You know what really cracks me up? Hearing people imply that the Powerball jackpot is/isn’t up to an amount that is worth their time. Everybody seems to have their own threshold amount that prompts them to buy a ticket. The jackpot is “only” $10 million? No thanks. But when it gets up to $100 million? Let me run to the nearest retailer and get in line!
Your odds of winning are the same in either instance. The only difference is that when the jackpot rises enough for even more people to decide it’s worth their time, your odds of sharing the jackpot increase. With unchanging odds, why is a paltry $10 million not worth one’s effort but a larger amount will have them running to the nearest convenience store?
Let me tip my hand a little bit here. As a Christian, I believe every jackpot amount is in the category of “not enough” money to participate in the lottery. Mark 8:36 makes it quite clear, in red letters to boot, that gaining the world only to lose your soul is not a good transaction. How much less profitable is it to gain a measly billion or so?
I’ve made a pretty bold statement here, haven’t I? Am I saying that by playing the numbers you have forfeited your eternal soul? I certainly hope it doesn’t come across that harshly. I could list off many reasons why placing your hope in gambling is contrary to the mindset/worldview laid before us in scripture. I could explain that state-sponsored gambling is a tax upon the financially weakest among us, and thus a horrible way to love your neighbor as yourself. I could point to the fact that the lottery is NOT A RANDOM DRAWING and can be rigged. I’m not saying it always is rigged. I am saying that it can, and that it has been, rigged.
I’m not here to say any of these things. I’m just saying that each person who plays the lottery does so based upon his or her own motivations. Have you bought a ticket? Not yet? Check your motivations.
Do you want to quit your job? Go on a permanent vacation? Have a taste of the good life? Live in security and stability so you don’t have to rely on anyone else? Be careful of the desire for complete autonomy. Nobody is the master of their own domain. You were bought with a price. You are not your own.
Do you want to bless others? Hasn’t God provided you all you need to be a blessing? Does God need the riches of the world in order for you to accomplish His task that He has laid before you? Hint: check out Ephesians 2:10 before answering.
Do you want to give a mighty tithe to the church? I asked my pastor a few years ago, hypothetically, about this exact question and he told me that if he became aware that a generous offering was the result of lottery winnings, he would decline to accept it on behalf of the church. You might want to inquire with an elder at your church if that’s your motivation.
Is playing the lottery evil? I’m not prepared to say that. Buying a lottery ticket is not always a matter where church discipline needs to take place. Placing your hopes and trust in money is a gospel matter though, and an unhealthy obsession with a jackpot of any size betrays the treasure one is truly excited about.
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.