A Million Dollar Question

On long road trips, my mind tends to wander. We’re usually driving to or from Florida, a stretch of highway we’ve driven literally * hundreds of times, and so, with no need to watch for unfamiliar exits, I’m often left looking around for something new to spark conversation. As we drive to and from the Peninsula, there’s one set of billboards that grabs my attention more than others, and usually leads to conversation with my wife. The billboards are for the Powerball lottery, whose winnings tend to range from the pedestrian $5,000,000 all the way up to, if memory serves me right from our last trip, a whopping $490,000,000 for the lucky winner. 5 million isn’t enough to begin a conversation, as you’d likely only take home about 2 million after taxes, meaning that while I’d feel rich, I wouldn’t actually be rich. ** But even if the government took 60% of the 490 million, I’d still be left with a quarter of a billion dollars, and that, by anyone’s standards, is pretty well off.

And so, I begin to drift off and think about what I’d do if we came into that much money. I’d like to think I’d tithe 10%, but then I wonder what my church would do with 25 million dollars. *** Trying to figure out how my church would spend this money doesn’t usually take up too much time, so then I move on to the obvious list of things you must do next. Of course, you have to buy your mother a house/car, and since I love my mother-in-law I’d need to buy two houses and two cars, but then what? Pay off any family debts? Set aside money so that our kids never have to worry about paying for college? After all that, I’ve still got over 200 million bucks, and so then my mind wanders further down the well-t0-do rabbit hole.

What kind of car would I buy? I’m not really a “car guy,” but if I were loaded, I’m pretty sure I’d want a nice car. But which one? Mercedes, BMW, something Italian? I’ve got one child, and another on the way, so would I want something with enough seats for the family? Or could I now afford to just have someone chauffeur them along behind me? The last time I asked Donnette what she would drive if she could drive anything, she said a mini-van. I don’t know what a multi-million dollar fortune would do for our lives, but one thing’s for certain, we would not be driving anything resembling a mini-van. **** I’ve learned better than to ask Donnette about cars, I think if she could she’d resurrect her 1986 Dodge Colt. She really isn’t a “car guy.”

The car question always bleeds over into questions of occupation. I’m currently raising support to serve as a missionary. I think to myself, what is the nicest car a support raising missionary could drive and still reasonably expect to raise support? Could you pull up in this, or even this and even sort of expect anyone to support you? ***** I don’t really know what the answer to this question is exactly, but I’m fairly certain that it could be nice, but it would need to be American made, and it would need to get good gas mileage. Maybe a solar-powered suburban. ******

After I’ve thoroughly exhausted automobiles, I then give my mind more fully to the question of occupation. Because, I truly believe that God has called me to be a pastor/ missionary to the French, I’d like to think that a sudden addition of cash wouldn’t change much. But I’m also not stupid, and so I try to envision what this would look like, because, well, money changes everything doesn’t it? Would we still go to France? Would we still go as missionaries to France? It doesn’t take long to figure out that maybe God doesn’t require us to be broke, but it’s probably for the best that pastors aren’t rich either. Too much temptation. I don’t know what would become of our ministry if we won 490 million dollars, but given what I know to be true of my own heart, it’s likely that the answer wouldn’t be good.

This is all speculation, because the odds of our winning the lottery are pretty slim. ******* I don’t really know what we’d do with all that money, and I don’t really want to find out. But there are certain things that having a large amount of cash would do for us…namely, we wouldn’t have to raise any more support. There are many good and wonderful things about support raising, but I’m not going to go into them all here. Because, for good or for bad, support raising means asking people for money, and asking people for money is a humbling, and at times, frustrating activity.

I’ve never really had a problem accepting people’s generosity before, but I’ve never been dependant on it either. But now, there’s no way to get around it, we are dependant upon people, you people, people who are reading this blog and others, people who aren’t the two of us; we are dependant on them, on you, for support. And, please don’t misread this as a plea, or a hidden way for me to ask for money, because, while we do need it, that’s not the point of this post, or this blog, or our ministry in general. A pre-tax 490 million dollars means we wouldn’t need to be dependant on anyone to do the things we want to do, and there are times, I must confess, when this is really, really appealing. I can’t be alone in this, who reading this wouldn’t love to be independent, relying on no one but your own resources for everything?

You all know where I’m going with this, so I’ll stop pretending like you don’t. The obvious problem with this is that, not only would we not be dependant on you all, we also wouldn’t be dependant on God, and that is not a promising condition for the human heart. The biggest problem with wealth is that it fools you into thinking that you don’t need anything, and humans, well, we are nothing if not needy. For me, personally, thinking about that much money reminds me just how little faith I have at times that God is going to provide for us. There are times when thinking about how our entire career will be through the support of others makes me want to panic, but really, could we ask for a better life? Is there a better way to understand need than to be needy? Is there a better way to be sufficient than to see God provide sufficiently for all you could ever need? That’s the message we’ll be preaching in France, need and sufficiency, and if you’re going to preach it, you really ought to be living it.

So, I know what to do the next time we’re on the road and I see those signs. I thank God that we have enough for today and trust that He will provide for tomorrow. Or, failing that, I put the question to Donnette, who always answers the same way…

“Put the money in the bank and tell no one.”



*Yes, literally. We drive to Florida that often.
**2.5 million is a lot of money, and it would certainly be an improvement over our current financial status, but it’s not “buy a yacht” rich, nor is it enough money to make worth explaining to my pastor why I decided to play the lottery in the first place.
***I’m rounding here.
****In all fairness to her, she did say she’d drive a Volvo mini-van. When I pointed out that Volvo doesn’t make mini-vans, she said, “well, maybe would could get them to.” And, if you have that sort of money, maybe you could.
*****This, of course, does lead to questions of, would we still raise support at all. But I’m getting there. Let me stay on cars for a second or two longer.
******Not the Chevy Volt though. For whatever reason, conservatives really don’t like electric cars…
*******The average odds of winning the Powerball are something like 1 in 48 million, but they’re even worse if you don’t ever play it.

One thought on “A Million Dollar Question

  1. Your wandering thoughts remind me of an episode from the book God’s Smuggler, written by Brother Andrew (no last name ever given.) He really needed a reliable car to do his work, which was smuggling Bibles into Communist countries right after WWII. A wealthy patron saw his need and gave him a brand new car. The trouble started when he drove into his home town. He began to get dirty looks and snide comments, like “Missionary work must pay pretty well.) The small flow of nickels and dimes that he had been receiving from his home town dried up and his relationship with them was never the same. He had to be philosophical about the gift, but it was true that. while he knew his need, and accepted that he needed the gift, it was still a heartache. So, I really agree that $490 million dollars would probably change your relationship with everyone. (But I like the part about the new house/car!) Anytime.

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