So this weekend I traveled to Chicago, IL. There were a few reasons that this was a good week to visit. There were good friends that also were going to be in town at the same time. It was a chance to visit the downtown Chick-fil-a for the first time. My main reason for coming, however, was to audition for the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" game show.
Knowing useless trivia is my bread and butter. There's a reason that Wikipedia is one of my most visited pages on my web browser. There are few things that I am more confident about than the fact that I could be very successful on a show involving answering trivia questions. (Especially when it's multiple choice.) So, because of this, I went to Chicago, ran from lunch at Chick-fil-a to the commuter train to the racetrack where the auditions were being held.
I waited in line. Eventually we were moved to another line inside of the racetrack complex. Finally the line moved up to a conference room where everyone was handed a free t-shirt, magnet and ticket to a horse race sometime in the next few months. On a normal occasion that would be enough for me. Just the experience of doing something out of the ordinary like this would be worth it. I knew I could do better though.
We were handed a test in an envelope and told not to open it. After everyone was seated and we were given instructions we took a 10-minute test involving 30 multiple choice trivia questions. Only the top scores would move on to the interview with a producer. I wouldn't have admitted it but anything less than moving past the trivia quiz would have been a failure.
I moved on. :)
When I got to the interview they asked me about something funny I wrote on my application (I promised to overthrow the teachers when running for 8th grade student council... somehow didn't win. Kinda fishy.) Then to close out the interview they asked what I would do if I won a Million Dollars. The truth is that my motivation was just to win the game. I hadn't given a lot of thought to the money. I knew that I would pay off my school bills and not have to worry about getting a job while in grad school but they wanted something a little more interesting. I guess I'm just too pragmatic.
After a couple seconds of thinking I told them that seeing as ministry was my passion in life that I would fund projects around the world that could use help. I'm sure I sounded like a Miss America contestant. As I sat waiting for my train back downtown into the city I thought about whether or not I had been truthful in my answer. I came to 3 options I could use the money for:
1. Buying something I could never own- I jokingly told a friend that I should have said I would buy 100 years worth of season tickets to the Detroit Lions. The truth is that there is an allure in all of a sudden having the resources to purchase something that I probably will never purchase with the salary of a youth pastor with grad school debts. Boats, houses, Rolex watches, designer clothes... all of these things that would probably only be purchasable if I did something like win a Million Dollars...
2. Set it aside for security. This would be more than just paying for my school bills. I know that if I set this money aside then I wouldn't have to worry about retirement or paying my currently non-existent kids' education. I would never have to worry about finances again when I have a $750,000 safety net in the bank. I'd never have to live in the apartment that has less space than a normal bathroom and more cockroaches than a normal trash dump. I'd never have to worry about losing a job and being homeless. There would be that security there. As someone who'd like to be married sometime it really would take a lot of pressure off of finances.
3. Give most of it away. I'd be pretty committed to giving at least 10% to my church. Even opportunities like a game show come from the Lord and it's His money to distribute as He sees fit. It's why I'm faithful to give when my paycheck is $150 now because I want to be faithful with what He's given me. So the question becomes, what about the money after that? Would I regret helping a missionary if I all of a sudden lose a job or have a child with a serious health problem? Could I trust the organizations I helped not to use it simply for the 1st and 2nd purposes above?
The answer to the problem
The problem I see with spending it on things I would never be able to buy is that it really reveals what's important to me. It's evident already what's important to most Americans. Things. We build up our supply of things and things and more things. We evaluate how we're doing in life by the number of things that we have. The truth is that I think that most of those things would leave me feeling pretty empty. Especially 100 years worth of tickets to the Detroit Lions. The Bible never says that it's wrong to have money but it does say that the love of money is the root of evil. I would probably buy a nicer car, maybe a few other things that aren't excessive but are currently out of reach.
The second issue is one of security. Is it wrong to be secure? It seems like security is more of an American/Western idea than a Biblical one. I'm not sure that it's wrong to be secure though. There are people out there saying that you aren't trusting God to supply your needs if you have a savings account. It seems like that's a little like saying you aren't trusting God to protect you if you drive down the correct side of the road. I think God blesses common sense. There is another side of security though where I know that I would miss out on my faith being purified in the stress of needing to rely on God to supply my needs if I always lived in a giant safety net. Some security would be helpful but too much would be, instead of a love of money, a love of myself.
Finally, the prospect of giving the money away. Some people have the Spiritual gift of giving and would give away their t-shirt if they saw someone that needed it. I'm not sure that I'm gifted in that particular way but I do have to ask, if I had the resources to help needs be met and the Gospel to be spread, how could I live with myself holding on to the money? What cost are a few "toys" if there are children without water? What cost is security if there are people dying without knowledge of the Gospel?
So, while I don't know that I would give all the money away, I believe now that I was giving my actual answer to the producer. I would probably make sure I had money set aside for an emergency fund. I would probably set aside money in an account to grow so that I didn't rely on working until my dying day to provide for a family. I would probably go to a few more Cubs games. I would definitely pay for school.
If I didn't use the money as a tool to spread the Gospel though...it would be a waste to even go on the game show in the first place.