For the price of a $2 ticket, you can indulge in the ultimate fantasy. Last week’s Mega Millions jackpot drawing was over 1.3 billion dollars. This was the second largest prize ever and with taxes, the winner will have to figure out how to spend $708 million.
The lucky winner was in the state of Maine. Imagine– that person can pay off all their debts. They can resolve all of their transportation and lodging needs. They can order anything they want off the menu or buy a fast food franchise of their own. With hundreds of millions of dollars they can bless countless other people and share the love with everyone they meet.
Does that sound like the best thing that could ever happen to you? It’s not.
In fact winning the Mega Millions jackpot might turn out to be the ultimate Anti-blessing.
Let’s start with the opinions of actual billionaires. Mark Cuban says, “If you weren’t happy yesterday, you won’t be happy tomorrow. It’s money. It’s not happiness.” Warren Buffett says, “If you were a jerk before, you’ll become a bigger jerk with a billion dollars.” Money, in other words, is powerless to produce either joy or character. John D. Rockefeller: “I have millions, but they have brought me no happiness.” Henry Ford: “I was happier when doing a mechanic’s job.” John Jacob Astor: “I am the most miserable man on earth.”
Since it takes more than a few Debbie Downer comments from some depressed rich guys to quell Mega Millions fever, consider the studies that have compared people who have won the lottery with people who have become quadriplegics. For the first few months the lottery winners seem to be on happiness steroids. People who are unable to move any of their limbs often yearn for death. But within a few years there’s a radical reversal of fortune. The degree of satisfaction with life becomes virtually identical for those with gobs of money and those with no mobility. That’s because the experience of being blessed is, in the end, fundamentally independent of our circumstances.
Think about it: Everything that belongs to you, and everything that IS you, is going to slip right through your fingers someday. You’re going to end up losing it all: Your favorite stuff. Your car. Your marketable job skills. Your most precious friends and family members. Your health. Your beauty. Your capacity to care for yourself. Ultimately even your ability to take your next breath.
You can’t hold on to any of it. So what does it really mean to be blessed?
The Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments suggest that we are blessed when we grasp that even though everything is slipping through our fingers, we can never lose the blessing of being held by God. Picking the winning numbers may actually prevent us from being blessed. The curse of money is that it tempts us to believe we can be happy on our own terms. But universal human experience has demonstrated that it never turns out that way.
We don’t need a billion dollars to bless others. It doesn’t cost a thing to smile, offer encouragement, listen carefully and act compassionately. We can do all those things a dozen times today. For free.
There is nothing that can ever snatch us out of our heavenly father’s hand. (John 10:29). That’s a blessing worth a whole lot more than $1.35 billion dollars.
Ron Naylor, Chaplain