Driving down 440 yesterday I noticed the big billboard showing the current Powerball jackpot - $40 million. It seemed so small. Compared to last week’s $1.6 billion it was, but how revealing it is of our nature’s tendency to never be satisfied.
A while back lottery officials increased the number of numbers you can pick from when playing the Powerball, thus making it statistically harder to win, which in turn made for bigger jackpots. Now, if you think about it rationally it would seem that having less of a chance to win would decrease ticket sales, but it actually had exactly the opposite affect. It drove ticket sales up, as jackpot’s got larger. Even though people have a decreased chance of winning, the larger the number gets the more their desire to win increases. Honestly, it was a pretty clever move by lottery officials to generate more income for them.
Look, the man who would not make God his safe place, but trusted in his many riches and was strong in his sinful desire. But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the loving-kindness of God forever and ever. I will give You thanks forever because of what You have done. And I will hope in Your name, for it is good to be where those who belong to You are. (Psalm 52:7-9 NLV)
I’ve said many times that wealth is not in itself a bad thing, and people aren’t bad for having wealth. You can find numerous places in scripture where God blessed people with wealth, sometimes extraordinary wealth. No, having wealth isn’t wrong. The problem we run into is when wealth begins to have us. And here’s the thing, you don’t have to have wealth for wealth to have you.
In other words, the desire for wealth can consume the poor person just as much as the rich person. No matter what our economic status, or income level, it is our nature to want more. The 19th century industrialist and founder of Standard Oil, John D Rockefeller, easily the richest man in the world in his day, was once asked, “How much is enough?” His famous response, “Just a little bit more.”
Of course, as followers of Jesus we understand that money and wealth will have no value in eternity: Riches are of no use in the day of God’s anger, but being right with God saves from death. (Proverbs 11:4 NLV)
Still, we know what that pull feels like, don’t we? We think about how financial freedom would remove so many problems for us, alleviate so much stress, take away some of our fears, and give us some of the material things we would like to have.
But the truth is we already have access to all of those things! If, as follower of Jesus Christ, I am a faithful manager of the finances God entrusts to me, then I can have absolute financial freedom. God promises to provide every single thing I need, and more. If that’s not freedom I don’t know what is.
Bring to the storehouse a full tenth of what you earn so there will be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord All-Powerful. I will open the windows of heaven for you and pour out all the blessings you need. (Malachi 3:10 NCV)
It’s kind of exciting to think that you don’t have to win the Powerball to have financial freedom. All we have to have is the faith to be obedient. That’s the difference between the two paths to financial freedom; one path requires faith, and the other doesn’t. Winning the lottery is purely by luck. Trusting God is purely by faith.
In 2016 Cross Culture Church is walking by faith to conduct the ministries God has called us to. It takes finances to operate a local church, and we are incredibly grateful for every person who is part of this ministry. Honestly, it’s not necessary for one of us to win the Powerball for this church to reach the world and grow. What is necessary though is that all of us demonstrate our faith in God for our finances by being obedient in the area of tithing.
The lure of riches will always be there, but walking by faith means being content with God, and what He gives to us, and being obedient to give back what He asks. So, maybe our best prayer to God, when it comes to our finances, should be something like this: …don’t make me either rich or poor; just give me enough food for each day. (Proverbs 30:8b NCV)
I love being your pastor,
Dr. J. Clay Stevens is Lead Pastor of Cross Culture Church in Raleigh, NC. He is author of the book I Get It! Discovering How To Really live In The Promises Of God. His life mission statement is: "To take people from where they are to where God wants them to be."