Revelations: We're all lottery winners
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I never play the lottery.
I know the odds and understand the realities of winning - and losing.
So, anytime I'm confronted with the glass display of lottery tickets at the gas station, I choose to keep my dollars in my wallet. I know I'd rather spend those lottery dollars on material splurges with a guaranteed payoff - like Starbucks coffee caffeine rushes and vending machine cookies.
But last week, during the $646 million Mega Millions lottery hoopla, I admit, I was tempted to take my chances with the golden ticket.
Like many Americans across the nation, when I heard the lottery pot exceeded half a billion dollars, I thought seriously about running out to my local convenience store and purchasing 100 $1 "quick pick" tickets.
I weighed the odds, considered the miniscule opportunity of winning, and opted to keep my dollars in the wallet for future caffeine rushes and vending machine cookies.
As it turns out, however, a group of 12 lucky Ganado residents took home a piece of that lottery pie this week. On Saturday, the group learned their $1,200 buy-in, paid off in the amount of $250,000, split evenly between them. Before taxes, they were awarded about $21,000 each.
Since I report on Jackson County, in addition to religion, I was assigned to interview the group about their winnings.
When I met them at the lottery claim office in Victoria, the 12 winners were enthusiastic about picking up their five-digit paycheck. And who wouldn't be excited about winning $20,000 with little to no effort involved? I would be. You likely would be as well.
So, as I stood in the parking lot, interviewing the 12 about their win, laughing with them as they poked fun at each other and their unusual luck, I noticed how many of them had yet to consider how they intended to spend the winnings.
No new cars, or exotic vacations lined up. No residential home additions, or flat-screen TV purchases.
"I guess we're kinda boring," one of the winners told me, mid-chuckle.
I didn't think much about it until I was wrapping up the interview. The 12 were making their way inside the lottery office, when lottery winner, Kevin Petrash, pulled me aside.
"You asked how we intended to spend the money? Take a look at this note, it will answer your question," Petrash said, passing me a folded piece of white paper with Biblical verses and Christian conversations printed inside.
On the back of the paper, Petrash wrote, "Proverbs 3:9-10, Honor the Lord with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce, then will your barns be filled with grain, with new wine your vats will overflow."
Below the passage, Petrash wrote me a personal note, "The first part will go to the Lord."
I'm not sure why he chose to hand me the note in private, although discussions and actions of tithing are usually done in secret.
But when I opened the note, it was as if the Lord had given me the message directly: "Jennifer! Honor the Lord with your wealth...."
You see, I needed the reminder because tithing has been an area of my life that has been regularly inconsistent. Regular inconsistency means I tithe every so often (when I remember my check book, or make a point to donate money) but it's not something I make a point to do.
My father always said growing up, that we should tithe, so God will bless us. And while I appreciated his commitment to tithing every week (even if our family never made it to church), I didn't like the idea of giving God money, so we'd end up winning the earthly and heavenly lottery.
I wanted to tithe to thank God for the provision he's already given me and continues to give me every day: a home, clothes, food, job, income, etc.
And even though I'm wholly aware that I should be a joyful giver to the Lord, I often choose to keep the dollars in my wallet. Reading Petrash's note and reflecting on his example of selfless giving stirred a conviction in me that everything I have belongs to God - even the things we get for free.
As I drove away from the assignment, I thought about God's guaranteed promise of winning a place in heaven. There's no buy-in or divided winnings. There's only a free lottery, where everyone wins, and everyone's wine vat overflows.
Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.