Written By Leslie Koh, Singapore
Dear Lottery Winner,
Having just heard of your winning the record-breaking US$1.6-billion Powerball lottery jackpot in US last week, I would like to offer you my deepest condolences. I was told you had to share it with two other winners, which means you get just US$528,800,000, but I’m sure this doesn’t make your unfortunate circumstances any better.
There’s a pain in my heart, knowing that there’s a high chance that in seven years, you will be bankrupt, depressed, or kidnapped. Or dead, either from suicide or murder. Apparently that’s what happens to 7 out of 10 big-time lottery winners. May that never happen to you!
You’ve probably started making sensible plans to invest or lock away most of your millions, donate some of it to charity, help your family and friends out, and give yourself a well-deserved treat.
That’s how many big-time lottery winners start out. Unfortunately, the majority of them tend to drift into reckless spending on luxury items (big mansion, flash cars, maybe even a private jet), daring investments in high-risk ventures, and lending to friends (you’ll suddenly have more of these) and “needy” relatives. Before they know it, they’ll be a change in lifestyle, one which tends to involve drugs, casinos, and conmen. A number of them don’t last the seven years—either they take their lives after a prolonged period of depression, or get killed by greedy relatives seeking a slice of their wealth. Some of the most often-quoted words I’ve heard from these winners are, “I wish I never won the lottery.”
It is with much pain and grief that I think of you every day.
Because you’ll find that winning isn’t everything, and that money really doesn’t really buy happiness. Most of us know it in principle and remind ourselves of it, partly because we’ll never have the opportunity to test the theory out. But you, my friend, will have to walk this difficult journey on your own.
For you’ll find that while your millions will buy you some fun and happiness for a few weeks or months (maybe even years, if you’re prudent), in the end they will not get what you really desire—a sense of significance and belonging, the love of family and friends, and a purpose in life.
In fact, you might lose all these. Either you’ll be harassed by greedy family members, or hounded by a horde of new friends you would never have made. You’ll probably stop working, only to find early retirement pointless and purposeless. And you’ll lose all sense of reality, because it will seem that everything can be purchased and there’s nothing to keep you going any more. There’ll be nothing left to aim for or dream about, and no one you can truly trust. Oh, you poor thing!
Worse, you’ll probably start drifting away from God, because, to be honest, you won’t need Him any more. Not when you can rely on your millions to get what you want or bail yourself out of any problem.
At first, it might seem wonderful to know you can depend on yourself and not need to keep going to God for every small need. But after a while, you’ll probably find yourself sadder and lonelier, because nothing can replace the closeness of God and the fellowship of other believers. Only then will you realize that Jesus’ living water isn’t about happiness and provision, but about true joy, contentment, and peace. Like a child whose ultimate joy is knowing he has the love of his parents—and not another new toy—you’ll find that belonging to God is the greatest thing on earth, and not US$528,800,000.
Is there any way I can help you? Can I suggest that you give it all or most of it away? It seems that the lottery winners who donated all their winnings or put them into trust funds for charity and future generations are the only ones who are still happy. It’s ironic to hear about how they stayed happy by giving it all away, but it really does seem to work.
Can I encourage you to keep your focus on what matters in life, and not see money as the solution to all your problems in life? For money is merely the means to an end, and while you’ll need it for the basics and a bit more, in the end you really won’t be able to buy happiness with it. Keep your eyes and heart on the eternal things of God, because that’s the only things that will bring you true joy and contentment.
Please don’t think I’m being envious in saying all this. Yes, in some moments of my life, I too wish I was a little richer and had a little more money. But I know that it will not make me any happier, at least in the long run. I try to be contented with what I have, and be a good steward of what God has already blessed me with. I hope you can do the same too . . . I’m just so worried you’ll end up like the 7 in 10 lottery winners—miserable, bankrupt, or dead.
And please, please, stop playing the lottery. Because you might win it again.