May 20, 2013
We have a winner!
People in Zephyrhills, Florida are on the lookout this morning for a person trying to suppress a smile. A Publix supermarket there sold a Powerball ticket that is now worth $ 590.5 million (if taken over time; most winners elect to receive a lump sum – in this case, $ 370.9 million – so they don’t have to trust the agency’s promise for long-term payout).
Big money. The cameras haven’t found the winner yet, but they will. America loves a winner… especially when the “win” carries a pot of gold. The envy is already building; it’s waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting person. Relatives who didn’t give him/her the time of day will come out of hiding with thinly-veiled appeals to share the windfall. Local car boutiques will line up shiny sport models awaiting the arrival of the starry-eyed cash buyer. Life is about to change for someone, forever.
A good financial advisor could offer some conservative counsel: take the annuity-styled long-term payout. Just put yourself on a budget of a few million a month so you don’t burn through the whole pile in 24 months and end up like most of the winners who came before you.
What would you tell the winner? Here’s my take: The best thing that ticket-holder could do is head straight to church, with checkbook in hand… and listen to the familiar – but powerful – words of Jesus:
“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’
Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’
“And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”
“‘Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”
“‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’” (Luke 12)
Jackpots are things of legend, but Americans are numb to the cultural environment that presumes the right for a jackpot, for everyone. It’s called “retirement,” and it’s hard to find anyone – including the churchgoing Christian crowd – who hasn’t embraced it as an earned and deserved permanent vacation.
Work for 20/30/40 years (20 is the union or government-job qualifier; 40 is the person who owned the enterprise), and you get to check out and take life easy, eat drink and be merry – the daily agenda decried by Jesus, but promoted by retirement destinations.
Jon Piper, an influential church leader from Minneapolis, has this counsel for people who still have time to avoid the trap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60_TmQdxkcI
The paradox of life in a fallen world: the winners become losers… and, the people who didn’t seem to be winners end up on top. We shouldn’t find that curious: “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Jesus, in Matthew 19)
The best plan, for life: use your time to create something of value. In the present world, trade that value for money. For the coming world, create the value anticipating an eternal reward. If you don’t need any more money, keep creating value. If you trade for money, convert it to eternal investment that will be waiting for you one day, just the other side of this life…
May 20, 2013