“Powerball is over a billion dollars. Let’s get tickets. Text me ASAP if you want in.”
I read this text message from a friend at least ten times before I knew how I wanted to respond. Isn’t it wrong for Christians to play the lottery? Would it be okay if I promised to give a tenth of my winnings to the church? Imagine what I could do with all money!
My mind went back to the story in 2013 of the woman in Florida who decided not to go in for the lottery ticket that won her coworkers $83,000 each. “I don’t want to be that person,” I thought to myself. Could I rely on the generosity of my friends if they win?
With a world of questions swirling through my mind, I decided to go the logical route. I decided to check out the odds. With $10 going into this potential venture, I figured I should know exactly what I was getting into.
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Odds of winning the Powerball: 1 in 292,201,338.
Odds of being struck by lighting: 1 in 700,000
Odds of being killed by a meteorite: 1 in 250,000
Odds of getting pooped on by a pigeon in New York: 1 in 76,876
As outlandish as some of these instances may sound, the fact remains that someone will always fall into the category of “1.” Someone will always beat the odds in every circumstance, which in the case of the lottery is what adds to the intrigue of the game. You never know if the odds will be for you or against you.
The Bible makes no explicit statements about playing the lottery. We are left to interpret the scriptures for ourselves and determine how we can best glorify God in the choices that we make. But, the lottery does reveal something important about faith.
Every week, against enormous odds, hundreds of thousands of people invest time and money to purchase a lottery ticket in hopes that something good may happen for them. The only reason why one buys a ticket is because of the possibility of a win. At the same time, there are still hundreds of thousands who refuse to put their faith in God through Christ. Perhaps they feel the odds of this kind of belief won’t work in their favor.
The good news for all of us is that God has given us a pathway to hope and wealth that is far more secure than a random drawing. Romans 10:9 tells us, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (NIV). When you make Jesus the Lord of your life and have faith in the resurrection, the scriptures affirm that you will be saved.
Being saved is like winning the lottery; only one hundred billion times better! By embracing Jesus and what God has done for all of us through him, we experience the joy of forgiveness, the peace of God’s protection, the love of his sacrifice, and the grace of God’s presence. Of all the risky, crazy things we do in life, accepting Jesus and walking in salvation is the very best, most trusted decision we can make.
If you are reading this and you’ve never invested your faith in Jesus, today can be the day that changes everything. Accept the invitation and get connected to a faith community where you can grow in your relationship with God. While you may never win the lottery, Jesus makes it clear that he will be everything that you need.
Here’s the best part: The odds of your faith resulting in eternal wealth are 1 in 1.
The Rev. Nicole Martin is executive minister at The Park Church.