Well, I didn't win the $1.5 billion Powerball.
You can tell because I'm not writing this from my new gold plated space shuttle.
I know some people will have a problem with this, but I bought a ticket. I never for a minute thought I would actually win. The reason I bought it was so that my family could enjoy the entertainment of the 'what would we do with it' conversations.
I’m not too disappointed that I did not win, because the thing is - that much money would probably ruin my life.
I mean, seriously, how would I ever trust God again? I would just trust in my ability to provide for myself and my family from my bank account. I would never know whether people were listening to me because they wanted to have a constructive conversation, or because they wanted something from me. I’d worry about my kids being kidnapped for ransom, or just seeing them affected by “affluenza”.
I mean, seriously, If i won the lottery, how would I ever trust God again?
The guy who created the game Minecraft, Notch, sent out a series of tweets last year not long after selling his game to Microsoft for $2.5 billion:
If we’re willing to get past the, ‘give it to me so I can determine that for myself’ phase, there’s something to be learned here.
This is a man who worked to create something of value and meaning in our world (Minecraft), and now it’s hard to feel motivated because he has everything he ever wants or needs (at least as it pertains to money).
In Baltimore, where I live, the home team Orioles were trying to resign one of their sluggers, Chris Davis. The O’s offered $150 million and Davis turned them down. After a month of negotiations, Davis accepted a contract of $161 million for 7 years.
When the haggling was occurring, the manager of the Orioles, Buck Showalter was quoted as saying, "How much is enough? I said to Chris last season, 'Chris, when you walk into a Target store, can you buy anything you want? Well, how much is enough?'"
Most of us are never going to have to worry about the amounts of money in the two cases above. But that line of ‘how much is enough’ is a question that we all have to wrestle with, right?
Perhaps we’ve read the story of the Rich Young Ruler recounted in several of the Gospel narratives where Jesus tells the man to give all he has to the poor and we wonder whether we must obey this command in order to be in line with the principles of a Messiah who chose to live as a homeless man. Since Jesus only says this to one man, it appears this was not a blanket standard, but rather a specific recommendation for that one individual.
In the end, Jesus never gives an amount of money which he prescribes for all. Instead, he prescribes an attitude all should have: “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Jesus never bans us from having money. He bans us from serving money. He warns us against loving money.
Jesus never bans us from having money. He bans us from serving money.
So with that in mind, when money go from 'useful tool' to 'really bad master'? How can we prevent money from have too prominent a place in our hearts?
No matter how much you have, be generous with it. In Luke 21, we see Jesus commending the generosity of a woman who is desperately poor. If giving $10 a month to a worthwhile charity is difficult for you, do it and don’t feel bad that it isn’t $100 or $1000. And if you’re choosing to give up starbucks or an app download so you can make it happen, you’re working to keep money in its proper place in your heart.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus never explains why one servant gets more than the other two. He also never compares the results of one servant against the others. They are each given a determination on what they did with what they were given. If you use what you are given in a manner designed to honor God, you can be sure that your efforts will be appreciated.
About 29,000 children die in our world each day from preventable causes like starvation and diarrhea. Those of us who have computers and smartphones on which to read articles are greatly privileged. Keeping up with the Jones’ should be kept in check by seeing how much need there is in other parts of our world.
I’m not saying you should feel bad about your car or your phone or any other use of your income. Shame is not a tool which will bring restoration to our broken world. I’m simply saying that we often accept what we see around us as ‘normal’. We do well to broaden our perspectives and learn that we may, in fact, live in extraordinary abundance and have the ability to look for ways to share out of that abundance with those who are in great need.
To paraphrase Andy Stanley in the excellent How To Be Rich, it’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do with it.
It’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do with it.
(A version of this article originally appeared on relevantmagazine.com)