Summary: Wealth leads us to illusions wherein we lose sight of God; poverty leads us to spiritual disease. Pray for enough to satisfy real needs and to be able to give for others.
You don’t have to raise your hands on this one. But I do wonder how many of you spent some time this week fantasizing about that Powerball lottery. What would you have done with $250,000,000? What dreams would you have indulged? What unthinkable thoughts did you think?
Well, now, I, being a really good Baptist boy, who, despite his Kentucky upbringing, has never so much as visited a racetrack, I do not gamble. I did not fantasize about winning the Powerball lottery. For one thing, I remember enough mathematics to be aware of what the odds were, and figured that there are other ways to throw away my money. No thank you. I didn’t spend any energy whatsoever dreaming about what I would do with a quarter-billion dollars. I did not even think about traveling around the world and staying in luxury hotels. I did not for one moment indulge in notions about a new house and a new car, new clothes and maybe even a new computer to replace the one that died the other day. No, I didn’t for one instant even calculate that this works out to getting $684,931.51 every single day for an entire year. Nor did I stop to figure out that even if I lived to be a hundred years old, I would have to spend six and a quarter million dollars every year just to use it all up. I wasted not one second on such fantasies.
But I’ll tell you what I did fantasize about. I thought about what it would be like if one of you won the Powerball prize. See how pastoral and compassionate I am? I hoped that one of you would win the big prize, and then tithe it! Wow! The pastor of the Powerball prize winner, who would, next Sunday, drop in the plate, casually and with studied nonchalance, a check made out to Takoma Park Baptist Church .. that’s Takoma with a “k” in it .. for $25,000,000. That I did dream about, and I wasted a few idle moments imagining what this church would do with twenty-five mill. Is the roof leaking? So what! Tear it off and build a whole new roof. Is the carpet worn; is it stained? Never mind, rip it up and replace it. In fact, don’t worry about the roof or the carpet or the pew pads or the broken stained glass windows. Let’s just take our new wealth and build a whole new church building. How would that be? Seating for two, three, four thousand people, right on this corner. Oh, I dreamed a big dream.
And it gets better. Did we struggle to buy a new van? Never mind. Get another one while you’re at it. Get a big highway bus too. Get a fleet of vans, with liveried chauffeurs to drive them. Chump change when you have twenty-five million to work with!
And I began to think about how we could satisfy everybody’s desires. The music folks want more workers. Okay, fine. Get them an organist, get them a percussion section, hey, get them a whole orchestra. We can afford it! The older folks want an elevator? Right. No problem. Glass bubble, air conditioned, with Muzak playing, “Lord, lead me on to higher ground.” No problem.
And missions and ministry, too. How about tuition free after school enrichment for 200 children, how about our own missionary airplane to take supplies and people overseas, how about tearing down these houses out here and building a senior citizens’ home, and it won’t cost you anything to live there? How about that? Oh, I really got it on fantasizing about a church with a financial windfall. I was so sorry to hear that some guys in Ohio won the prize; I can’t understand why they won’t take my urgent evangelistic phone calls!
Lots of fun to dream. And then, you know what? I sat down and thanked the Lord that it didn’t happen! That’s right, I sat down and thanked our gracious God that it did not happen. Because there is an incalculable spiritual danger in having too much. There is a destructive, corrosive, deadening effect when you have too much. And so, strange as it sounds, I thank God none of you won the Powerball prize. My prayer was and is just about like the prayer of the poet of Proverbs:
“Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’, or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.”
What a wonderful reading of the human condition! What an amazingly accurate insight into what happens to us! There’s a spiritual issue about being too rich, and there is a spiritual issue about being too poor. What should we ask for, then? Enough. Just enough. Let’s look more closely at what Proverbs teaches us.