Dear Lottery Winners,
If you’re waking up this morning and realizing that you purchased the winning ticket with numbers 8, 27, 34, 4, 19 and the Powerball of 10, you probably think that your life is going to change drastically. You’re probably right. With your money you can purchase a private island in the Caribbean and a private jet for travel. You will likely quit your job by noon today, but before you start making drastic decisions, consider the following:
Money Does Not Promise Happiness: If you think that over half a billion dollars will bring you happiness, you’re wrong. Andrew Carnegie once said, “Millionaires seldom smile.” If your life was in shambles before, you can expect it to get worse. The money that you won is not the source of true happiness. You are now extremely rich, but what you purchase with your money will break, fall apart, and rust over time. The happiness you get with your money will only be a temporary joy.
In 2002, a West Virginia building contractor named Andrew Jackson Whittaker Jr. hit the lottery and won the $315 Million multi-state Powerball draw. He ended up with $114 million after taxes. The money he won did not bring him great happiness and joy. On two separate occasions, thieves ran off with $745,000 that Whittaker stored in his car. Whittaker was sued by Caesar’s Atlantic City for writing checks in the sum of $1.5 million that he could not cover. It only took a short four years for Whittaker to lose his fortune.
The story of Whittaker is not the only one. I could tell you the story of Sharon Tirabassi, a single mother who was on welfare and won the lottery in Canada. After spending her fortune on a big house and fancy cars, she was broke in just a few years. I could likewise tell you the story of Lara and Robert Griffith who won the lottery jackpot of $2.76 million. After buying a million dollar home and a sports car, soon their marriage of 14 years was broken into pieces when Lara confronted Robert over troubling e-mails she discovered. Soon there was a fire that burned down their home and all of their fortune was gone.
Martin Luther once said, “God permits the very riches in which people trust to bring about the ruin of those who own them.”  If you think that your money that you won last night will bring you happiness, you’ve believed exactly what the lottery marketing team wants you to believe. It’s a lie. You need true happiness, and it doesn’t come as a result of having large sums of money.
Work is not a Curse: Before you hand your boss your letter of resignation, have you stopped to consider that work is not a curse? So often we labor with an end goal of quitting as soon as possible to live the good life. What exactly is the good life? Have you stopped to consider that work is not a curse? We were created to be workers. To stop working will likely cause you more harm than good.
As soon as you quit your job, your focus will be on your fun, and soon enough your fun will become your work. What you hoped would bring you joy will bring you trouble, trials, and discouragement. With an unbalanced life that’s focused on temporal fun, it will likely cause you to waste your fortune. Beware of the deception that you no longer need to work.
Your Money will Fool You: If you’re one of the lottery winners from last night, as soon as you announce it, you will have a long list of new friends. These new friends will flatter you with praise and it will be difficult for you to discern who your real friends are. This is the trap that you will now live in. It has the potential of ruining your life.
Perhaps the most dangerous trap of suddenly becoming a very rich person is the deception of personal autonomy. If you didn’t have a need for God before you won the lottery, it’s very likely that your money will only add to your perilous condition. Your money will make you feel strong and powerful. Your money will insulate you from the real pains and struggles of the working class of this world. Your money will build a sense of personal autonomy and fool you into believing that you have no need for God. Perhaps your money will make you believe that God is for the weak and poor, but not for the rich.
What’s even more dangerous is that you will be smart with your money and somehow you will find ways to navigate the challenges of winning the lottery without squandering it away in a few short years. What if you’re fooled by your money and it lasts for the rest of your life? What then?
- You will die and leave it all behind, and as soon as you die, you will suddenly realize that you did need God.
- You will realize that your temporal joys of wealth in this life were short lived and that real eternal joys come only through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
- You will realize that your money could not erase your sin and it couldn’t purchase you a home in heaven.
- You will live forever in hell separated from the eternal love of God.
Consider the story that Jesus once told about a rich man (Luke 16:19-31). He contrasted the lives of two men – one was rich and the other was poor. Consider their outcome. Beware of the deception of riches. Remember, Matthew 6:24 teaches us that it’s impossible to serve both God and money. You must choose.
Matthew 13:44 – “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Jesus is the treasure in the field. It may seem strange, but you don’t need the money more than you need Jesus. Don’t be fooled by your money.
- Philip Graham Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010), 134.