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On Saturday, the PowerBall hit a record high with a jackpot of over $900,000,000. There were no winners and now the jackpot is $1.3 Billion. The odds of winning used to be about 1 in 175,000,000 but now that they added more numbers to pick from the odds have gone up to 1 in 292,000,000. The purpose for this was to make the jackpots higher and attract more people to gamble their money. Mission accomplished. The billion dollar jackpot is bringing people out in droves selling over a million tickets per hour.
Big odds. Big Money.
Not only are we at a historic moment where our lottery will produce its first billionaire, that in and of itself is something to give us pause. But the lottery frenzy brought people together and hundreds of millions of people were discussing over dinner on Saturday night what they would do with all that money.
Two camps emerge.
The hopefuls vs the naysayers. Those whose chance was as good as anyone else, vs those who see the conversation as a waste of time.
Look even closer.
The lottery exposes, perhaps better than anything else, profound underlying spiritual realities. A billion dollars changes all the rules for the winner. This is at the heart of the spiritual thread. The frenzy goes to show just how hungry people are for a new life.
Every person who stood in line did so because they can imagine a life better than the one they have. Buying a ticket is an act of faith. It illustrates so clearly what I’m always saying in this blog, namely that all people are believers. We are all people of faith. We all engage in religious activity. The Lottery authorities became our worship leaders, they created an infrastructure where all comers could get an equal chance at being blessed or chosen, and the one commandment is that you must pay for a ticket to get your chance.
Now, if you add to this all the superstitions and behaviors and thoughts that accompany the moments before the big drawing, you will have all the makings of a religion. Do you see it?
Try this exercise: Buy a ticket before this Wednesday’s $1.3 Billion dollar drawing. Look at the numbers and consider for a moment the possibility that you hold the winning numbers or even 5 of them ($1 million). Then watch what happens. Pay attention to your thoughts that emerge. You’ll probably see a strategy emerge, or a set of people or priorities, and eventually it will expose your generosity or disposition to those in need or lack thereof. But then what? A billion dollars goes much further than most people’s imagination. If you can’t get that far in your thinking it is because the defeater voices (you may call it realism) in your life won’t let you. Either way you are engaging in spiritual practice, either following the voice of possibility or the voice of unbelief.
Matthew 10:26 says that with God all things are possible. This is a different kind of possibility thinking. It offers a new life, and a new set of rules just like the lottery. However, the spiritual path is not like the lottery because the odds are one in one and the means of winning are totally different.
With the lottery, change is from the outside-in. This means you immediately gain status, power and options and you never even have to look at your own heart. Not surprising, most lottery winners either go broke, or are extremely depressed, or anxious and regret ever winning. Most of us try and convince ourselves that we would become more generous, or philanthropic, or that the money wouldn’t change us, but the reality is that if those aspects are not present before the winning, they most certainly won’t be after and so the condition of the person worsens. Outside-in wealth simply doesn’t produce freedom, in only allows you to quit your job and become worse.
With the spiritual path, change is from the inside-out. This means all comers gain profound insight into their lives, their power and their options. It changes how a person spends their time and money because energies are redirected to serve others and in so doing, they are always satisfied and fulfilled. Well-being is not based upon tangibles, so a person can possess freedom immediately regardless of health, age, economic status, racial status, or geographical location. Inside-out wealth produces freedom and no amount of money can change it.
So this week as you join the hundreds of millions of people who collectively look down at a losing ticket, I hope you will consider that there is another path to possess all for which you were really hoping. It’s a narrow path and not a wide highway. It’s a much more demanding and difficult path but it leads to life and freedom (Matt 7:13-14) rather than disappointment and destruction.
I also hope you never give up on your possibility thinking. All things really are possible and they remain that way despite the lottery. It starts by wanting our best life enough to actually get into it, to get honest with it, and to be diligent with it.
Our best life never comes from trying to escape the one we have, but by transforming it and bringing as many with us as we can.
I do pray for the person who does win this jackpot. I pray they have the spiritual maturity to not be destroyed by such a windfall. Of course, that is probably the person who would never buy a ticket.