Contrary to the opinion of some, the Bible isn't negative toward wealth and the things it can do. In the very same context where Paul gives his famous and oft-quoted warning about the "love of money being a root of all kinds of evil," (1 Timothy 6:10) he affirms that it is God "who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (1 Timothy 6:17)
But money has its limits. While it has the potential for fixing certain things and providing gratification, it won't fix everything. It can also create a special set of problems unique to substantial wealth. Take Jack Whittaker as an example.
Whittaker, 57, burst onstage on Christmas Day, 2002. He won the biggest-ever undivided lottery prize when he hit a record $314.9 million Powerball jackpot. There he was on everybody's TV screen. Smiling. Big cowboy hat. Already a successful contractor. Ready now to donate ten percent of his lump sum payout of $113 million after taxes to his church and to help other good causes.
A picture of the same man two years later hardly looks like the one we saw back then. He looks old. Tired. Whipped. And there are reasons for the change.
Whittaker has had hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen from his cars, house, and office. He has pleaded no contest to assaulting and threatening to kill a bar manager. He has been arrested twice on drunk-driving charges and ordered into rehab by a judge. He faces charges of groping women at a racetrack.
Shortly before Christmas, his 17-year-old granddaughter disappeared. She had been there on the day of his big win. The apple of Whittaker's eye, he was going to make everything possible for her. She said she wanted a car. She wanted to meet her favorite hip-hop star. Life was going to be wonderful! She was found dead – her body wrapped in a tarp outside her boyfriend's house. Press reports say she died of a drug overdose.
No wonder Whittaker looks whipped and confused. Who wouldn't be? His story isn't so much a warning about quick wealth or the dark side of gambling as it is simply a tragedy of major proportions. God help him to get himself together.
True religion with contentment is great wealth. After all, we didn't bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:6-10 NLT)Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone. But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of real life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
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