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Should I Buy a Lottery Ticket?

The question, “Should I buy a lottery ticket?” will probably cross the mind of almost every American today (unless you already purchased one!). The Mega Millions jackpot has surpassed $500 million dollars and will probably continue to grow even larger until the 10pm CST drawing.

While running on my torture device this morning (treadmill) I couldn’t believe the in-depth news coverage surrounding all of the excitement for that lucky someone today. Yes, one person will have their life forever changed by the time they go to bed tonight. Could that lucky person be me? Should it be me? Why shouldn’t it be me?

Ok, I’m going to say it right now. I’m not going to buy a ticket today because I don’t think I should win that much money. Ouch, that hurts to write. Am I an idiot? Well, that could be argued by some people. I do think, however, I’m thinking clearly on this issue.

Here are a few quick reasons why I’m not going to buy a ticket. I really don’t care if you purchase one for your own reasons, but here are some of mine:

  • I teach people it is wrong to have a health/wealth view of the Christian life.  By buying a ticket I think my actions are working contrary to my beliefs. Is the greatest goal for a person wealth?  Is that really my ultimate desire? Is my life missing half a billion dollars? What are my motives in purchasing the ticket? Do I communicate to God and others, “I need more besides what I have right now.”
  • I’m not going to buy a ticket because I don’t think God’s plan for me is to be filthy rich. I didn’t grow up in a family of billionaires.  I have been blessed to receive a good education but I don’t work in a career where people become wealthy.  My wife and I feel extremely blessed by God but I don’t ever expect to be wealthy.  I fear my blessed life today without riches would not be the same blessed life with riches. If my life would be better with riches, then I trust God would have brought me riches already. Since I do not have riches, although I work hard and am thankfully able to provide for my family, then I trust the Lord’s best for my life is the standard of living I enjoy today.
  • It is shocking to learn about all of the people who have won the lottery in the past.  Billy Bob Harrell, Jr. was a bi-vocational preacher who worked at Home Depot.  After winning $37 million dollars and buying 6 houses for relatives he ended up getting divorced and then committing suicide.  Jeffrey Dampier won $20 million.  Nine years later he was kidnapped and killed by his sister-in-law.  Jack Whittaker won $315 million.  While at a strip club someone robbed him of $545,000 in cash.  Caesars Atlantic City casino sued him for bouncing $1.5 million in checks.  Most tragically, his granddaughter and daughter were found murdered.  It is not good for human beings to get everything they could desire.  Solomon was able to buy everything he wanted, and he hated life.  It seems foolish for me to buy a ticket assuming it will make my life better.  I’m not going to buy a ticket because I want to make sure my wife and kids stay together. The odds are too high everyone will become very selfish and lose the love we have within our family.
  • But couldn’t I give all the money to charity?  Yes, I’ve been thinking about this scenario.  I win $500+ million dollars and pay off my house.  Once my house is paid off I set aside a tiny bit for retirement and my children.  I then give 99% of it to charities making a real difference.  If people hit me up for money I can honestly tell them the money is gone, it’s all been given away.  I do not trust, however, that scenario.  I feel like a human looking at the ring in Frodo’s hand and saying, “Give it to me.  I’ll take good care of it. It won’t corrupt me.”  Every good parent withholds certain things from their children.  We don’t give them a pound of twizzlers, it will make them sick.  Likewise, I believe it is usually the grace of God to withhold this kind of money from his children.

Bible verses abound relating to money. God designed an amazing way for us to get money: work. An honest day of work provides an honest wage allowing us to live an honest life. If people refuse to work they should not be allowed to eat. Yes, some people are unable to work and need provision.  Those of us who are blessed to work need to pause and think before so quickly praying for the Lord to give us half a billion dollars.  How do you know the windfall of riches will not turn into a windfall of disaster?

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 30:8-9

What do you think?  Will you buy a ticket today?

27 Responses to “Should I Buy a Lottery Ticket?”

  1. I’ll buy one. I’m sure 100 biblical cases can be built (faultily, I might add) that it’s a sin. But it’s not. It’s a game.

    But let me add a couple thoughts:

    1) I’m an idiot, too. That much money is DANGEROUS!!

    2) If I win, I will not take the lump sum. I would rather have 19 million/year for 20 years, even if it IS mathematically better to take the lump sum becasue, as I said, I’m an idiot. This will give me 20 chances to get it right.

