One of the great ironies of gambling is that the vast majority of people lose money, while the few who win discover money doesn’t make them happy—and often it actually ruins their lives! One study reported that “six months after winning the lottery, you are likely to be no happier than if you had been paralyzed in a car crash.”
I’ve written before about the misery of many lottery winners. Here’s yet another: in 2013, Jane Park, then 17, won about $1.2 million in the U.K.’s EuroMillions lottery. Now 21, Jane was recently considering taking legal action for what she calls negligence, claiming that a person her age shouldn’t have been allowed to win. (She has since dropped her plans for a lawsuit.)
Here’s what Jane Park actually said:
“At times it feels like winning the lottery has ruined my life.”
“I thought it would make it 10 times better but it’s made it 10 times worse.”
“I wish I had no money most days. I say to myself, ‘My life would be so much easier if I hadn’t won.’”
“People look at me and think, ‘I wish I had her lifestyle, I wish I had her money.’ But they don’t realise the extent of my stress.”
“I have material things but apart from that my life is empty. What is my purpose in life?”
“My nana Anne told me, ‘You might as well have given me a gun.’ I was like, ‘Nana, what are you talking about? This is the best thing ever?’ But now I totally agree.”
Yet when asked if she’s considered ridding herself of the money that has brought such misery, her answer was an incredulous, “What?”
Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with money, there’s something desperately wrong with devotion to money. “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
Note the self-destructive nature of money love. It’s a life of self-mutilation in which we repeatedly pierce ourselves with grief after grief. The good we seek destroys us. We load our idols with expectations they cannot deliver. The happiness we try to wrest from them can only be found elsewhere.
Of course we should all be grateful for God’s provision, and should never glorify poverty. But if the source of our happiness isn’t God, then wealth becomes our false god. And Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
In a chapter that gives us a lot of bad news about wealth, we also find some strikingly good news about how we can overcome materialism through generous giving:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
It shouldn’t take winning a jackpot for all of us to discover that money—of any amount—won’t bring us lasting happiness. God, on the other hand, “satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9).
May God’s people be liberated from money-love, break the back of materialism through generous giving to the needy, and pursue the lasting pleasures found in knowing and serving Christ.
For more on money and giving, see Randy’s books The Treasure Principle, Managing God’s Money, and Money, Possessions, and Eternity.
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.