unstained and unwasted: DECISION #4

we will not play the lottery.

(note: this decision is a personal decision that we have made. you may or may not agree with the decision or the rationale or convictions that form the basis of the decision. in romans 14:1-9, paul wrote about similar 'non-essential' matters where there was disagreement among followers of christ. at that time, the issues were disagreements over certain days and certain foods. while we are "convinced in [our] own mind" of this decision, we are not implying that you are living a 'stained' and 'wasted' life just because you have not come to the same decision point. we are not saying that our way is the only way to honor god or the only way to avoid sin. at the same time, we do hope you are challenged to think about this issue.)

okay, so this might not seem like a decision that is big enough or worthy enough of a featured spot as one of our unstained and unwasted life decisions. my wife really didn’t think so initially. and the truth is we rarely ever play the lottery – maybe two to three times a year, if that (usually when the jackpot gets in the hundreds of millions). but this decision goes deeper than merely not walking into a store and handing over money for a lottery ticket. it goes beyond a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts.

it might be better to write our decision this way: we will not desire to be rich. now that penetrates a little deeper. anyone can decide to not play the lottery for many different reasons (i mean, let’s face it, from a statistical standpoint you are throwing away your money). but we could decide not to play the lottery yet still harbor in our hearts what the bible clearly descibes as a suicidal desire to be rich in this world:

“Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction…Some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

do you ever have the desire to be rich? i often do. i’ll admit it. it is so easy to get into a mindset where we think that money and riches will solve all of our problems and make us better persons, as if winning the lottery would someone make us more generous and less covetous, more godly and less carnal. we try to make our desire to be rich seem less selfish and more noble by talking about how much we would give away to church, charity, and community if only we were rich and could “afford” to be more giving. but the bible doesn’t seem to leave room for this rationalization (mark 12:41-44; 2 corinthians 8:1-4).

(by the way, if you are rich – most of us in america would fall into that category when compared to the rest of the world – i am not saying you’re definitively headed for ruin and destruction, though the bible is full of warnings to those of us who are rich in this world (matthew 19:16-26; luke 12:13-21; luke 16:19-31). being rich does not mean you cannot be a lover of god, but it certainly raises the stakes in terms of the fight for who or what will most satisfy your soul. so, if you are rich now, does your bank statement bring you more satisfaction than your savior? or, if you are rich now, do you desire to be richer? whether you are rich or in utter poverty, the love of money is deadly. and letting the desire to be rich set itself up in your heart is spiritually suicidal.)

we must fight the desire to be rich! we have to kill it! and it’s not enough to kill it. we have to replace our desire to be rich with a diametrically opposed desire to be radical risk-takers for christ in all areas of our lives. we must replace our satisfaction in our stuff with a superior satisfaction – namely, knowing christ. this means counting EVERYTHING in our lives – our careers, our cars, our clothes, our checkbooks, our comfort, our culture – as NOTHING in comparison to knowing christ and being found in him.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11).

that’s what this decision is all about – knowing christ more fully, treasuring christ more dearly, and sharing in his sufferings more assuredly.  so, we will not play the lottery; we will not desire to be rich. and one way to fight the battle against the desire to be rich is to fill our heads and hearts with an eternal perspective and the promises of god. here’s a great exhortation and promise:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5).

we should heed the great exhortation in this verse (“keep yourself free from the love of money, and be content”) and do whatever it takes to free ourselves from the love of money and the desire to be rich. and we should hang on to the great promise in this verse (“i will never leave you nor forsake you”) and let it empower us to give ourselves away (our money, time, and talents) in radical ways that would have no explanation apart from our faith in christ. we don’t need to win the lottery to become more giving. we simply need to gaze upon christ long enough and we’ll become more giving. and if we give long enough, we’ll become more like christ.

what’s the jackpot up to this week? i don’t care. do you?

interesting quotations and references

“We are followers of Jesus. He had no place to lay his head and did not accept the demonic temptation to jump off the temple for the jackpot of instant recognition. The Calvary road is not paved with Powerball tickets, but with blood. The Church was bought once by One who refused the short cut of instant triumph. It will never be bought by those who dream of riches.

The lottery is another opportunity to pierce your soul with many pangs, and lead your children into ruin. The Bible says, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. . . . Some by longing for it . . . and pierced themselves with many a pang (1 Timothy 6:9-10). In other words, the desire to be rich is suicidal. And endorsing it is cruel.” (from Don’t Play the Lottery for Me!, by John Piper. read this and find out what john piper thinks about the offering given to pastors by jack whittaker out of the proceeds of his $300+ million dollar winnings in the powerball lottery back in 2003.)

“[With regard to money], Solomon makes a series of insightful statements in Ecclesiastes 5:10-15. I’ll follow each with my paraphrase:

  • “Whoever loves money never has money enough” (v. 10) – The more money you have, the more you want.
  • “Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” (v. 10) – The more you have, the less you’re satisfied.
  • “As goods increase, so do those who consume them” (v. 11) – The more you have, the more people (including the government) will come after it.
  • “And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?” (v. 11) – The more you have, the more you realize it does you no good.
  • “The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep” (v. 12) – The more you have, the more you have to worry about.
  • “I have seen grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner” (v. 13) – The more you have, the more you can hurt yourself by holding on to it.
  • “Or wealth lost through some misfortune” (v. 14) – The more you have, the more you have to lose.
  • “Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand” (v. 15) – The more you have, the more you’ll leave behind.

(from The Treasure Principle, by Randy Alcorn)

Resources on Money from Desiring God

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~ by david on May 22, 2008.

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