Tonight, the largest lottery drawing in human history will happen. If you have the right numbers for Mega Millions, you can win $1.6 billion dollars. An unbelievable amount of money to acquire in the span of a few minutes.
To put that in perspective, think if you were given $1 million dollars. For the vast majority of people (and I’m sure anyone who’s reading this), that would be life changing money. Mega Millions is a million times sixteen hundred.
And that’s not the only huge jackpot available this weekend. Power Ball is drawn tomorrow and is the fifth largest jackpot ever, with $656 million. Slumming it compared to $1.6 billion but still an incredible amount of money.
Yes, it would be nice to never have to worry about debt, to never have to worry about money. You could pay off all of the debts of family.
But it would also fundamentally change every relationship you have. Long lost relatives would come out of the woodwork. It would change how people looked at you. Money can unleash unbelievable greed. Families have been divided over a few thousand dollars in someone’s will.
And how would you ever build any new meaningful friendships?
Would it really be worth it?
We can make an idol of money and think that if we just had more, everything would be better.
Again, I get it. It does fix a lot of problems. If someone is struggling to make ends meet, and you suddenly never had to worry about that, who wouldn’t want that?
But for whoever eventually wins these huge lotteries, life will never be the same.
A 2016 article by Time shares stories of various lottery winners who wish they’d never won. Many people who win the lottery end up worse off as a result (I realize that is unlikely with $1.6 billion).
The author of Ecclesiastes talks of the pitfalls of tremendous wealth:
I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees.
I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man.
So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.
Ecclesiastes 2:4-6, 8-10
The author of Ecclesiastes talks of having great wealth, great wisdom. But none of these things bring ultimately joy and fulfillment on their own.
Money can’t buy purpose, it can only distract. Money can’t give us life, we can’t take it with us when we die. And no matter how much money we have, we all face death, and having a lot of wealth for a short time in this world matters nothing to eternity.
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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.