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Keith Wishum: You can’t win without a ticket

Some time ago, when there was much media furor over huge lottery jackpots, I received a copy of the following fictional letter.

“Dear Lt. Governor of Florida:

Last Saturday, I purchased a Florida Lotto ticket at a local convenience store.

That night I watched the Lotto result on TV and checked my ticket. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the numbers I had chosen on my ticket did not match the winning numbers! I had fully intended to pick the winning numbers, but I had made a mistake on my ticket. I have contacted a lawyer and, because my intent to pick the winning numbers was genuine, he says I may have a case.

In light of this turn of events, I am requesting that you go ahead and send me the money I am owed. Your cooperation in this unfortunate incident is appreciated.

Sincerely,

Honest Citizen”

What do you think? Would this citizen get the prize money? Hardly! It just doesn’t work that way. Everybody intends to pick the winning numbers, but intentions don’t win. The correct numbers win. Either you pick them or you don’t win.

Good intentions are nice, but by themselves, they don’t accomplish anything. We don’t expect to be rewarded just for having good intentions. The boss won’t say, “Well, you got absolutely nothing done this year, but you meant well so here’s a hefty bonus.” Our teachers didn’t say, “You missed every question, but I could tell you intended to get them right so I’ll give you 100 on the test.”

What about in religion? Does it matter what beliefs you pick or what practices you adopt? Strangely, our culture has largely answered, “No.” We seem to have accepted the idea that one lifestyle is as good as another — that good intentions are all that is needed.

Are we surprised to hear Jesus Christ say otherwise? He says, “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Jesus seemed to think that good intentions are not enough. We must actually put them into action.

The good news is that he has already given us the winning numbers. All we must do is look up the winning ways in his book and do them. The prize is too big to miss. Let’s get our tickets!

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.