Giant digital numbers flashed from the billboard, indicating that the Powerball drawing was over one-hundred million dollars again. I never completely understood how it got there: were that many people buying lottery tickets? Probably. That many people and more anticipated that an exuberant amount of money would not only change their lives, but that they’d be content until their days ended. I don’t believe that a person has to be unhappy in order to gamble and buy lottery tickets, though that helps- even a little discontent provides sufficient reason to look for something to improve one’s life.

If people didn’t believe that money could solve their problems or that they didn’t have anything to worry about at all, the lottery would fall to pieces. But Life isn’t always easy, Americans have way too much debt and we want magical fixes to everything. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person. It seems to be the same in casinos and other places that any good Christian should condemn to hell- people aren’t necessarily there to get money, but what it represents: change and hope. Of course, we can’t discount the free drinks and the good time either, right?

Unfortunately, hope sells.

I could be wrong, but I think hope sells better than sex ever could. First of all, hope can’t give you chlamydia or herpes. Secondly, hope lasts longer and means more. It isn’t only employed by lottery marketers, either. Think about self help books, gym memberships, Jenny Craig, eHarmony, pyramid schemes and every other get rich quick contrivance that we’ve seen. We all want to figure out why we’re depressed, lose the love handles and not have to work as much, as hard, or at some job that we genuinely despise.

I think this has made its way into the church, too. We’re all familiar with the bad stereotype involving Christian television and men who claim that God can heal or help whomever if, if viewers simply support the ministry that shouldn’t really exist at all, let alone be on the air preying on susceptible old ladies for the only two mites they have left to their name. Not all Christian television is like this, is it? I actually can’t speak to this point, I try not to watch much of it!

But then there are the people in churches who teach and preach the prosperity gospel. They’re the ones that make me nervous, more than gambling and any other marketing program living on the hope of the people who are gullible enough to fall for it. God is a giver, He’s the literal epitome of generosity and truly desires that we be hospitable with our resources too- but doesn’t it make sense that He’d want us to consider where our money is going? I believe so… But to have people throwing their money at ministries with the expectation that God is going to return their investment scares me. If a man gives one hundred dollars and hopes to get a thousand back, does he blame his lack of faith if it doesn’t happen? Does he understand that his motive was wrong but ultimately, that misperception was implanted by a person who wanted his money? It seems that the ministries that live off this kind of doctrine are really just irresponsible with their finances anyway, and probably don’t deserve what they’re asking for.

God isn’t a high-interest investment banker.

That said, He’s worthy of all our hopes, just maybe not the misguided ones.