A winning ticket
“Well, it’s a winner!” the clerk at the store said.
While in Tennessee recently, I bought a few lottery tickets. I don’t usually buy lottery tickets but, hey, the jackpot was some $450 million!
I figured that, if the government took half, that would still leave me with $225 million bucks. The tithe would be either $45 million or $22 million and some change, depending on how one figures it, which would still leave me with enough to be annoyed by people for the rest of my life.
When the clerk counted out my winnings, I had $7 in my hand. If I had matched five numbers, I would have been a millionaire. Four matched numbers would have added a nice tidy sum to my bank account. Three numbers got me seven bucks.
I know that there are people who think that playing the lottery is evil. I am not among that crowd. I am more inclined to think of the lottery as a voluntary tax on people who are willing to lose it almost every time. I also think of it as my contribution to the education of Georgia’s students who maintain a “B” average. And besides, a bunch of kids from my church have gone through college on the scholarship paid for by the lottery.
On Monday, as the secretary was counting the money from our church’s Sunday offering, I carefully counted out 70 cents. “What’s this?” she asked.
“It’s the tithe on my lottery winnings,” I explained. One could argue whether I needed to tithe on the seven dollars since I actually spent ten bucks on five tickets thereby actually losing three dollars. But I chose not to quibble.
Quite a few years ago, a college student said to me, “Father David, you need to pray that I win the lottery.”
“Why would I do that?” I inquired.
“Because the tithe from my winnings would pay off the church land and build the new building.”
I replied, “No, it wouldn’t.”
Yes, it would,” he insisted.
“No, it wouldn’t,” I said again.
“How do you figure that?” he asked.
I said, “You don’t tithe now when you make very little. You won’t tithe when you have a lot either.”
I was joking with him, although I told the truth. Surprisingly, not long after that, he began to tithe and, over the years, has become a dependable, solid leader in the church.
If we aren’t faithful in the small things, God isn’t likely to trust us with the big things. Hence, the 70 cents and my eternal hope that I will beat the 178,000,000 to 1 odds in a future lottery.
While I do not depend on and trust the lottery, I do depend upon and trust the tithe. I really do believe that one reaps what one sows.
I did not grow up to believe in tithing (which is giving 10 percent of your income to the church). And then I married a Southern Baptist.
She insisted that we should tithe — that we had to tithe — that we couldn’t afford not to tithe. Eventually with persuasion and the regular quoting of Malachi Chapter 3, she wore me down. It is a decision that I have never regretted. I enjoy being a giver and the only regret is that I wish I had more to give.
The lottery tickets have never paid my bills or fed my family, but I do believe that the promises of God have done exactly that.
When I began my current church nearly 17 years ago, I did so with not much personal money in the bank and no outside income. I was leaving a great and well-paying situation and was going to be a full-time missions pastor with no salary. My wife was still in grad school full-time. Logically, things looked financially grim.
One man said, “How are your going to survive?”
My response was something like this: “I have tithed for years and God has promised to meet my needs (there’s that Malachi 3 thing again). I have sowed and it’s time for some of the crop to come in.”
It did and always has. I may not have won the $450 million but I still feel like I have come away a winner.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]