Who wants to be a millionaire?
The Who wants to be a millionaire? franchise is the most internationally popular television franchise of all time, being aired in more than 100 countries worldwide.1
The game featured in the successful movie Slumdog millionaire, in which two young Indian brothers, Jamil and Salik, make friends with a young girl called Latika.
Initially you think the movie is about escaping poverty by making money in any way possible, but it is really about escaping the poverty of loneliness.
Jamil has tracked Latika down and is in her kitchen, where she is watching the Millionaire programme on the TV. ‘Why does everyone love this programme?’ Jamil asks.
‘It’s a chance to escape, isn’t it? Walk into another life’, Latika replies.2
Is this not the reason so many people want to win the lottery or win a million pounds — to escape their current life?
We want to be free from the drudgery of making do or going without, to live a life where we are able to buy what we want, when we want. We don’t want the worry of losing our jobs or homes; we want to feel safe.
The real issues
We think the solution lies in having lots of money. But it is not money that makes us happy. It might ease the pain for a short while, but doesn’t provide a cure for our inner poverty.
Money can be a snare, distracting us from the real issues of life. We might think the major problem is shortage of money, but sometimes the problem is about how we are spending our money.
It was a beautiful, clear Saturday morning in Umtata, South Africa. And it was the day four girls from the Ikwesi Sunday school class were going with me to Mpongo Park, a game reserve just outside East London.
Most of the girls had never been outside Transkei or seen the animals who lived in the game reserve. I was unable to take the whole class with me, so they decided among themselves who would go on the trip.
At 7.00am I arrived at Mr Tikayo’s house in Ikwesi. My jaw dropped when I saw the crowd that had gathered. The whole class and their parents were there. They had come to say hamba kahle which means go well. The second surprise was the effort the girls put into their appearance; they were in their best dresses and looked adorable.
Three hours later we arrived at the game reserve, where we met up with some young folk from Scotland. The girls had a ball. I wish I could replicate the sounds they made when they saw a hippo for the first time; and when they saw the crocodile their screeches were musical.
We had to leave the park around 3.30pm. Before we headed home, we stopped in the shop for the girls to buy souvenirs with the small amount of money they had been given before we left Umtata. I stayed in the car and within ten minutes they were back with their edible souvenirs.
The first thing they did was pull out of their bags at least two extra large chocolate bars and with bright grins on their faces handed them to me!
I was speechless, and eventually said, ‘No I can’t take this. It is too much; you keep it for yourselves’.
‘But Mizz, we want to say “thank you”.’
I struggled to get my next words out. They had so little, and yet here they were giving me the biggest bars of chocolate they could find, just to say ‘thank you’.
I held back the tears (just) and, because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, said, ‘I will take a small bar, but you keep the big ones and share them with your friends at home’.
They had a brief exchange in Xhosa, and then agreed. As we made our way back home, I felt ashamed. I had felt quite smug about giving up my Saturday to take ‘deprived’ children on a trip, but the only thing the children were deprived of was selfishness.
When we arrived home, the same crowd was there to welcome us back. The surprises didn’t end that night. The next day at Sunday school I was asking the children to recall the animals they had seen.
To my amazement, it was the children who hadn’t been there that answered! The girls had not only shared their chocolate with their friends, but shared the whole day in such a way that all the children got a taste of the game park.
What a lesson from children who didn’t have running water in their homes, never mind the latest mobile phone or i-pod! It was one of the clearest lessons I have seen that our attitude to money is more important than how much money we have.
Jesus said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35), and these children lived it that day.
They gave me more than money can buy; they gave me a fragrant memory to carry with me for the rest of my life, inspiring me to use what I have been given to make a difference in as many lives as I can.
A little goes a long way. ‘Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7).
There is one part of the Bible that is nearly always misquoted. People say ‘Money is the root of all evil’, but what the Bible actually says is, ‘The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil’ (1 Timothy 6:10). It is not how much money we have that is the issue, it is our attitude to it.
God warns us in the book of Hebrews to keep your lives free from covetousness (Hebrews 13:5). It is not just rich people who need this warning, it is everyone.
Did you know that about 3 billion people live on less than £2 a day; that 1 in 2 children in the world live in poverty.3 Did you know that in one day about 16,000 children die from hunger?4
That is a spine-chilling statistic. All these precious little lives snuffed out, largely because of greed or indifference from those who should be helping them. Next time you use a credit card or money to pay for something, ask yourself, ‘Is this my master, or am I master of this money?’
Jesus told us we cannot serve God and money (Luke 16:13). Money appears to offer status, power, control and security, but it is a cruel master because it doesn’t deliver what it promises.
Hidden in the ‘small print’ of ‘wanting to be a millionaire’ are these terms, that so few remember — status and power are possible, but only as long as your account balance is fatter than most others in society; larger forces are at work over which money has no power; security cannot be guaranteed, due to market fluctuations (and corruption); all offered benefits are temporary, since nothing can be taken out of this world.
On the other hand, God offers through Jesus Christ life, peace and forgiveness; and his promises come with an eternal guarantee, whose ‘small print’ says — the more you give the more you achieve for me; you will need to give an account for how you have used all the money I gave you; what you do to the least of people you have done to me; and my love is not for sale, you just need to ask and receive.
‘Do not wear yourself out to get rich, but have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle’ (Proverbs 23:4-5).
When we love money, we buy into a lie. When we focus on what God has done for us in Christ and what he promises to yet do for us, then money pales into the distance, it becomes something to use for him rather than to hoard for ourselves.
‘Making a difference in people’s lives — seeing it with your own eyes — is perhaps the most satisfying thing you’ll ever do. If you want to enjoy life — give’ (Michael Bloomberg).
© Dena Macleod
1. www.bbc.co.uk,12 April 2005.
2. Slumdog millionaire, Celador Films, 2008.
3. www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats, 29 October 2010.
4. www.wiki.answers.com/Q, 29 October 2010.