Who among us hasn’t played the “if I won the lottery” game in our heads?

Maybe for you that means the things you’d buy, the people and charities you’d help and how your life would change.

My mind went through many of the same processes recently, when I bought a ticket and joined the madness as the Powerball jackpot crested the $1 billion mark.

I rarely buy the tickets. Usually, it’s just when the jackpot grows to an astronomical level.

This time, as I contemplated what my house would look like, what charities would no longer have to worry about fundraising and, most importantly in this narrative, in what ways my life would change, I had a different thought than I’ve ever had go through my head.

This time, for the first time, thoughts of the possibilities inherent in my would-be riches gave me not a welcome distraction from everyday life, but instead inspired a true existential dread.

“What if I did win?” I thought, before my thoughts turned to, “I really don’t want to win.”

I know, it sounds insane or maybe you think I’m lying, but I’m serious. I realized that the changes in my life it would necessitate, despite all the good I like to think I would do, would be nearly unbearable. I could no longer see a path to where even this insane amount of money would lead me closer to fulfillment or happiness.

I know, I know — but the money would make it all better, right? Or would it? Maybe I could be one of the ones who could still remain much the same despite the size of my bank account. Maybe I’d become a villain.

God has a way of showing us the lessons He wants us to learn at opportune times and in some sometimes very interesting ways.

As we approach Thanksgiving Day and the holiday season, I have a renewed sense, thanks to this encounter with a brutally honest assessment, of what really matters.

Often, people see prayer as a way of asking that God give us something that we want. But I’ve also heard it said that we don’t pray to try to make God give us what we want. Instead, we pray so He can prepare our hearts for what He’s bringing to us in His will.

It’s taken me more than 40 years to gain a limited understanding of “The Ten Commandments.” But one thing that always stuck out to me as seemingly out-of-place was the prohibition against coveting or desiring what’s not ours. Why would this, a crime which seemingly occurs within us, be included amongst a list of prohibitions that includes murder and theft?

Why does the Bible focus so much on our need to be thankful and grateful to God? I believe this has to do with the fact that what we do have in our lives, whether achieved through “our own” actions or gifted to us, is a result of the grace of God.

When we’re focused on what we don’t have, what we want, but don’t need and what others have, we’re not fully existing in the grace that God has bestowed on us. As a result, our connections with Him and with others are fractured, negatively colored by our viewpoint. That’s why it’s in The 10 Commandments — it’s not a victimless crime. This ultimately leads us to sin against our brothers and sisters.

At Thanksgiving, we are offered an opportunity. We can use it to focus on what we don’t have, what we want and what others have. Or, we can take the opportunity to be thankful for what we have, especially in the others around us — our family and friends — and for a God who loves us so much that, “He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Yeah, I think I’ll take that over the $1 billion.

I pray your Thanksgiving is a good one, filled with joy and with gratitude, and that you experience true fulfillment, not in the passing things of this world, but in the things that matter eternally.

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