    3) I will give away MOST of it. To be sure, I will take my bucket list trip to Antarctica. Maybe twice. But (and this is where I begin to wax spiritual and philosophical) my purpose here is to fulfill God’s purpose for me here. What if someone actually funneled several million dollars a year into the Lord’s work?

    4) Christians are fighting a battle. And war is expensive. Money is not a bad thing. But, again, I’m an idiot.

    5) Who to give to? I got this snarky tip from my brother several years ago. He said, “I will give away a TON of money. But if you *ask* for it, you can’t have any.” I like that.

    6) Not sure what else I would do to protect the idiot (me) from the money. But I would give away most of it. Maybe keep a million a year, give away 18??? I don’t know that even seems like a lot.

  2. Oh, and I’d *try* to not let my wife know for as long as possible. Not to keep it from her (she can have it all), but because it would be funny for a while to know I won 500 million and she didn’t know. :)

    Maybe a couple days?? I don’t think I could do it – I would bust.

    And I would pretend to be homeless and panhandle, and then be super generous to people who gave me money.

  3. If someone wins it we will accept donations here @credo. Being a 501c3 none of us here can become rich off it. Just saying…

  4. Well we Irish had the Irish Sweepstakes, so we have been at this game a bit longer! ;) And though I am I guess upper middle class, at least by British standards, I say go for it! God is Sovereign! :)

  5. I think there is a difference between someone who is in Christian leadership not buying a ticket (weaker brothers, higher standard, etc), and a lay-person buying a ticket.

    Just to make the conversation interesting, as I posted yesterday at Theologica, if I were to win a boatload of money, one of the things I would do is support Credo House. Would the same reasons why someone wouldn’t buy a ticket also apply to turning down a hefty gift? Why not?

  6. Can you imagine the pressure of trying to give away that much money? Even if you kept enough to retire comfortably, who are you going to give the rest of that money to? Who is going to do the most good with it? I would go insane trying to figure out how to make the best use of the money as far as charity goes.

  7. Btw, I would I think buy the land and build a Credo House Cathedral! Since I am an Anglican I would be bishop, and Michael would be Canon Regular or Rector! How’s that sound! ;) And btw too, were both Historic Pre-Mill!

  8. I will not buy a ticket. I have just enough wisdom to realize all that money would destroy my life.

  9. I see where you’re coming from. However, my biggest reason for not buying a lottery ticket is simple: it’s a poor investment. As the adage goes, “The lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math.”

  10. There’s also the reality that, the laws of probability being what they are, one’s money would probably be put to approximately equally good use by burning it in an ashtray while wishing for a billion dollars to come down from the sky on the back of a magic pony. Well, it could happen…. and then not only would you be rich, you’d have a magic pony. Imagine what you could do with a magic pony.

    One of my profs once described the Lottery as “an elective tax on people who didn’t learn statistics.”

    By the way, I appreciated that this post didn’t once use that grotesque catchword “stewardship.” Well done.

  11. Btw, just a note, but there is going to be an Irish Sweeptakes, for tickets (just 12 fully) to tour Ireland in honor of Titanics 100 year anniversary (April 5, 1912), I kid you not! I think in fact there was a woman who had won the Irish Sweeptakes who was on the Titanic in 1912? They even have an Irish Titanic historical society. Yep, all true! So just think what a pound note or buck can buy you! ;)

  12. I really think Christians get way too serious oftentimes. Or not serious enough over what really matters! And the so-called Christian man/person that would not take a half a billion dollars, I say is a liar! I would take it as providence, glass half empty, or full? What GOD can do with a godly man/woman with a bit of money is a positive to my mind!

  13. @ Fr. Robert, I think there is a big difference between taking and earning IMHO

  14. IMHO it all depends to what extent you feel God directs in our lives. Is he controlling everything , from the promotion you get to the ticket you may buy. Is he meticulous in his governance. The only bibical reason that seems to apply is the one Tim mentioned about being content and neither poor nor rich. But there are rich christians, and poor ones as well. Did not God desire this…. for one to say for all cases that God has given us exactly what we need would lead one to never ask for a promotion, or ever take medication or have a medical operation to correct a problem (glasses or braces) because your in the exact position God wants you and you should be content. I have brought tickets, will probably today, but I don’t buy because of need, God is supplying my needs, but because of the good changes it could provide to family , charities, etc. Having money is not evil, it is the love of having money. As well I do feel that like alot of things in life we can develope addictions to things that in essence might not be bad. As CS Lewis said in Mere Chrisitianity , Bad things are good things spoiled, we can over indulge or use many things excessively creating a problem bigger than the actual object.

