Not long ago the media announced that an Austin couple had won the $51.2 million Texas lottery! Most of us have difficulty conceiving of such a huge sum of money. If you were to earn $1.00 a minute and worked 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day, you would have $1,440 at the end of the day and $525,600 at the end of a year. At that rate, it would take you about hundred years to accumulate the lottery jackpot. With this jackpot you could purchase 2,560 cars, each valued at $20,000! You could buy 512 houses, each costing $100,000! It is an incredible sum of money to imagine!
The lottery winners, Robert and Beverly Chody, refused to speculate how they plan to spend this astonishing amount of money which was given to them in a lump sum. Hopefully, as Christians, we would not gamble by playing the lottery ourselves. However, if someone were to unexpectedly give you $51.2 million, what would you do with it? Think for a moment and try to answer this question. A few comments come to my mind as I think about such an extravagant amount.
First, receiving such an amount would be extremely dangerous. Scripture warns again and again of the peril of riches. Paul writes, “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” (1 Timothy 6:9). Although money, per se, brings temptations and a snare (or trap), most people would love to receive the incredible amount mentioned above. Jesus also warned about the danger of riches. He told His disciples, after the “rich” young ruler turned away from the Lord, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23). He went further: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 25). Indeed, simply having (and retaining) monetary wealth is a spiritual death sentence and a bar to Gods coming Kingdom! Do we really believe our Lords sobering words?
Second, having such wealth would bring deception into ones life. We are often warned about how riches deceive those who eagerly seek it. Jesus describes certain people who hear and respond to the word of God, but “the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). People think that all is well when they have plenty of money and are able to buy whatever they want, but Jesus says that riches deceive. Even professing “Christians” who are wealthy deceive themselves by thinking they can give 10% or 20% of their income to the Lord and gain His favorwhile they revel in extravagance and worldly pleasure with the remaining 80% of their income. Having great amounts of money is spiritually deceptive!
Third, most people who have wealth fail the test of love. What do we mean by this? The use of money and possessions is a chief test of ones love. Biblical love is an outgoing care and concern for the welfare of others. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the needs of the saints in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8-9). He pointed out to them that their giving to meet this need was a test of the “sincerity” of their love (2 Corinthians 8:8). He said that helping the poor saints in this way would be a “proof” of their love (v. 24). When we see a professing Christian driving a $50,000 Lincoln or Mercedes, is this not evidence that there is a lack of love? If genuine love were found, the person could get by on something less extravagant and give the difference for the blessing of others. Can we really live in regal splendor while in some parts of the world, people live on $1,000 or $300 per capita income? Early Christians were willing to use their money to help the poor and needy (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35; Galatians 2:10), as well as to support teachers (Galatians 6:6), elders (1 Timothy 5:17-18), and preachers (1 Corinthians 9:14). Our use of money is a test of our love for and faithfulness to God and our love for others (Luke 16:10).
Much more could be said about the subject of money but this must suffice. We began with the subject of $51.2 million and how you would use it if it were given to you. We ask the question: How would you use such an amount? Surely it would not be wrong to pay for a modest house that is accommodating for you and your family. It would be right for you to support your family and your needy relatives (cf. 1 Timothy 5:8). It would be permissible to spend some of this on your business if this were needed. If you need reliable transportation, we assume it would be reasonable to purchase a serviceable and modest car, truck or van. But beyond these proper and righteous expenses, how would you use the bulk of this earthly treasure?
Paul gives some guidelines in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 to those who are considered “rich.” This may include many of our present readers. “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good words, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”
What do we learn from this inspired instruction? Riches are uncertain for they can be taken away. We must not place our hope and confidence in riches. If God gives us earthly wealth, we must not be conceited or proud about thisbut humbly acknowledge God as the gracious Giver. We can enjoy earthly blessings that God gives to us. We should share with others the abundance that we have been givensharing to the point that we no longer are overflowing in riches ourselves and no longer live in extravagance of possessions.
And what is the outcome of such a life of outgoing love manifested in the giving of our earthly wealth? We will have an eternal heavenly treasure and be able to look forward to the joys of eternal life in the age to come! Paul is simply echoing the Lord Jesus in saying this (cf. Matthew 6:24-34). Probably none of us will have $51,200,000 in our lifetime. Most of us will probably not earn or be given more than a million dollars all of our earthly pilgrimage.
But what are we doing with our present income? How do you spend your $100 or $300 or $500 or $1,000 paycheck? Do you responsibly spend your $1.00 bill and $5.00 bill as a good steward of what God has given to you? Jesus says that how we spend our money is a gauge of our entire life of faithfulness (Luke 16:10). How do you spend your money now? Dont be concerned about the $50 million that you will never have. But be seriously concerned about what God places in your hand today!