I’ve no particular objection to people buying lottery tickets if it adds a bit of excitement to life, so long as they can afford it. But one of the lottery adverts I’ve just seen illustrates a problem that besets all of us.
The advert shows a woman who’s been presented with her substantial winnings.
She’s understandably delighted, but says words to the effect of ‘it’s not just winning, it’s the good causes’.
You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out how lotteries operate: money goes into the pot from ticket sales, some is paid out in prizes, some goes to good causes, and some is kept by the operators and those who administer the scheme.
The more paid in prizes, the less there is for good causes. The woman hasn’t contributed to good causes: it’s the people who never win a big prize who do that and pay for scheme administration.
Her motives for buying the ticket in the first place are mixed: she wants to win but feels she should be helping other people.
When she wins she cons herself that she cares about other people as much or more than she does about winning.
Most of us would be a bit like that and, of course, that’s why the advert is as it is.
We all have mixed motives. Some of us work long hours telling ourselves and others that our employers can’t manage if we don’t, or that we need the money to pay the mortgage and feed the children.
But to what extent are we just making ourselves feel useful, or even avoiding having spare time with people we find it difficult to deal with?
Some of us spend hours transporting our children and grandchildren to one after-school activity to another, conning ourselves that we’re being good parents or grandparents, when the children would benefit far more from a bit of our attention and a cuddle.
We all con ourselves. But when we create and believe in that image of ourselves, we can’t present our true selves to God, and that makes it far more difficult to accept that God loves us as we truly are.
We don’t need to: God knows us better than we know ourselves, the worst in us and the best.
And he loves us, just as we are.