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Who Doesn't Want to Be a Millionaire

by on July 7, 2006 in Articles

According to Servant, buying fifty Lotto tickets weekly increases your odds of winning the jackpot to once every five thousand years.

Time reports that the combined assets of the world’s three richest people exceed by almost $20 billion the total GNP of the forty-three poorest nations, which have a total population of six hundred million. Worldwide, there are 1.3 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.

Like many Americans, my wife and I have enjoyed a few episodes of Regis Philbin’s hit game show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Leslie Garcia, staff writer for the Dallas Morning News captured well the attraction for the new quiz show: “The show, which consistently ranks tops in ratings epitomizes our latest fascination with all those monetary zeroes. The name itself, ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire,’ is not even a question. It’s an assumption: That everyone holds the dream, and that everyone is capable of achieving it.”

My wife and I enjoy trying to answer the questions, and we enjoy seeing contestants win the money. As we watched one evening, we began to ponder, “What would we do if we suddenly won a million dollars?” Obviously the question is hypothetical, but it’s fun to chew on for a bit. After some discussion, we determined that we could help several missionaries. But we also realized that it would be far too tempting to pay off our house, invest enough for our children’s college educations, and even splurge on something or stop living “month to month.” Thankfully, after much discussion we remembered Proverbs 30:8-9:

Keep falsehood and lies from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the LORD?”

Do not misunderstand. I’m not so spiritual that I would not want the million dollars. But when I understand the truth of God’s wisdom from the proverb, I really don’t think I want to be a millionaire. Proverbs 30:8–9 is a brief prayer that affirms the humiity introduced in 30:2–3. Having realized his frailty, the sage asked the Lord for specific help in two areas of weakness: protection from lying and provision of daily sustenance.

An important rationale explains his request. He desired to avoid two temptations: wealth and poverty. Wealth might cause him to “disown” and forget the Lord, thinking that he could care for himself and have no need of God. Conversely, poverty might cause him to steal and thus dishonor God. Of course, it is the former temptation that may make us fail to trust God or cause God’s child not to want to be a millionaire. The wisdom of the proverb tells us that it is not worth the risk. It might seem wonderful to become a millionaire instantly, but it’s not worth the risk of “disowning or no longer trusting the Lord.”

This temptation is neither new nor far-fetched. Amos warned against the dangers of prosperity in three oracles found in Amos 5. The people placed so much confidence in their prosperity that they disbelieved Amos’s warning that their nation would be so devastated as to cease to exist in just a generation. So Amos repeated God’s message in no uncertain terms. Likewise Moses warned the Israelites of the danger of forgetting God, as recorded in Deuteronomy 8:19–20:

If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.

I do not think it is taking the proverb and Deuteronomy 8 too far to suggest that if wealth causes us to forget the Lord, that wealth may function as an idol or “other god.” Of course, those of us who belong to Christ will never be separated from Him and His love (Rom. 8:1, 35), but we do run the risk of breaking fellowship with Him or dishonoring Him if we fail to trust Him because of our wealth.

It is important to notice in the proverb that the problem is not wealth. The problem is that the wealth may lead us to think that we no longer need God. In fact, the Bible does not say that wealth in itself (or even money) is wrong. Indeed, I know some wealthy Christians who have a strong dependence on the Lord and who serve Him faithfully, realizing that their wealth is actually His wealth.

The Bible does not say that it is wrong to be wealthy; it is wrong only to gain one’s wealth dishonestly. Money itself is not the problem; the love of money is the problem (1 Tim. 6:10). James even wrote about the value of riches, when he declared the worthlessness of the riches, not of the rich (James 5:1–6).

Just as wealth is not the root of the problem, so there is nothing wrong with being content in one’s means. The apostle Paul encouraged the Philippians to be content by testifying to his own contentment in his financial condition (Phil. 4:11). There is nothing wrong with contentment if we understand the nature of contentment.

Contentment has to do both with being satisfied with what we have and also with wanting less. Who is more content—a man with eleven children or a man with eleven million dollars? The man with eleven children is more content because he probably doesn’t want any more! But money is seldom like that. We observe the human tendency to want even more money when riches come. Again the root of the problem is the love of money, not godly contentment.

Godly contentment does not cause us to “disown” God. But wanting to be a millionaire may lead to disowning God. Thus who wants to be a millionaire? I think I can say, honestly, “I don’t.” And yes, that’s my final answer.

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