Unclaimed treasure

Are you a buyer of lottery tickets? I hope you aren’t, but I would still like you if you were. Garrison Keillor said that the lottery is a tax on people who are not good at math.

Early this year somebody bought a Powerball ticket at a gas station in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. In the March 22 drawing, that ticket became a winner. The jackpot by then had grown to $156.2 million. But here’s the thing—you don’t register your name with each ticket, and so lottery officials don’t have the name of the winner. Ticket buyers have to pay attention to the release of information about the drawing and then go and redeem their tickets. It’s been two months, and the winner has not yet come forward.

The station’s security cams have a digital record of all the store traffic for that day, and so the lottery officials have a fairly good idea of what the person might look like, but no name. The winner has until mid-September to claim the prize, after which it will be declared forfeited. Think of it—a fortune is slipping through someone’s fingers. If you should invest that money and assume a very conservative 3% return, you would get a guaranteed lifetime income of $468,000 a year, and when you die your heirs still have the $156 million!

You know, it occurs to me that this potentially very sad story is a metaphor for the way salvation in Christ comes to people. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life in our place in order to give us the ability to claim perfection on judgment day. He died a willing death for us and absorbed in his body the punishment for a world of sins. All those things were done out of pure grace—God’s amazing, free, and complete gift, better even than $156 million.

But salvation comes also through faith, that is, each individual person needs to be connected to Christ in faith to receive what he bought for us. That lottery jackpot would go to only one person, but Christ’s work is for all. But only those who believe it have it. If you think it’s sad that somebody bollixed up his or her chance at $156 million, what will that person’s regrets be like in hell to realize that he or she could have been in heaven?

As Christians, you and I have the amazing privilege of informing people of what Christ won for them and inviting them to claim their prize. What’s not to like about receiving forgiveness of your sins, the daily favor and protection of God, and immortality in heaven when you die?

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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