The Lottery, God’s Sovereignty, Contentment, and Whatever Else I Fit In

I think it is a sad part of existence to daydream about winning the lottery and having all of one’s dreams come true. I have heard accounts that the average lottery winner is worse off some years down the road than had they not won. I would imagine there are, on average, examples of things going well for some and not so well for others. Christians are told that God “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). So, like, shouldn’t that be enough? Every spiritual blessing! And we say, nah, let me day dream about having more money. Sad. Really. But I’ve done it.

            Another thing to consider in terms of winning the lottery is God’s sovereign control of history. Here are some examples from the Bible. “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Is. 46:11). “He determines the number of stars; He gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power” (Ps. 147:4-5). By the way, have you seen the latest from the James Webb telescope? God determined all of those stars (a finite amount!) and has a name for each of them! I get mixed up between the names of my two kids all the time. You think God ever calls one of the stars by the wrong name? Please. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt. 10:29). If a sparrow isn’t falling to the ground apart from God’s allowance of it, we aren’t winning no lottery apart from God’s direction. Chance is a myth. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33).

            So, if you are on that sad path of hoping you win the lottery for all of your dreams to come true, you would have to reasonably reason as to why God would allow you to win the lottery. Would it be in your best interest and most glorifying to Him? Obviously, people do win, but is it going to be you? I accept that it is indeed within God’s economy as to who does and who does not win the lottery. And, after all, Isaiah 55 says “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (v. 9). So, I mean, I can’t determine what is within God’s wonderful plan for my life. I would be a fool to guess. Perhaps, He does want me to win the lottery so I can retire and live the easy life, or, um, I mean, give money to charity and help advance His gospel. And, honestly, I do think I would do both but probably much too much of the former.

            In this thinking, though, if God wanted me to win the lottery, I would just need to ever buy one lottery ticket. If He wanted me to win, He would so arrange it so that the one time I spent the couple of dollars would be the only time ever needed for Him to allow me to win the lottery. I bought a lottery ticket once (several years ago when the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious lottery’s jackpot was particularly large). I didn’t win. I haven’t bought a lottery ticket since.

            I was disappointed to not have won the lottery. Intellectually, I know all that money would not solve my problems, could potentially make my life more unpleasant, and that God’s desire for me is to be like Paul: “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12-13) and “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:6-8). I have food and clothing. I am still learning to be content.

            The obsession with the lottery is sad to me because on the one hand it’s an unrealistic fantasy: to do nothing, win millions of dollars, and live happily ever after. And, on the other hand, for Christians this exact thing has occurred. We did nothing, well, we did bad stuff, but nothing of merit. God sent His Son to die on the cross and in exchange for believing in Him: Who He is, what He did, we get credited with the righteousness of God! The great exchange. To replace that with a fantasy for paltry cash is so pathetic. I do it. It’s pathetic.

            So, what got me thinking about this is this: a couple of weeks ago when the jackpot was again very high, I went to get gas. I went into the store to get some snacks and while I was waiting in line, I noticed a $5 bill sitting on the chips display just below the counter. So, I grabbed it and told the cashier, “Hey there’s 5 bucks right here, it’s not mine.” The cashier’s eyes lit up and he grabbed the money and went to the lottery ticket buying thing and bought two lottery tickets and told me to put my name on it. He said he would split it with me if we won, and you never know and all that sort of thing. Me being not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, signed it and gave it to him. I don’t know how the lottery thing works so if one of those tickets had been the winning one, I don’t know under what obligation the cashier would have been to split the money with me. As it goes, we did not win. Well, at least those tickets weren’t the super winning ones. I know this because the news tells you where the winning tickets are sold and I checked. But I didn’t win. So it goes. What I realized though concerning my understanding of God’s sovereignty is I could have saved those two bucks I spent on a lottery ticket. I never needed to buy a lottery ticket to determine if that was God’s special plan for my life. He arranged it so that I got two more “chances” at winning the lottery completely apart from any intention of it on my part. His plan hasn’t changed. He still does not want me to win the lottery. If He did, I would have won.


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