  15. Very true…money is not inherently evil. The love of money is wrong but not money itself. I am not against Christians having a lot of money. I love it when I hear stories of wealthy Christians doing great things with their money. If the Lord led me into a new season of life where I start a new company, work hard, and it ends up earning me $500 million dollars then I would realize I am in a new season of life. I don’t think that the lottery is usually God’s answer for Christians and I especially don’t think it’s for me.

  16. I’ve heard money explained like this: Money is amoral. It is neither good nor bad. Like a brick can be used to build a hospital or break a window, the brick itself is just a tool.

    Use it for what you will, money is a tool. use it for good. Precious few people do.

  17. Won’t be able to find it before this issue passes (for now) but I heard some Christian talk show host (I believe on a Sunday morning which means he was causing someone to violate the Sabbath) ask a more pertinent question:

    Should a Christian organization accept money they know came from the lottery?

    Or from any other “illegal” or “immoral” activity? I seem to recall a news story in the last couple of days about someone who was donating possibly embezelled money to charity. Should the charities give it back? Should government demand they do? Should be just skip that cup of Starbucks and buy tickets and just move on with our lives and skip the discussion?

    BTW – as of 3 pm on the East Coast the jackpot is over $640 million.

    PPS – I wonder what the value of the loss of productivity will be? I’m sure some research will receive some of my tax dollars to calculate it.

  18. @Mike: Nice! Just to get biblical for a moment, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wondered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” (1 Tim. 6: 9-11)

    Perhaps for myself I most of all need this last clause, and certainly “gentleness”!

  19. And btw, my wife tells me since one of my aunts (last in fact) and neices were invited to the Royal Wedding and after, we are above upper middle class! Note I am laughing here! (But my wife is not! She just hit me! lol) Oh that whole thing of status, I think it is bigger with us Brit’s. ;)

  20. @jd3020: Sadly, I think we can safely say that most billionarie’s feel “they” have earned every penney of their fortune! Perhaps, but GOD allows us all to eat, sleep and drink, etc. HE is our providence! And without God’s mercy, grace and providence, we all would not exist or be! This is common grace of course!

  21. God helps those that helps themselves. John 3:27
    John answered and said, ” A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.Luke 12:42-44
    And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. “Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. I could go on and on but I do not think god would keep us from becoming rich but it is what we do with it when we get it and we do not turn away from him.

  22. Your Frodo reference hit home!

  23. Crap. Missed it by 5. Plus 1.

  24. I’m not buying a lottery ticket. I don’t have any beliefs that it’s “wrong” for me to have that much money. I’ve studied the lottery, and found the whole system to be screwed up.

    Every story of a lottery winner I’ve come across shows ruined lives and ruined families. I’ve been unable in my research to find a story of somebody who won the lottery and didn’t destroy his or her family and life.

    If further evidence is required, Clint Richardson created a documentary examining the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) of both the California Lottery and a local school district. See just how much lottery money actually goes to winners and/or the school system: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kbBN1j5XtPE

    It’s ironic how just 100 years ago, gambling had been almost totally outlawed as a vice, while now it’s coming back with full government and societal support.

  25. I’m pretty much with your points on all counts. It did hit me this week, regarding the “I’ll give it away!” scenario, that two things are at play…

    1) If you’re not generous now, what are the odds you’ll suddenly be generous when wealthier?

    2) This almost seems like some sort of modern “indulgence” meant to cover the guilt of playing the lottery by “evening the scales” through some sort of pop-kharma like gift.

    My view of the lottery, overall, is that it is a voluntary tax in which someone else gets everyone’s refund, and I don’t condone the way most states duped their voters into supporting it by saying it was for education, only later to fold it into general funds where it disappears into a black hole. It’s just a mess on so many levels that I want nothing to do with it.

  26. Ok, so whatever on the lottery ticket. What I NEED to know is, when you listed “Playing Poker” as your ONLY hobby in the CT article, did you mean playing poker for money or for matchsticks? I was told, in no uncertain terms, that NO ONE plays for matchsticks and since I am such a Michael Patton fan, and Michael plays poker, playing poker (for money since no one, I am told, does it for any other reason) must be fine. Just FINE. So any anti-gambling thought I may have uttered publicly or otherwise was immediately disabled by you. Dude. What am I supposed to do with this?

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