A recent headline announced: “One American Just Became an Overnight Billionaire After Lottery Draw.” “A single lucky winning ticket in California matched all six numbers in the Powerball jackpot of $1.765 billion.”
But what if winning the lottery made your life worse rather than better?
William “Bud” Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988, but he was $1 million in debt within a year. “I wish it never happened,” Post said. “It was totally a nightmare. I was much happier when I was broke.”
Believe it or not, the love of money and materialism enslaves rather than liberate. After all, “A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him” (2 Peter 2:19). Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
One way to test your spiritual condition is to ask yourself this simple question: Would I trade eternal life in Heaven for a winning lottery ticket? It is difficult to fathom why anyone would do such a thing, especially since material things are here today and gone tomorrow.
In 2004, a single mother on welfare won $10 million in the lottery. Sharon Tirabassi spent her winnings on a “big house, fancy cars, designer clothes, lavish parties, exotic trips, handouts to family, and loans to friends.” Less than a decade later she was “riding the bus, working part-time, and living in a rented house.”
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out these “20 Lottery Winners Who Lost It All,” and these “Lottery Winners Who Became Big Losers.” Believe it or not, winning the lottery often becomes a curse rather than a blessing.
A Pentecostal preacher “working as a stock boy at Home Depot got his prayers answered when he hit the $31 million Texas jackpot in 1997.” He eventually divorced and died by suicide. Shortly before his death, he told a financial advisor that “winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Do you want God’s best for your life today, tomorrow and forever, or would you prefer to instantly become a billionaire? Would you choose obscene wealth for a few years over eternal joy in Paradise? Followers of Christ choose Heaven. Unfortunately, we often live with far less joy than God wants us to experience, and we tend to lose sight of what God is preparing for those who love Him.
Jesus told His disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:1-4). Jesus then told them, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (v. 6).
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been given something a trillion times more valuable than a winning lottery ticket. Do you remind yourself often of your eternal inheritance? Where is your treasure today? Is it in Christ alone, or in some far-fetched fantasy to became insanely wealthy?
Those who are “wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15) have received true and lasting riches. You see, “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4).
Will you be enjoying Paradise with the Lord 100 years from now, or will you be miserable because you missed out on Heaven and ended up in Hell? No one in Paradise regrets trusting Jesus to be their Savior and forgive their sins. And everyone in Heaven will have eternity to celebrate God’s goodness, majesty and love.
On the contrary, many lottery winners lost their soul after an enormous sum of money fell into their lap. They essentially traded Heaven for a winning lottery ticket and are now separated from God for eternity. Will some lottery winners end up in Heaven? Sure. But I suspect the vast majority of them will end up in Hell.
Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). And, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Do you lust after things in the world? God’s Word declares: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
Jesus told people in the church of Laodicea: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). If you desire true riches that will never run out, then turn your eyes upon Jesus and the sacrifice Christ made for you on the cross. The King of Kings wants to live with you forever in Paradise.
Many people have lost their immortal soul by choosing to love money instead of Jesus. “God commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Repentance leads people to renounce their love of money, and spiritual conversion occurs when a person trusts Jesus to wash away all of their sins.
Thankfully, Heaven truly is a trillion times better than a winning lottery ticket! Do you believe it?
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.
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