Sunday Reflections: Powerball and Church

You have more chance of being a canonized saint or crushed by a vending machine than you do of winning at Powerball, Swissvale pastor says.

By Rev. Dai Morgan

A few months ago the multi-state super lottery, Powerball, had accumulated a record-breaking jackpot. By the time of the drawing on Nov. 28, the prize had grown to $579.9 million.

It was the second-largest lottery payout in U.S. history, following 16 consecutive drawings that produced no top winner. Tickets sold at a rate of 130,000-a-minute in the hours leading up to the drawing.

The odds of winning that particular drawing were less than 1 in 175,300,000. Let’s put that into perspective. Following are a list of things that are more likely to happen to an individual than winning that Powerball prize, last November:

The “Book of Odds” suggests that your chances of becoming a movie star are 1 in 1,505,000.

The chance of being born with extra fingers or toes (polydactyly) is merely 1 in 500.

According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, the chances of being attacked by a shark are 1 in 11,500,000

According to “Sports Digest,” the odds of a high school senior basketball player being drafted by the NBA, after college, is 1 in 6,864,000.

Here’s an interesting array of odds—chance of becoming President of the United States is 1 in 10 million, an astronaut is 1 in 12 million, a canonized saint is 1 in 20 million. What do you make of that combination?

 The chance of giving birth to identical quadruplets is 1 in 15 million (presumably, the odds are significantly different for men).

1 in 12,500 amateur golfers will make a hole-in-one on a par-three course. 

The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are 1 in 10,000 (in a given year: 1 in 1,000,000). 

The odds of dying because of a lightning strike, according to the National Safety Council, are 1 in 134,906—over a thousand times more likely than winning that Powerball jackpot! 

To continue being morbid, how about the following choice tidbits?:

According to the National Safety Council, a person is more likely to die in a pedestrian accident than win the lottery. Odds: 1 in 700.

One’s chance of dying in an aviation accident is 1 in 7,178.

However, being killed by a falling airplane part is only 1 in 10,000,000—still 17 times more likely to happen than winning that Powerball. It doesn’t hurt to look upward, now and then.

The chance of dying from a sting from an insect such as a bee, wasp or hornet is 1 in 79,842, according to the National Safety Council.

The odds of being crushed by a vending machine are 1 in 112 million. You know this had to have happened to some poor soul and, then, an actuary was assigned to figure out the odds.

Chances of being killed by a mountain lion in California are 1 in 36 million. I would assume that if you go to the beach the odds will be greatly improved in your favor.

You get the idea. The chances of winning any Powerball lottery are highly unlikely—not to mention the drawing that occurred last November. However, in that particular drawing, two people did split the jackpot and almost nine thousand others were awarded smaller prizes.

I suppose that the knowledge that someone will eventually pick the winning number is what drives people to spend a couple bucks to buy a ticket—though many many people put down a lot more than that.

What I can’t understand is why so many folks will squander money on the lottery—an almost certain losing cause—while so few will concern themselves with church. Some, in fact, will suffer the deprivation which comes from gambling, but not bother to seek the spiritual abundance which comes with church attendance.

Thinking about the matter further, I suppose that buying a lottery ticket is pretty easy and convenient. It is impersonal. Folks might experience the excitement of anticipation. One can create a fantasy of hope. The cost can be perceived as small while the potential material gain imagined as large.

On the other hand, if one doesn’t attend church, one can avoid going to the trouble of leaving the house. One does not have to deal with the inconvenience of “rubbing shoulders.” One will not need to think about bothersome issues such as obedience, responsibility and what constitutes right and wrong. And one will certainly not be confronted with the uncomfortable question of ultimate purpose and the existence of God.   

…Oh, yeah, maybe I do understand why people would rather play the lottery than go to church.

The Rev. Dai Morgan is pastor of Living Spirit Ministry-Swissvale United Methodist Church.


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