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  • Shawn Thornton

Winning It Big Isn't So Great

Tuesday - March 9th

Devotionals from the Book of James

Scripture to Read Today: James 5:1-6


Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail

because of the misery that is coming on you.

James 5:1

Many believe that if they could win it big in a Powerball Lottery, they would be set for life. A number of actual multi-million dollar lottery winners wished they had never won. Here are a few of their stories.

Charles Riddle won a big early lottery in 1975. He and his wife got a divorce not long after he won. Charles became a drug addict and was arrested for selling cocaine.

William Post won $16.2 million in 1988. His former girlfriend sued him, claiming she deserved the money. His brother, wanting to inherit the money, hired a hitman to kill William. His debts amounted to over $1 million in just a year. He was arrested for firing a gun over a debt collector's head. William Post called winning the money a "nightmare." He died shortly after going bankrupt.

Jeffrey Dampier won $20 million in 1996. Dampier bought homes for several of his closest relatives. Several years later, his sister-in-law and her boyfriend kidnapped and murdered him for the money.

John McGuiness won $12 million in 1997. He spent his fortune on fancy cars and high-end vacations. He lost all of his money. McGuiness went back to work and lived in subsidized government housing. McGuiness told the media, "I just want my life to get back to the way it was before."

Billie Bob Harrell, Jr. won $31 million in 1997. Harrell used the money to purchase a ranch, homes, and cars for himself and his family members. His spending and lending spiraled out of control. Harrell lost it all. His wife divorced him. And just 20 months after winning the Lottery, he committed suicide.

Jack Whittaker won $315 million in 2002. I met Jack Whittaker on two occasions. We lived in the same community at the time of his winning. He made news locally and nationally because one of the first things he did with his money is that he gave 10% of the $315 million to his local church as a tithe. My kind of guy! After winning, his life involved arrests, shattered relationships, lawsuits, and the death of loved ones. He had thousands of dollars in cash stolen while patronizing a strip club. Whittaker later said he wished he had "torn up the ticket" and never turned it in.

Callie Rogers won $3 million in 2003. Sixteen-year-old Rogers spent the money on fancy cars, extravagant gifts, lavish vacations, and plastic surgery. One of her boyfriends got her hooked on cocaine. Dealing with the habit cost her hundreds of thousands of dollars in rehab. Rogers attempted suicide twice.

It's not just lottery winners. Many who have attained great wealth in life later regretted getting it. That's why the Bible has so much to say about the dangers of wealth. Being blessed with wealth can be a real curse if the money itself gains our attention and sets our priorities.

James clearly warns those with money that they need to be cautious, or they might end up with regret like so many lottery winners. "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you" (James 5:1). Strong caution from one who had seen the corruptive force of greed destroy many pious and religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Today, ask God to open your eyes to the things you own, the property you have, the portfolio in which you rest, and the money you hold. Ask Him to help you keep perspective and not lose sight of the Lord and his priorities.

Wealth in and of itself is not sin or dangerous. How we view it, value it, and use it can be treacherous!


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