread” is a far more faithful prayer than “let me hit the multiplier.” (See: Trans-Affluent–the Great American Deception)

You Don’t Have to Give Him a Chance

“I just buy lottery tickets to give God a chance.”

On multiple occasions I’ve had church members quickly state that excuse as I have stumbled upon them buying lottery tickets. They don’t need an excuse. I’m not the lottery police judging every person scratching off a ticket or filling in the bubbles to pick their numbers. In most cases, I just want to pay for my gas or get a Coke.

But they give an excuse and I often joke back with a common question: if you’re just giving God a chance, why did you buy more than one ticket? (See: Never Ignore the Money)

The Powerball seems appealing. We all think we would handle the wealth well. But we are all deceived. We overestimate our ability to make wise choices and underestimate the negative influence of wealth.

“Lord, test me,” is my common Powerball prayer. It’s a prayer he will likely answer, not by giving me millions, but by having me depend on him to “give us this day, our daily bread.”


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