I catch myself daydreaming from time to time. Although the scenarios vary, the thought at the core is persistent; I imagine that God wants me to be rich. I think about all the good things I could do with a bunch of extra funds. I think about ways He could make it happen. Maybe a super wealthy friend will gift me a large sum. Maybe the Lord is going to lead me to employment with outsized compensation. The scenarios are many and varied. Eventually I remember that as my God is all powerful, if He wanted me to be rich, I would be. This sometimes leads me to be thankful for the exact situation in which I find myself; not richer or poorer. This is where I think He wants me to be; legitimately thankful for whatever my present circumstances happen to be, regardless of whether they’re what I’d request for myself if I could.
I am not a gambler. One time as a kid I found myself playing poker in my friend’s basement. We were using chips, not money. While playing I remember receiving the distinct spiritual impression to leave. Personally, I find poker with chips equivalent to Monopoly or any other game, so I’m not condemning it per se. But I got the impression to leave and did. I still don’t know why. But I did.
Recently I was traveling for work in a state that operates a lottery. I felt the unusual urge to participate. When the guys I was traveling with pretended to drive away from the gas station without me, I went back into the mini-mart and bought a lottery ticket. It was my first ticket ever. I’d heard the logic about how lotteries are effectively taxes on the ignorant, but was undeterred. The lady asked me which game I wanted to play; I had no idea there were multiple options. I quickly chose one with a potential payout of only a few hundred thousand dollars that would be drawn that evening. As we drove to the airport I realized the folly of my ways; if I was going to be a sinner and buy a lottery ticket, then I might as well go for the PowerBall payout valued at over $60 million, which was also to be drawn that evening. So I was thrilled when I found out I could buy another ticket at the airport before coming home. Once I had my $60 million ticket, my mind started to race wildly along the same lines I described at the beginning of this post. What would I do with all the winnings? Would I share them? If so with whom? Would I work? Would I move? Would I have to pay tithing since the Church would probably not take tithing “earned” from a lottery? The considerations were enthralling.
In opposition to the “lottery-as-taxation-on-the-ignorant” view, there is another school of thought that compares not just the economic implications of buying a lottery ticket, but the emotional ramifications as well. This school posits that the incremental hope/joy that comes into a person’s life from the time they purchase the ticket until the time the find out they lost is worth way more than the dollar they paid to participate, and as such, represents a significant value. I have to say I fall into this latter camp. My life was, in a telestial sense, far more hopeful from the time I bought the ticket until the next day when I checked online to find out my numbers had not been selected, than it had been over the previous 24 hours. All that hope for a dollar. It was by far the best money I’d spent the entire week. And yet I don’t think I’ll be doing it again.
See, the greatest benefit I got from playing the lottery was the absolute assurance that God does not want me to be rich. If ever you find yourself daydreaming about Him making you wealthy, you can spend a lot of time and effort and energy worrying about if He’s going to do it or how He might do it or what you might do with it if He does or a million other related questions. Or you can just go buy your ticket, get the results that night, and let it go. Buying a single lottery ticket is the most cost-effective way I can think of to banish the “what if He wants me to be rich” temptation quickly and definitively. That’s the beauty of believing in an all powerful, all knowing God; whatever my present circumstances are must be what He wants for me. Thankfully embracing reality is thus a sign of faith.