"Look Who's Got the Winning Ticket!"

Nothing like a Powerball jackpot frenzy to warm a frigid winter’s night! Americans (and Canadians) are still queuing up by the tens of  thousands for a chance to win a record $1.5 billion-plus at tonight’s 10:59 Powerball drawing. Chances of winning the grand prize? One in 229,000,000. And yet by Monday this week Michiganders were spending $156,000 per hour on lottery tickets!

In case you were wondering how to spend $1.5 billion, USA TODAY offers five suggestions. (1) Buy a fleet of Gulfstream G650 private jets (@ $65 million apiece you can take home 23 of them). (2) Match the gross domestic product of the island nations of St. Vincent and Grenadines combined (spend the remaining $200 million on that large stone mansion for sale in the Windy City). (3) Buy the new Tesla Model S ecofriendly electric car for $71,100 (then do the same for 21,096 of your closest friends). (4) Rent the royal two-bedroom suite at the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah Hotel in Dubai for $34,555 a night (with $1.5 billion you’ll be able to stay for 42,320 nights or 116 years—if you have the time!). (5) Purchase a flotilla of five “super yachts” (100-meter-long cabin cruisers with an onboard staff of 50 for roughly $275 million apiece). (usat.ly/1Pr96MF)

But let’s get serious. Uncle Sam will take 25% (30% if you’re Canadian) off the top, with Michigan state receiving an additional 4.25%. Then consider this laundry list of warnings from financial investors and previous lottery winners: (1) your friends will take advantage—“Once word gets out that you have the winning ticket, you can expect everyone to try to cozy up to you, from the college roommate you haven't heard from in 20 years and the kid who tortured you on the kindergarten playground, to fellow carpool parents and ‘friends’ you barely recognize”; (2) your relationship could fail—the unimagined stresses of managing windfall money, as records show, place immense pressures on heretofore happily married couples; (3) you’ll have an increased risk of bankruptcy—"Winners are much more likely to make significant impulse purchases far beyond their previous means. So the purchase amounts will be much higher, making the interest accrued on those credit cards much higher. And because they don't stop to think the money could run out, winners don't generally think they need to create or live by a monthly budget,” says Scott Dillon, a senior bankruptcy attorney at Tully Rinckey in Albany, New York; (4) you’ll have to fight off a host of long-lost family members—even distant family members with credit card, medical or foreclosure bills will learn of your largesse; and (5) you’ll be a target for a litany of lawsuits and scams—“Hoping to carve out a chunk of your fortune, financial advisor Jeff Motske says lottery winners are often targets for bogus lawsuits because everyone starts to come after them” (for more details see bit.ly/1mVGlRo).

Still want that easy money? Consider some sage counsel embedded in this personal testimony: “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11-12).  Paul was onto something, wasn’t he? Or rather he was onto Someone. “For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (v 13). When my life focus shifts from gaining to giving, from easy money to hard work, there is an inner quiet that all the money in the world can’t buy. “Contentment” is what Paul called it. “Peace” is what Christ calls it: “My peace I give to you—not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27).

70% of lottery winners lose or spend all their winnings in five years or less. Apparently you can go broke trying to buy happiness. So here’s the winning ticket for your New Year: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).