I guess you can say it is the “American Dream!” For millions of people that dream begins when they win the lottery! Of course the lottery commercials will tell you “You gotta play to win.” Unfortunately when you play it is almost assured you will lose. I remember when the lottery tickets sold here were just for my state. You picked six numbers out of forty for a chance to win a million dollars. What most people didn’t realize is that even when they won the million (which was maybe one in a million chance), they would only get a fraction of their winnings in a payment plan every year. Still I guess it is the allure of owning a lottery ticket and having a chance (however minute it is) of winning. Maybe that is the “thrill” of the game, although I’m sure that after losing for the umpteenth time it probably gets a little old throwing away the wasted lottery non winning tickets. To make the games more appealing these days a few states have joined together to sponsor a power ball game. These tickets can be bought in four or five states and if nobody wins the jackpot rolls over! Did I say “if nobody wins?” How can that be? With millions and millions of people playing every week how can nobody win? That just shows the insurmountable odds that are in play. I’ve seen jackpots go over two hundred million dollars. The higher the number the more tickets are sold because the lure is too much not to try.
“Hey, come here!” It was the man at the carnival behind his game. I was thirteen and he had noticed I was studying his game. The carnival was set up in the Zayre parking lot which was maybe a half a mile from my house. For you kids out there Zayre was a popular department store back in the day. I had walked over with maybe five or six dollars on me. His game was a simple one. All you had to do was pull a duck out of the water. They were small rubber ducks that apparently had a number on the bottom. The numbers were added together and when you reached a certain level you received your prize. I was trying for a TV set that day and the magic number was twenty five. I needed twenty five points to reach the prize! It was a nice portable TV displayed in the back of his booth. “Only a quarter”, he stated “pull a duck, win a prize!” It seemed like a cinch! A quarter a pull for a numbered duck! In no time I will have accumulated enough points for the TV! So I gave the man my quarter and picked up one of the ducks! To my amazement I think it was four points! Four or five pulls later and I was at 12 points! I was almost halfway there and I had only used $1.50! Suddenly I was informed that a different phase of the game was in session. My pulls started getting a little more expensive. Now they were 50 cents and after a couple of pulls they went to a dollar. Suddenly I found myself out of money with twenty two points. So close I thought and here I am without the money to finish the job. I asked the man if he could hold my game for me so I could go home and get more money? I’m sure that he gave me a time limit because off I went running back home! I had some money on my dresser that I didn’t bring that day. I have always been thrifty with my money and saved my allowances up. This would be my chance to get something nice I thought. The speed that I raced into the house and straight for my room got my parents attention. I grabbed seven or eight more dollars and I was off! I didn’t get to pull many more ducks that day. To my surprise the price of duck went up again! Now I was paying $2.00 per duck. Another strange thing happened. Although I was only three points away I started pulling ducks that had zero value. After three or four more pulls I had no money left and was still two and a half points short. When I ran out of money the carnival guy handed me a cheap plastic toy like camera he said I won. I think I lost fourteen dollars that day and it’s value was a lot more than fourteen dollars today. Just as I was finishing my losing game my dad pulled up. I must have sputtered where I was going when I was hurriedly leaving the house. He probably had remembered back in his youth a similar situation he had been through. How nice it would be if we could learn from the mistakes of our parents. Most of the time their mistakes do not have the same meaning as the ones we ultimately make. My dad was too late to save my fate that day. My money was all gone and the carnival man was looking for someone else to lure in.
I remember talking to someone from my old neighborhood years ago. At the time she was married with two or three kids and they were barely paying the bills. Apparently a week or two before in our Michigan Lotto game the jackpot hit forty million. They had gotten the lottery fever and decided to spend money they couldn’t afford to spend. They bought fifty lotto tickets that week and apparently hadn’t come close on any of them. This is so typical of the “American Lottery Dream” mentality. I see it all of the time and you probably do too. The person ahead of you in line looks like they are poorer than poor and yet they are running up a big bill on the lottery. Statistics show that out of people making $13,000 or less a year, they spend on average $645 on lottery tickets. It comes to roughly nine percent of their income.
I realize that you will probably not listen to me as to how you spend your money. I know that many of you have the lottery dream and nothing will stop you from trying. However, as you pick up those losing lottery tickets again and again think about all of the money wasted. Think about what nice things you might have been able to buy if you had it! In Matthew 6:33 Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well.” Is he talking about you winning mega millions? No, he is talking about all of your “needs” being met. In Matthew 6:20-21 Jesus said, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Did you know that as Christians we have unlimited riches in heaven? Did you know that your mansion up there will make these earthly mansions look like sand castles? Jesus said that he is going to prepare a place for us! So I leave you with this question. Are your treasures stored up in heaven or are you looking for that quick alluding worldly gain? Is your faith based on Jesus the solid rock or are you trying to ride the back of a small rubber duck in a game that you cannot win?