Dr. Jim Denison
The odds of winning a Powerball jackpot are one in 292.2 million. You are more likely to be killed by an asteroid (one in 700,000), be struck by lightning while drowning (one in 183 million), or give birth to quadruplets (one in 729,000).
Nonetheless, someone in Massachusetts recently bought a winning ticket. The annuity option totaled $758.7 million, doled out in 30 payments over 29 years. The cash option, which nearly all winners choose, would pay out $443.3 million.
If you are like most of us, you're imagining what you would do if you won the lottery. Here is the ironic part: compared to most of the people who have ever lived, you already have.
You are living in the most prosperous time in human history. As Yuval Harari notes, GDP in America grew between 1950 and 2000 from $2_trillion to $12 trillion. Real per capita income has doubled. Has all this prosperity made us happier? Not at all. Studies show that our subjective well-being levels are the same as they were in the 1950s.
In Peru, Haiti, the Philippines, and Ghana—developing countries dealing with poverty and political instability—the suicide rate is half of prosperous countries such as Switzerland, France, Japan, and New Zealand. South Korea has seen an amazing rise in economic prosperity since 1985, but its suicide rate has quadrupled since then.
Depression is such an epidemic today that a San Francisco company has created a "chatbot" (a computer program that simulates conversation with humans) to talk to people needing counselling. Alcohol abuse is much more common among the wealthy than the poor.
My point is that happiness has never depended on wealth and never will.
In fact, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils" (1 Timothy 6:10). That is why we are warned to "keep your life free from love of money" (Hebrews 13:5).
But using money for the right purposes redeems its potential.
As an end, it is dangerous. As a means, it can be transformative.
In the Bible, Joseph's wise financial stewardship saved the lives of his family in Egypt. Solomon's wealth brought glory to his Lord (1 Kings 10:9). The early believers in the church pooled all of their resources "as anyone had need", causing the church to grow abundantly. (Acts 2:45).
The question is not what you would do if you won last night's lottery. It is what you will do with what you already have. Thomas Chalmers said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive, and therefore less blessed to receive than to give."
How blessed will you be today?•