$640 Million Jack Pot



$640 Million Jackpot!

Richard Hollerman

Finally, we all know whether a person was a winner in the largest Mega Millions lottery in history!  The Mega Millions lottery was played in 42 states and Washington D.C.  and the jackpot increased to an astronomical $640 million (2/3 of a billion) dollars! This is an unimaginable sum!  The previous record was a $390 jackpot in 2007, divided two ways between two winners.

Many Millions Chose to Play

People from all walks of life decided to enter the Mega Millions contest, with the hope of cashing in on this huge amount of money.  But the odds against a person winning was extremely small.  Patrick Healy and John Simerson (usnews.msnbc.msn.com) mention that a woman by the name of Michelle Chong purchased 50 $1 tickets and her chances of winning the jackpot was the same as being struck by lightning!  Says Healy and Simerson, “Based on U.S. averages, you’re about 8,000 times more likely to be murdered than win the lottery and 20,000 times more likely to die in a vehicle crash.”  

The jackpot odds are beyond comprehension. Chances of winning would be one in 176 million! Regardless of the odds, millions of Americans still chose to play.  Willie Richards of Atlanta justified his purchase of five tickets, “When it gets as big as it is now, you’d be nuts not to play. You have to take a chance on Lady Luck.”

As it turned out, the $640 million had to be divided three ways (assuming that the winners identify themselves). The winning tickets were sold in Kansas, Illinois, and Maryland.  Each of the three would receive $213 million, before taxes.  The IRS does collect 25% federal withholding tax on any winnings more than $5,000, thus the amount collected will be lower than expected. (usnews.msnbc.msn.com).

What can be done with such a huge amount of money?  People gave a variety of different answers.  Dan Parrott, a paramedic, said, “I’d love to have all that money, but with all of that money comes responsibility. . . . but it’d still be awesome.” Yes, it would be awesome, and this is just what other people stated.  Maribeth Ptak, 31, said that she would pay her bills, including school loans and would then donate a lot to a charitable cause.  Sawnya Castro, 31, said that she would “create a rescue society for Great Danes, fix up her grandmother’s house, and perhaps even buy a bigger one for herself.”

Venus Wilson, of Manhattan, explained that if she were to win, she would first  faint!  “Then, when I get up, go get my check, and go shopping.”  She would also invest in real estate and help her family and friends. Wilson continued, “I would donate to St. Jude’s for cancer research, for breast cancer, do stuff like that. Because come on, why not? Don’t be stingy. God didn’t bless you with it for no reason. Help people out.”  She further said, “Then I would go crazy [shopping]. I swear—I would go crazy.” She would open soul food restaurants and Laundromats.

Nursing student Therese Schoenwandt, 29, said that she would pay her mother’s mortgage in Brooklyn, would pay for a wedding, and would save the remainder.  Ivan Martinez, 50, would help his family in Puerto Rico. Richard Gallo, 48, said that he would hop in his car and just drive and take a vacation to think it all through. Other people said that “they would pay off debt for family and friends or their churches, or donate to animal shelters.”  Rebecca Hayes said that she would “never fly coach again.”  Louis Carrasquillo, 50, who works in a New York cigar shop, said that if he were to win, “he would give money to his church for a new school and cafeteria.”

The Vastness of the Jackpot

We grant that one could do so much to bless others if he were to be given a half billion dollars.  He could buy 5,000 houses of $100,000 each!  He could buy 20,000 cars of $25,000 each!  He could buy property consisting of 100,000 acres (at $5,000 an acre)!  He could pay for 100,000,000 Bibles to distribute to those in spiritual need (at $5 a Bible)!  He could support tens of thousands of preachers in the third world!  So much could be done to bless others if one were to be given $500 million.  (We know, of course, that there is the matter of taxes and other limitations.)  But it is begging the question. Even if we could do unimagined good, we could never enter the lottery because of its wrongfulness.

Think of the immorality of all of this.  Some people in this world earn only $1,000 or even less a year. The per capita can be $100 in some places.  Is it right for someone to receive $500 million when others are living in abject poverty, without medical attention, without daily food?  Is it right that thousands die each year from malnutrition when someone gambles and wins a half billion dollars?  Is it right that someone wins this amount of money for a moment’s labor when another person can’t afford to eat and live—and maybe lives on the street?  But this matter of immorality is only one consideration of the Mega Millions lottery.

The Foolishness of Playing

We know that there are pragmatic reasons not to play. After all, if one ticket only gives the odds of one in 176 million, that is not really a high possibility of winning!  Besides that, Americans spent almost $1.5 billion for the slight possibility of winning $640 million (which would be a $462 million lump sum). This does not make good sense, as any rational person can see.  This is like paying $1 for the chance of winning 40 or 50 cents!

But from a Biblical standpoint, we would have further reasons not to play the lottery—whether it be the Mega Millions lottery or any other one.  The Christian doesn’t just think in pragmatic terms, but in Biblical terms.  He seeks to “think God’s thoughts after Him.”  Paul the apostle says, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16) and this is the determining factor. In another context, Paul said, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). We must always ask, “What would Jesus do?”  We must be concerned about the issue: “What does the Scripture say?” (Romans 4:3a).

Does the Bible really address this subject?  We do read of gambling in Scripture, such as when the Roman soldiers cast lots (gambled) for Christ’s seamless robe (John 19:23-24).  But let’s look further.  Paul says:

Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Does gambling reflect a contented spirit?  Does it place material advantages and acquisition before spiritual values?  The apostle then addresses the matter of greed, the very sin that particularly is violated when one pursues a course of gambling:

But 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.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (vv. 9-10).

Do you think that those who enter the Mega Millions lottery ever consider how God would look on this?  Do these contestants “want to get rich”?  Then they fall into “temptation and a snare.” They fall into “many foolish and harmful desires” as they imagine the cars, houses, vacations, businesses, and the luxuries they will be able to afford.  Do you think that the millions who play the lottery have a “love of money”? If so, they should realize that this love of riches is a root of all kinds of sins.  We can only be saved by faith, but these money-hungry lottery players who claim to be saved actually wander away from the faith. And the result?  They pierce themselves with many sorrows. Instead of the elation and life-long joy that they think will come their way, the winners will find that money cannot satisfy.  As Solomon puts it, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income.  This too is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

There would be many other reasons why gambling in all forms would be wrong for the follower of Jesus, but the present piece is merely meant to address the Mega Millions lottery.  We conclude that participation in this gambling activity is foolish, unwise, wasteful, covetous, and plainly wrong for the believer in the Lord.

Let us run from this present craze that has dominated the thinking of millions!  Let us renounce this attitude of greed that imagines winning millions and millions of dollars without working for it.  Let us determine to be “blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we] appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).

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