Who, pulling into the gas station to fill up, hasn’t, seeing the lottery sign for the current jackpot (60 million? 234 million? whatever) fantasized about what you it would be like to win? What could you do with a sudden $155 million (after taxes?)
What a fast road to happiness, too, right?
Not necessarily. And, indeed, mostly likely—not at all. It just doesn’t work that way. (Come on, if $155 million can’t bring happiness, what could?) In fact, a book by Carol Graham, called Happiness around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionaires (the title says it all, doesn’t it?) was filled with numbers and stories about how, for example, dirt-poor Nigerians were as happy as the five-times-as-rich Japanese, and so forth. Or how the Afghans, poor, war-weary Afghans were, all in all, happier than a lot of others. “Higher per capita income levels,” she wrote, “do not translate directly into higher average happiness levels.”
This idea, of course, isn’t something suddenly new and revelatory. Thousands of years ago, King Solomon wrote a whole book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes, whose theme was, basically: Money can’t buy happiness. After talking about all the worldly things he had achieved—from buildings, to great gardens, to massive orchestras—and even having great wisdom, in the end, he said: “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done/ And on the labor in which I had toiled/ And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind/ There was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
This world, in and of itself, cannot satisfy the longing of the human heart because this world, in and of itself, is broken, fallen, crushed under six thousand years of sin. It would be a much more dangerous place if it could satisfy our hearts because then who would even think of their need for God, for transcendence, for something that this broken world can never offer? And how fortunate for us that, in Jesus, we have what we need. By finding Jesus, we have “hit the lottery,” big time—and the reward are going to be, literally, out of this world and into a new one.