Maybe it seems kind of strong to say it that way. Still, a rash of recent TV shows, built around the possibility of winning tons of cash, has grabbed a lot of viewers. The appeal is not unlike the lure of gambling - playing to the fantasy of suddenly coming into lifestyle-changing riches.
Toss in a celebrity host, a little friendly chitchat, some trivia questions for the audience to guess at along with the contestants and ... bingo. The recipe for a hit. And we all have some harmless fun.
Or, is it always harmless? Are some people hooked on a viewing habit they'll have a hard time breaking away from? Would that be in parallel with compulsive gamblers, who struggle for freedom from self-destructive routines that looked like nothing more than harmless entertainment in the beginning?
The aim of this column isn't to dump cold water on happy TV diversion. Maybe this article is especially for those who find their thoughts just a little more fixated than they'd like on TV's winners and losers. And for others who spot a trend of thought in which reliance on chance displaces a better conviction that good is for everyone and is trustworthy.
There are steps that lead away from the allure of jackpot fantasies, and on to a surer outlook on life.
For starters, it's good to think about the meaning of true worth. Are we giving our time to what we value most - to more shared moments with loved ones; deeper appreciation for nature; plenty of healthy laughter every day? These kinds of things help most of us feel richer. But these aren't material at all. They don't hinge on fate swinging your way. In a sense, laughter, appreciation of good, and so on, are free gifts to us from the giver of all good.
God is infinite. God's love for us is endless. The blessings God gives are unvarying. Consider, though, that in the haste to "get ahead," we could zoom past God's free gifts without accepting any of them. Talk about losing instead of winning! How much better to pause and view what God has done.
Again and again, the Bible steers readers away from the piling up of material wealth and points us to what is more enduring - "the things that are freely given to us of God" (I Cor. 2:12). Of course, money, even lots of it, isn't evil. But the obsession with it tends to deaden us to what has real value.
One early follower of Christ wrote, "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation ..." (I Tim. 6:17-19).
Nothing is more worth storing up, worth winning, than an increasingly vivid understanding of God. God is the source of all good, the giver of all things to enjoy. God is Love itself. The presence of divine Love is both engaging and rewarding. As we engage in knowing and expressing Love better, we find the rewards of its presence in our lives.
Specifically, we gain more control over the use of our time, so that it becomes easier to choose what's entertaining, without it being addictive. Another reward is that we're free to enjoy ourselves and others more, instead of envying people who squirm on the edge of winning or losing a fortune. And best of all, we begin to glimpse in all people more of the humor, intelligence, appreciativeness, worth, that divine Love has given each of us.
To be "rich in good works," as the Bible describes, is natural. To value what has true worth in our lives is to engage in at least one of those good works. Then real rewards come along - a richness in knowing God better that shows up in our lives in practical and satisfying ways.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, once wrote, "Rest assured that He in whom dwelleth all life, health, and holiness, will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 186). Breaking away from impoverished views of life, we gain everything, while losing nothing.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society