Go ahead, admit it. You’ve thought about playing the lottery before. Maybe you’ve even played it during one of those $300+ million jackpot frenzies. Or perhaps you are a regular customer of the game. No matter the frequency of your playing habits (or lack thereof), at some point many of us have thought about what it would be like to come into millions of dollars instantly or unexpectedly. Even if it was just a dollar, what drives and excites us somewhere deep down is the hope and possibility that maybe this time we just might win.
Gambling: Slippery Slope!
To be perfectly honest, the above description hits really close to home for me. I come from a pretty long line of “addictive personalities”, with gambling (among others) being the addiction of choice and I know all too well what it feels like to want to get rich quick.
When I was 19, I worked at a restaurant waiting tables and I’ll never forget the night that God showed me how slippery that slope could be. I made $70 during my shift and, while driving home, I stopped at a gas station and went inside to get something to drink. As I got to the counter, the roll of instant scratch-off lottery tickets caught my eye. One in particular cost $10 and boasted high odds of winning – how could I resist? A rush of endorphins and excitement flooded over me as I laid down $10 and scratched off the first ticket. I didn’t win, so I scratched off another one . . . with the same result. Now I was $20 down, but that was a small price to pay knowing that the $100,000 prize within reach. So I scratched a third, then a fourth, and finally a fifth ticket.
By the time I was done, I ended up wasting $50 before a sick feeling in my stomach told me that I just blew nearly every dollar that I made that night. I worked eight hours for something that only lasted three minutes. It was all because of a feeling inside . . . a compulsion to satisfy the need to win and the “hope” that I might be rich because of it. Because of my heart’s desire for instant riches, I had deceived myself into absolutely believing that I was going to win. In my state, the odds to win the lottery’s jackpot are 1 in 175,711,536. Like Jim Carrey’s famous quote in the movie “Dumb and Dumber”, the drive to win had me boldly exclaiming against insurmountable odds, “So you’re saying there’s a chance!” It’s ridiculous, but statistics show that there are millions of people that feel the same way. Week after week, countless numbers of people spend their hard-earned money trying to find ways to become overnight millionaires, chasing after something that many feel would be the solution to all of their problems.
Lesson Learned: Stay Away from Get Rich Quick
As a follower of Christ, it’s pretty obvious that the choice to waste my money on lottery tickets that night wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had. Although it was a relatively “cheap” lesson to learn in the grand scheme of things, it taught me one thing: I need to stay away from all attempts to get rich quick. I selfishly wasted what God had blessed me with in the pursuit of what I thought would satisfy me at the time.
What the Bible Says
So what does the Bible say? Does God condone anywhere that we should have that mentality or that it’s even okay? Are there any places in Scripture where God reveals His heart on the topic of getting rich quick and the drive to accumulate massive amounts of wealth over a very short period of time from things such as playing the lottery, entering a sweepstakes, or joining any venture that promises lots of money with little or no work or time invested? The answer is yes and, as we will see, the root of the issue lies within the attitude and motivation of our hearts.
1. Proverbs 12:11 – “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.”
Contrasted here are two types of people: those who work hard and those who follow “worthless pursuits” (i.e. – get rich quick schemes, dishonest gain, etc..). One earns their money by diligently working with what God has entrusted to them. The other is void of understanding and will do whatever it takes to get things the quick and easy way. The latter, in contrast to the former, will end up hungry and become a burden on others because of his worthless pursuits. (A very similar verse to this is Proverbs 28:19-20)
2. Proverbs 13:11 – “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.”
The ESV Study Bible describes this verse perfectly. It says, “The person who receives sudden wealth has not worked for it enough to understand its value and has not gained sufficient skill in managing it. By contrast, Proverbs prefers diligent, patient, careful labor that will increase wealth over time.”
3. Proverbs 20:21 – “An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.”
The principle here is that too much wealth gathered too quickly may be spent too soon. This could be from an early inheritance that was gained by asking for it or by dishonest means. Either way, it was not gained in the proper way, which can lead to reckless spending and mishandling due to irresponsibility.
4. Proverbs 23:4-5 – “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle to heaven.”
Wealth is fleeting. Be wise enough to know when enough is enough in regards to how many hours you spend working to build it. Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Spend your time on what matters most rather than chasing after money, which flies away very quickly.
5. Ecclesiastes 5:10 – “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this is also vanity.”
For those who seek after riches and gaining them quickly, their appetite will never be satisfied. The root of these desires is greed and the pursuit for more will never end. The cure for this type of heart condition is contentment in what you have and what you have worked for.
6. 1 Timothy 6:9 – “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”
Insert my story here. Behind my journey into the scratch-off world was the desire to be rich and it led to my falling into the temptation to spend anything at that moment to get what I wanted. Note that this verse is not condemning being rich, rather it details the desire and pursuit of such, which can steer your heart in directions you may never have thought possible.
It’s safe to say that this list of Bible verses is not exhaustive and there are certainly many more that speak on the topic of money. These particular verses focus on the pursuit of riches, getting rich quick, and the desire to be rich beyond imagination. One of my favorite verses on the attitude of our hearts toward getting rich quickly comes from Jesus in the gospel of Matthew. He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Simply put, your heart follows your treasure, not the other way around. So, how do we store up for ourselves treasures in heaven? What can we invest in that will last for eternity or have an eternal impact? The answer is obvious and it is not money. The answer is people. The people around us are life’s greatest investments (neighbors, family members, kids, spouses, coworkers, etc…). Here are three simple questions you can ask yourself to help reveal how you’re doing on this one:
- What (or whom) are you invested in?
- What (or whom) do you make time for?
- What do you spend your money on?
The simple truth is that, one-day, we will all have to liquidate our assets anyway! So we might as well release them to the One who gave us those resources in the first place. It doesn’t mean that we don’t plan . . . it just means that we live intentional lives of purpose focused and directed on building up people, not pocketbooks. Instead of trying to get rich, let’s seek to invest our lives in others by being rich . . . in love and generosity toward God and others!
Have you ever tried to “get rich quick” or know anyone who has? How did it turn out? Meet me in the comments and share your thoughts!