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A few weeks ago, people crowded out gas stations across the country for a shot at winning the $656 million Mega Millions jackpot. It was wishful thinking, of course, but what’s $1 when it might just be your ticket to paradise?
It turns out that $1 per play adds up pretty quickly. Americans spent nearly $1.5 billion for this single drawing. Let’s put that in perspective: $1.5 billion could send nearly 10,000 students to Harvard tuition-free for four years; it could buy more than 3 million new iPads; or, if you prefer green, every single teenager in the U.S. ages 15 to 17 could receive a crisp $100 bill in their mailbox.
That’s a ton of money blown on the slim chance of getting rich.
The lottery is a tax on the poor and people who can’t do math. In a country where people desperately need jobs, $1.5 billion was thrown away. We’ve either got a serious problem with our math skills, or we’re a nation of educated adults who chose to ignore the numbers.
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Ticketholders had a 1 in 175 million chance of winning the jackpot. You’ve got a better shot at being struck by lightning or becoming president of the United States. Maybe you’ve heard of The Hunger Games? In District 12 of Panem, you’d be 99.8 million times more likely to have your name drawn in the reaping. If you’re hoping to win the lottery, you might also want to keep an eye on the weather, start working on your acceptance speech, and brush up on survival techniques.
Still wishing you could be that one?
Callie Rogers was 16 when she won $3 million. With more money than most adults make in their entire career, Callie should be enjoying the good life. Instead, she went broke and attempted suicide twice. At 22, she is now a single mom raising two kids and cleaning homes to make ends meet.
“My life is a shambles and hopefully now [that the money is] all gone I can find some happiness. It’s brought me nothing but unhappiness. It’s ruined my life,” Callie said in the Daily Mail Reporter.
You can hit the jackpot.
When it comes to the lottery, the odds are never in your favor. But the good news is that you don’t need luck if you have a plan. Here are three sure ways you can win with money without throwing your money away:
- Build character before you build wealth. Wealth makes you more of what you already are; money just amplifies your character traits. There’s nothing wrong with money in and of itself, but if you don’t have the character to manage it, it can absolutely destroy your life. Building character is like growing a muscle; the stronger it is, the better equipped you are to carry home the big bucks.
- Separate your needs from wants. You might want a brand-new Porsche, but all you really need is a reliable way to get from here to there. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” It’s okay to buy some wants; you need to have some fun with your money. But your wants have to fit into your overall plan.
- Fund your own lottery. Did you know that investing $100 a month for 40 years at the average stock market growth rate comes out to $1.1 million at retirement—every time? Not one time in a gazillion. It pays off every time! Just a hundred bucks a month. That’s pizza and cable money for most people!
When you handle money God’s way over a long period of time, you will most likely become a self-made millionaire. Then you can take care of your needs, buy a lot of wants, and give a whole lot away. And honestly, that’s some of the most fun you’ll ever have with your money!
Youth pastors and church leaders: Use this article as a starting point for talking with your teens. Read it out loud and have them engage in conversation by giving their honest opinions about the lottery, money and contentment. Use the discussion question and activity below to dig a little deeper.
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Ask: What do you spend your money on? After the question, read: In Matthew 6:21, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Do the things you spend money on reflect where you want your heart to be? How will you spend money differently now?
Aunt Ira Activity: Write different dollar amounts ranging between $1,000 and $1,000,000 on pieces of paper. Read the instructions below to your students and then hand out the papers. You can give the paper to a group of students to decide together, or give each student their own amount.
“Your Aunt Ira left you a note in her will. She left you a large amount of money, with one stipulation: You have to give it all away. How would you give the money away? Who would you give it to and why?”