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Winning the lottery may be a life changer for the lucky few

"Who wants to be a millionaire?" is the question asked by a popular American television game show. The answer is who doesn't? Who doesn't have dreams of striking it rich some day? Such dreams entice millions of Americans to spend an estimated $160 billion or more a year in casinos and on state lotteries. Sadly, for the majority of gamblers who spend hard earned money on games of chance, their big payday never comes. For the fortunate few, who beat the "millions to 1" odds on mega jackpots, winning may change their life but not always for the better.

It is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” Mark 10:25
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Winning the lottery won't guarantee happiness. Consider the "instant millionaires" who have had their lives turned upside down in a negative way after coming into great wealth. More than one Mega Lotto winner has been murdered for the money; others have gone bankrupt and lost everything due to out of control spending; while others have become addicted to drugs and alcohol because of the pressures associated with their new wealth. "I wish I'd never won the lottery," is a lament uttered by more than one winner whose life changed for the worst after winning. Women admire a man with money, but in the words of the Waylon Jennings song, "money cannot make the man."

But is it the money or the person that's the problem? There's plenty of evidence to suggest that the fault lies within the person. There's some truth in the familiar idiom, " A fool and his money are soon parted." And the Bible adds this about money:

For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Clearly, the lure of riches can blind a person to the things in life that really matter. A case in point is the controversial movie, "The Wolf of Wall Street," starring Leonardo De Caprio, which tells the true story of a man so obsessed with obtaining great wealth that he degenerates into a lifestyle of greed and debauchery that ultimately destroys his life. Likewise, the Bible gives this illustration of a rich man who was so wealthy that he kept building bigger and bigger barns to hold all of his wealth.

One day, while he was admiring his possessions, he said to himself, “Friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!” When God heard him, God said to the rich man, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?” (Luke 12)

It's fair to say that money, while neither good nor bad, can be problematic for some people. Money becomes problematic when a person seeks to possess it out of selfishness, egotism or greed, or when the love of money dulls his sense of right and wrong. Money can have advantages when used to better society or support worthwhile causes. Many wealthy individuals have gone on to use their wealth for the greater good. Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey readily come to mind. Also Tom Crist, the Canadian lottery winner who gave the entirety of his $40 million good fortune to cancer research. Easier perhaps for someone who's got money, but a person doesn't have to be a billionaire or millionaire to have a giving heart. The generosity of ordinary people who donate to individuals in need, to charities and other humanitarian causes has made a world of difference for those who have been helped.

Perhaps the world envys people with money but in the context of eternity, money has little redeeming value. If anyone thinks he can buy his way into heaven, better think again. A rich man once asked Jesus, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus told him, "Go and sell everything you own! Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and be my follower."

When the man heard this, he was sad, because he was very rich. Jesus saw how sad the man was. So he said, “It’s terribly hard for rich people to get into God’s kingdom! In fact, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God’s kingdom.” Luke 18:23-25

Back in the day, when a rich person died, people would say, "There ain't no u-haul following that hearse," meaning that whatever material wealth he possessed he couldn't take it with him. And that has not changed. Better to be careful about wishing it was you who won when someone else wins the lottery. Best to be thankful for whatever you have knowing that God sees you and knows what you need. One last piece of advice to help you avoid getting caught in the money trap:

We didn't bring anything into this world, and we won’t take anything with us when we leave. So we should be satisfied just to have food and clothes. People who want to be rich fall into all sorts of temptations and traps. They are caught by foolish and harmful desires that drag them down and destroy them. 1 Timothy 6:7-9