In the interest of full disclosure, I have a confession to make. I bought a lottery ticket once. And in case you’re thinking about hitting me up for a loan, you should also know that I didn’t win anything. The whole endeavor turned out to be a total loss, but that was precisely the outcome I expected from the beginning, so at least I was never in danger of slipping into a major depressive episode. I should mention, too, that we don’t make a habit of wasting any of our hard-earned dollars on virtually hopeless ventures, and that I hadn’t suddenly reversed my long-standing opinion about gambling. Rather, my intention was to see the ticket as admission for my wife and me to enjoy an entertaining evening at the movies without going to the theater. It would be a lot cheaper than going to the theater, but the most important difference was that this time, the screen would be in our head and we’d be creating the storyline and controlling all the action. We’d get to write the screenplay and produce an epic tale about what really happens when an ordinary middle-class couple like us suddenly acquires riches beyond their wildest dreams.
Odds Paint a Dim Picture ~
For at least one evening, we had a valid invitation to join multitudes lost in the process of becoming mental millionaires. Our valid ticket meant that we had an official “chance” of collecting over a hundred million dollars! (Woo-hoo!!) Well, the odds of that happening, of course, were probably about the same as me being attacked by a rabid, three-legged aardvark and having the bug juice on its lips cause a freakish genetic mutation that would make my hair grow back.
In pondering the impact of incredible wealth, there was more to be considered than what kind of “utopia” we could create. There were questions that would come along with it. Would the ability to buy almost anything we want change those basic guidelines that defined us all these years? Would we actually do the many positive things we imagine doing, or would our newfound prosperity completely rearrange our priorities? How would our friends and family react? And would the money alter our lifestyle in ways that could jeopardize even our closest relationships? Most importantly, how would it affect our relationship with God? Would it make us better servants or become an impediment to serving Him? Even if we contributed to ministries generously, would those contributions become a substitute for personal involvement?
The bottom-line question was, “What do we really want, and is our dream of ‘utopia’ for sale?” When we move beyond all the cool gadgets, designer fashions, exclusive clubs, impressive vehicles, and invitations to “A-List” functions, we’re left with addressing the value system that undergirds that kind of utopian world. If money is the key to fulfilling our dreams, we should remember that money itself is symbolic. Its value is defined in terms of what others are willing to offer in exchange for it. What that might mean, then, is that our vision of utopia is simply a world in which superficial, transient, temporary, and unstable commodities are exchanged for other superficial, transient, temporary, and unstable commodities. Eventually, having the “best of everything” may mean no more than being adorned in a really fine suit and stretched out in the finest casket money can buy.
Wealth Equals Privilege & Exclusivity ~
Wealth is always associated with a sense of “exclusivity” which can easily become an object of envy. Wealthy people dress in exclusive clothing, live in exclusive housing, have membership in exclusive clubs, and ride around in exclusive vehicles. What that “upper crust” term really means is that the vast majority of the rest of the world is “excluded” from all those things. What it also means is that the wealthy are protected from undesired contact with undesirable conditions and circumstances and from the people who live in them. In total contradiction to that approach, God’s concept of wealth is offered to everybody and freely given to all who are willing to comply with the conditions required to receive it. The only ones excluded are those who refuse to believe and reject the offer.
The values undergirding God’s definition of wealth are not measured in terms of tangible commodities, social status, and physical comforts. Three primary qualities constitute what He considers to be the greatest treasures human beings can possess, and their value cannot be measured in monetary terms. The Apostle Paul identifies all three in a single statement:
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV)
A Profound Contrast ~
These priceless qualities represent a profound contrast to the characteristics of wealth as the world describes it. For instance:
- The world’s version of utopia is available to anyone with enough money to pay for it, but the vast majority will be left out. God’s benefits are not for sale at any price, but are freely and equally available to all.
- Possessions associated with this world’s notion of paradise are, at best, “rented” and must ultimately be relinquished. God’s paradise doesn’t wear out, cannot be exhausted, is not subject to market fluctuations, is perfectly customized for each participant, and goes on forever.
- Monetary wealth often brings temptation to engage in practices that are socially toxic and personally destructive. God’s riches move every recipient toward being the best they can be at every stage of life here on earth, and ultimately guarantees perfect completion of God’s design for each individual.
- The pleasures offered by the world’s value system are always superficial and transient, ending most often in disappointment and regret. The pleasures God offers are deeply satisfying, enduring, and personally fulfilling.
And Jesus suggests that the power of unlimited wealth is not unlimited after all.
…What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Mark 8:36-37 (NKJV)
A Positive Outcome After All ~
Maybe I was wrong when I said that our little one-dollar lottery ticket was a total loss. It did offer a fresh realization that most people only get to dream about the lives they could live if they had great wealth. God’s offer, on the other hand, has a guaranteed payoff and its benefits begin the moment we say “Yes” to Jesus.
Oh… and with God’s plan, you can keep your dollar. So, why waste our time dreaming of a life beyond our reach when we can be living a life beyond our dreams?
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to Tweet & Share from the pull quotes below. Each quote links directly back to this article through Twitter.
- “God’s concept of wealth is offered to everybody and freely given to all who are willing to comply with the conditions required to receive it. The only ones excluded are those who refuse to believe and reject the offer.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Three primary qualities constitute what (God) considers to be the greatest treasures human beings can possess . . . faith, hope, and love – and their value cannot be measured in monetary terms.”@GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The world’s version of utopia is available to anyone with enough money to pay for it, but the vast majority will be left out. God’s benefits are not for sale at any price, but are freely and equally available to all.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God’s offer has a guaranteed payoff and its benefits begins the moment we say “yes” to Jesus . . . so why waste our time dreaming of a life beyond our reach when we can be living a life beyond our dreams?” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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