*Occasionally, I like to feature the writing of other unprofessional people of faith. This is one of those times.*
I know what you’re thinking: “The lottery was last week, I didn’t win, and I’m so over it.”
I hope you’ll read anyway. This essay may be slightly behind the lightning fast times of the hyper lapse food prep video age, but bear with me. I had some ideas during the height of the Powerball frenzy, but my commitment to the discipline of writing is somewhat lower than to that of Netflix and infant care. I also have a (very) private practice where I’m pretty busy changing lives 4-6 hours a week. (This is an advertisement for my Marriage and Family Therapy business, however, this website did not receive any compensation and can be completely trusted. Seriously, call me if you don’t like your spouse. 865-219-3352) Excuses aside, I had a whole lot of thoughts and feelings swirling around during lottery week, so here they are:
The lottery is terrible. See any article ever written about the demise of lottery winners, people’s lottery spending habits, the state’s use of lottery money, organizations that profit off the lottery, etc. If you’ve never looked into the seedy underbelly of the politics and finances of the lottery, you should. John Oliver will be happy to walk you through a glance at a few angles of the lottery game on an episode of Last Week Tonight from the current season. I’m sure there are some happy stories out there bought and paid for by the lottery lobby, but I’m not buying it. Not even for a chance to win $1.5 billion.
Despite my high-horse aversion to the ethics of the lottery, not to mention my very sensible and logical thinking which appreciates the ridiculous odds of winning, I found myself amidst the furor of Powerball pandemonium wondering, “but what if I won? Maybe I need a ticket. Am I making a mistake? I could do so much good with all that money.” I know many of you thought about the problems you could solve with a billion dollars. Some of those problems were related to reducing the time in the security line at the airport on your way to Maui by purchasing your own jet. Some of you thought about ending homelessness in your county or providing a college education to under-resourced students with few opportunities. Some of you wanted to create a safe-haven for women leaving domestic violence or human trafficking situations. Some of you wanted to feed kids or save puppies or keep art in schools or give donuts to veterans. As a magnanimous and kind person, I had many of these ideas. Of course I’m much too sensible to want my own plane (the upkeep doesn’t seem worth it).
Two problems creep in. One, greed is a powerful force. You can only think Jesus wants you to have a billion dollars for about two seconds before you realize you're already renovating your bathroom in your mind. Sure, you’re so selfless and sensible that you’ll continue living in the same house, but the bathroom really needs an upgrade. I mean the lighting is bad and the plumbing is suspect, so Jesus will understand. Why didn’t the son of God appear during an era with indoor plumbing? Maybe so he wouldn’t get distracted with remodeling projects. So quickly, the bathroom project turns into others and into trips to see friends around the world (cause they need a visit and we need to soak in some culture) and into a sensible car to replace the 2001 Civic you’ve been driving since high school and into maybe a boat if you can get your husband on board. Sure, there would still be a ton of money left after all these things, but where is the line? When is enough, enough?
The second problem is, we already have money and time and resources. Can we really wait for a billion dollars to get to the work we’re called to do? Shouldn’t we be asking these same questions now? If I’m not already striving to end homelessness, why will I care when I win? If I’m not already paying attention to human slavery now, how will I see where the need is when I’m rich? If I don’t know any kids who need scholarships, how will I know who to help when the time comes? We have all been entrusted with a great many resources now. What are we doing with them?
There’s a story from Mark’s gospel that seems particularly pertinent for me at this juncture:
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything —all she had to live on.’”
If we aren’t solving the world’s problems with what we have, we aren’t going to start when we’re “blessed" with the distraction and burden of hoarding the income of America’s poor collected in $2 increments.
Get to work with what you have.
And if you win (next time), keep it up.
*photo courtesy of litherland: Creative Commons*