What would you do with the sudden windfall of a few hundred million dollars? I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind. Assuming you won this last Powerball, you’ve had the money for a week already.
Maybe these things have happened:
- You secured an attorney.
- You saw a financial planner.
- You quit your job.
- You received phone calls from relatives you’ve never met.
- You changed your phone number.
- You paid all your debts off.
- You bought everything in your Amazon wish list by hitting “Select All” and then “Purchase.”
That’s just week 1.
Few of us understand how things can change with sudden wealth. We think life will be the same, only better. Not by a long shot. Too many true life cases tell a different story of divorces, suicides, murder, bankruptcy, estranged families, and lawsuits.
The biblical wisdom of Proverbs says,
30:8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
According to the Proverb, fullness doesn’t lead to thanks and praise. It often leads to denial of God’s rights over our lives, and to forgetfulness of Him. Human beings love wealth because it empowers us to live outside our former limitations.
Unfortunately, enormous bank accounts can also enable our sin to operate at full capacity. One lotto winner went broke on cocaine and hookers alone—fourteen million dollars down the drain on girls named “Bambi” and “Suga.” What kind of “fun” will that amount of money buy? Some pretty dark stuff, I’m sure.
Even if you disciplined yourself to avoid becoming an immoral louse, there’s still the issue of distractions. Now you can afford plenty of big boy toys—boats and houses, cars and vacations. With all this excitement and redirected focus, you’re bound to discover your heart is only so big. And there are only so many hours in a day.
You used to pray for daily bread. Remember when you pleaded with God that you wouldn’t get laid off? On disappointing days, the Scriptures assured you that real satisfaction can only be found in Christ, and at the end of this fractured life a better world awaited you.
But now things are different. You can start the day out on the lake, in the stores, on the plane. If your devotional time with Jesus has survived, it’s in the form of a quick nod to Him. The passion and urgency are gone. Temporal joys now beckon.
That wouldn’t be me, you think.
I hope it wouldn’t be me, either.
In case of a fiscal tidal wave, we hope that our nobler nature would prevail. Aside from splurging on that vintage corvette and house on a private Pacific beach, we’d want to be philanthropic. Mark Zuckerberg recently disclosed that he would give away 99% of his Facebook shares to charity—some $45 billion. Yes, you say. I know of a church or a cause I would also generously support.
Yet Mark didn’t win his money with a magic ticket. He earned it. Self-made wealthy people have spent years of hard work accumulating their fortunes. They’ve also developed the conservative character that it takes to manage it.
During my research of lotto winner stories, I noticed some who turned to responsible forms of generosity. Just as many though, went on wild sprees, like the New Jersey woman who gambled away two lotto prizes, and now lives in a trailer home on food stamps.
Sometimes we know how to deal with $9.75 an hour at Denney’s, but not $5.4 million in sudden cash. Money can easily outstrip skill, character, and common sense. People who think they’d act a certain way if instantly enriched, often don’t get around to it when it happens.
Prudent character or not, the rich still face grave obstacles when it comes to entering the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24).
The rich always face loyalty issues and must decide which lord to obey: “No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money” (Mt. 6:24).
If you won the lotto last week, you have your work cut out for you.
But the Proverb seeks to steer us away from both riches and poverty. Financial lack tests human beings as surely as wealth. It can lead us to compromise in doing things we know are wrong for the sake of making up the shortfall (i.e. stealing, or accepting ungodly occupations). The honest person who struggles to earn a living with integrity, might also tire of the relentless grind. Weary of lack, he or she might be drawn into resentment, seeing God as absentee or unloving.
Agur (the writer of the Proverb) sees the temptations of heady abundance and the bitterness of lack, and prays, asking for “Neither this nor that. Just give me what I need.”
Now that would make an interesting lotto ticket—one that paid a grand prize of “Enough.”