The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.
— Albert Einstein
The Rich Man's Math Book

The Rich Man's Math Book

Winning the Lottery

 

Have you ever considered what you would do if you won the lottery? When one views the various advertisements for the lottery, it appears that the lottery promises security, contentment and joy. Yet the reality is harshly different. Studies of lottery winners have shown that after winning, many struggle with depression and anxiety, have serious family issues, occasionally go bankrupt, and in some cases commit suicide. It seems that what was promised is not delivered. Many winners are not fulfilled and contented by winning but are instead cursed in a way. We are told that money brings happiness with it, but in these situations, it brought a curse.

 

Don’t Bring Jesus Into It

 

            Despite the reality that money does not necessarily bring happiness, many still seek money above all else. But apparently the current materialistic craze of the Western World is not new. One sees many instances of it in the Roman empire, the Roman Catholic popes during much of the Middle-Ages, as well as current trends in the Asian world as elements of capitalism takes stronger hold.

            Another element that is not new is bringing Jesus into the money equation. Since the inception of the Christian church, some have sought to use the name of Jesus in order to gain wealth for themselves. Paul speaks of this in I Timothy 6:3-11. Paul describes these “false teachers” as (1) arrogant, (2) having no spiritual understanding, (3) and constantly causing controversies (v.4). Then he says that they also think “Gain is Godliness.” To say it another way, they seek to use godliness as a means to their own personal gain. They use the name of Jesus to get money from those who seek to follow Him. This idea might be represented by the following math equation:

 

Gain = Godliness (or)

Godliness = Gain

 

            From the time of the early church, right up to the present day, there are some who seek to use Jesus to get what they really worship: money and material objects. They claim that the most rich are the most godly, or those who are the most godly deserve to be the most rich. In this demented form of thought, having money or material possessions supposedly proves that God is pleased with you. Of course, this is part of the lie of the prosperity gospel today. The prosperity gospel claims that those who truly follow God will be blessed by God giving them material things. In two thousand years, the Church has not been able to eradicate these charlatans from her midst.

These “false teachers” and many of those who follow them are not Christians. Rather they are really just greedy materialists that use the name of Jesus once in awhile. Not only has this teaching helped to destroy the foundations of the Church in the West, but it is wreaking utter devastation in the two thirds world as we speak. When people try it and realize it does not work (unless you are the pastors who are living large off your flock), then they reject Jesus. But they reject Jesus thinking that they have tried Christianity and it has failed when really they have never experienced anything like Christianity.

But how should true Christians respond to such teaching? Paul makes it very clear a few verses later when he says to “Flee from these things” (v.11). He tells Christians to run from these people and ideas. God takes the twisting of His Word and the deliberate deception of thousands very seriously. But beyond understanding these lies for what they are, and having nothing to do with such people and ideas, how are Christians to respond?

 

Gospel Math

 

Here Paul gives another math equation, but this one is not twisted and perverted. This one flows from the purity of the gospel. Paul states boldly that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (v. 6-7). The order here is important for a person can never experience true contentment without godliness. Unless one experiences the true contentment of the soul that God only gives through Jesus, he will never be content. But beyond this truth, Paul says that godliness and contentment when added together make for true riches (gain).

 

Australia: A Case Study

 

Here in Australia, we live in some of the biggest homes in the world, and have some of the highest household debt in the world. But what do we need such big homes and mortgages for? Well, using some sarcasm, we need these big homes so we can buy a bunch of stuff we don’t need with money we do not have and fill up our homes with all that stuff that will eventually find its way into the rubbish bins. This is exactly the phenomenon being experienced in most Western countries. It is what Francis Schaeffer referred to in his sermon “Junk-heap Lives”. Most of what we spend our money on winds up on the junk pile soon after.

 In his book Affluenza, author Clive Hamilton states: “62% of Australians believe they cannot afford to buy everything they really need. When we consider that Australia is one of the world’s richest countries and that Australians today have incomes three times higher than in 1950, it is remarkable that so many people feel their incomes are inadequate.” Why do we think our incomes so inadequate – we lack contentment. Australian youth suicide rates have doubled and tripled over the past forty years, depression and anxiety are on the rise and obesity and diabetes have reached epidemic proportions (The Barefoot Investor, pgs 52-53). Of course, the rest of the Western World has similar problems.

Into this series of destructive thinking and life patterns, the author of Hebrews tells Christians to “. . . be content with what you have, for He has said: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Why can Christians be content in today’s world of over-indulgence and discontent? Because we have the only thing that bring true contentment – an assurance of Jesus’ presence. If you want to have true riches/gain in this world, then learn how to be content. Almost no one in our day and age possesses that wonderful bit of wealth. And we can only be content when we are in proper relationship with the One who created us and knows exactly what we need to have true contentment. I love this example from history of the Methodist minister John Wesley. As he was riding out of town one day to preach the gospel, a distraught man rode up behind him shouting:

 

 “Mr. Wesley, something terrible happened! Your house burned to the ground.”

 

      Wesley weighed the news, then calmly replied, “No. The Lord’s house burned to the ground. That means one less responsibility for me.” And then rode away.[1]

 

There was a man who was content because he knew the Author of contentment in a personal way. All true Christians are called to such radical contentment as well. Imagine the impact in the Western world if Christians started acting with such radical contentment and the generosity that would result from it.

 

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[1] Randy Alcorn, The Treasury Principle, 26.

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