Winning the lottery

At a Publix in Juniper Beach, Florida, a person buys a lottery ticket. Out of more than 300 million tickets sold, their ticket has the right combination of numbers matching those drawn for the $1.58 Billion Mega Millions jackpot — the third largest lottery prize ever awarded in America.

How much will they actually get? Well, that depends on how they choose to receive it and the taxes they’re required to pay on their winnings. 

The winning ticket holder has options in terms of the payout. They can choose between receiving 30 annual installments which over 30 years means they would get the full $1.58 billion in annual payments of $52,666,666.67. That would be subject to the 37% tax rate which would mean that after taxes, for each of the next 30 years, the winner would have $31 million a year to spend or invest or give away.  

Most people don’t take the installment option, and want the lump sum, imagining they will prove better stewards over time. Many fail that test. 

If, in this case, the winner opts for the lump sum the $1.58 billion prize is reduced to $783.3 million. That amount is then subject to an immediate 24% mandatory tax, leaving the winner with an actual payout of $595.3 million. On that they’ll owe 2023 taxes of $101,829,000 by April 15, 2024. So, in the end, they’ll have $493,479,000. 

That’s a LOT of  money but it’s a whole lot less —70% less!— than the billion and a half they were led to imagine. 

No matter which way they take the winnings, they are going to be wildly rich by every worldly measure of the term. Pray they have the wisdom that kind of wealth requires. 

There are very, very, very few of us who will ever have that kind of money, whether by inheritance, the lottery, or our own work or investment. But how often do we have conversations that start, if I suddenly had a lot of money… or if I won the lottery… 

We love to imagine what it would be like to suddenly have a life-changing amount of money— the places we would visit, the houses we would build, even the ways we would bless our friends, family and community. 

Would winning the lottery solve all of our problems? Even if it was, in fact, much less money than advertised? We like to think so. But in actuality, with that kind of sudden wealth, we would likely face a whole host of new problems as so many winners in the past have. 

Now, when you consider Christ, are you getting more or less than you expected? 

Is the Gospel taxing you or are you experiencing the ever-expanding nature of God’s amazing grace? Some have been tempted to liken the redemptive power of Christ to winning the lottery. But there’s really no gamble involved. It’s a sure thing. A certain hope. 

Colossians 2:2-3 tells us that in Christ we have access to all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. That in Christ we have access to a literal wealth of knowledge that comes with the full assurance of understanding including a true knowledge of the mysteries of God.  

That’s the winning ticket, my friend—and it’s available to each one and everyone. 

Today, I pray for you the prayer recorded by the apostle Paul for his fellow Christians in Ephesus. In Ephesians 1:18, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”