The world is all abuzz today with talk of the Powerball jackpot at $1.5 billion.
Someone even posted a picture of a chalkboard a couple of days ago with an equation that showed if you divided the (then) $1.3 billion jackpot by the 300 million people in the United States, there’s enough money so that everyone could get $4.33 million dollars and poverty would be solved!
Think of the misery that would be prevented if every man, woman, and child in this country had over four million dollars! There would be no more hunger, no more strife, we could all pay our taxes with ease, we could afford any car and house we wanted, there would be no more health care costs we couldn’t afford to pay, and none of our churches would ever have red ink in its budget ever again!
Of course, the person posting this has ignored basic economics in that if every person in the United States was given $4.33 million dollars today, we would wake up tomorrow morning to find that the cost of a loaf of bread had gone up to $1000.
The other problem is, the math is wrong. The correct amount is $4.33.
Four dollars and thirty-three cents.
One of the problems with enormous amounts of money is we’re not good with the math.
When you’re down to the last $47.13 in your checkbook, it’s easy to conceptualize how buying an ice cream cone will affect that.
When we start talking b-i-l-l-i-o-n-s, things get a bit more complicated.
And so it goes with the lottery.
In 2014, Americans spent over $70 billion on the Powerball Lottery.
That’s an average of $630 for each and every household in the United States. It’s more than we spent on sports tickets, books, movies, video games, and music--combined.
And, it’s long been known that the lowest-income people spend a higher percentage of their income trying to strike it rich in the lottery than people of middle or higher income. Generally speaking, lotteries return a little less than a dollar to the person wagering for every two dollars spent. It’s like a 50% “entertainment” tax—and mostly on the poor.
While it sounds pretty lucrative for the states involved, and indeed some states take in more in lottery proceeds than they take in from corporate income tax, the lottery will use up about 9% of its revenue in advertising and administrative costs. Retailers are paid another 5% - 6% for selling the tickets.
Winning the lottery also carries a hefty tax. It varies from state to state, but it’s safe to say that the actual cash in pocket is about half one’s winnings after taxes. There’s a certain “house always wins” irony in taxing winnings from a state revenue-generating lottery.
Oh, and of that $1.5 billion, that’s not actually a real number. That’s the value of your winnings, pre-tax, paid out over 30 years, with a generous adjustment for how much inflation is expected over that time span. If you take a one-time, lump sum payment, you get about $868 million. Lop off half for taxes and you’re left with $434 million—about a third of the advertised amount.
But, that’s still a LOT of money and somebody is going to win, right?
True, somebody will win, but you’re actual odds of winning are one in 258.9 million. (Roughly.)
Statistically, you are more likely to be crushed by a meteorite, become a movie star, get canonized, become the next Warren Buffet, write a New York Times best seller, become an astronaut, go to the ER with a pogo-stick related injury, die from being a left-handed person who misuses a right handed tool, win an Oscar, win an Olympic gold medal, or become the President of the United States than win the lottery.
And, let us not forget that about 70% of people who suddenly come into large sums of money are bankrupt in less than seven years.
So, the lottery isn’t really a win-win for anybody, but here’s the deal:
As Christians, we already have more riches and wealth than all the winners of all the lotteries ever:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! (Romans 11:33a)
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, (Colossians 2:2)
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
The amazing part is that sharing this wealth with others does not give us a math or economics problem at all because sharing the richness of Jesus Christ does not divide it up—it multiplies it!
So, go ahead and share the wealth!
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19