It was bound to happen sooner or later. A winner of the Powerball lottery has given God the credit for letting him pick the right numbers.
What’s wrong with that? We are used to people thanking God for victory. Just watch the NFL playoffs and when the trophies are handed out, someone will likely thank God for the victory—amidst the popping of champagne corks—as if God actually cared who won the game.
How many of you have thanked God for small things, like being able to find a parking place at the shopping mall (near the front, of course), as if God really cared whether you have to walk 50 extra yards across the parking lot? Actually, if God were really working these things out, a more loving thing for most of us would be to make us walk an extra 50 yards so we would get the exercise we would otherwise neglect.
So if people thank God for such small things as this, why is it out of line to thank God for coming into some lottery money? Heck, if I won $314.9 million dollars, I would give thanks to God, too! But I really doubt God gets involved in choosing lottery winners. I think God cares more about all the poor people who use their money to purchase lottery tickets they cannot afford.
In all respect to Andrew Whittaker, the West Virginian who recently won the largest Powerball jackpot in history, he doesn’t fall into this category. He’s been described as a hard-working, self-made millionaire who cares about people and has a deep faith in God.
I’m happy for him. It’s great to see someone who’s already been doing good have an opportunity to do some more. One might be tempted to think that the good Lord did smile on him with this big win. Maybe God took the money from those who were burying their “talents” and gave it to the one who already had demonstrated that he could double his. Maybe in the hands of a man like Mr. Whittaker, God believed that this money could be used for a lot of needy people so he directed the balls to bounce his way. Maybe, but I doubt it.
Nonetheless, Mr. Whittaker has already committed himself to use the services of three preachers to help him distribute a large sum of his money to the poor. When I heard this I immediately knew these were not Baptist preachers. Baptists have lobbied heavily in states where this issue has been balloted to keep the lottery away, citing the evils of gambling addiction and the monetary drain the lottery has on those who can least afford to play these games.
Both points are well made, but I have heard of only one Baptist preacher who declined to accept Hope scholarship money to offset college tuition for his children. It seems to me that if the money is tainted on one end it’s tainted on the other end, too.
I predict that sooner or later a Baptist preacher will win the lottery. Wouldn’t that be a predicament? How would a Baptist preacher step up to claim his prize and still step up into his pulpit the next Sunday? He might have to make some quick points to win over his people.
He would do well to take a page out of Mr. Whittaker’s acceptance speech and thank God for the winnings. Secondly, he could reiterate the evils of playing the lottery (on a regular basis, of course), but quickly say that the Lord obviously thought the devil had control of this money long enough and had decided to put it into the hands of the righteous to do some good.
Whether he got to preach again the next week, though, might depend on how much good he did with his money for his own congregation. I suppose if his congregation couldn’t be won over with lottery theology, at least this preacher would have enough money to build his own church.
I doubt this Baptist preacher will be winning any Powerball lotteries. I doubt that God has anything to do with helping people pick the right numbers, either. But if you happen to win the Powerball lottery, I hope you will have the attitude that Mr. Whittaker seems to have—to see your good fortune as an opportunity to help others who are in need. I believe God cares about that.
In fact, I believe God cares about whether we help those in need—whether we win the lottery or whether we work hard to earn every dime we get. But if you happen to win the Powerball and you need some preachers who will be glad to help you in your campaign to help those in need, I don’t think God would be displeased with me if I gave you a hand.
So if you win the Powerball, give me a call.
Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga. A version of this column first appeared in The Moultrie Observer.
Michael Helms is pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Georgia.