Taking Care of Valuable Things

for the week of June 25, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

I'm not a fan of lotteries, for they seem to me to be filled with all sorts of moral inconsistencies. The hope of catching lightning in a bottle has coaxed money from some of society's most vulnerable members and plunged them still deeper into despair. That state governments would entice people to put their money into buying lottery tickets is unconscionable.

With all that said, I was fascinated by the story of Melvin Milligan. The 40-year-old native of Passaic, New Jersey, stepped forward to claim a multimillion-dollar Big Game lottery prize just two days before it expired. As a matter of fact, one national news service had published a story with the following headline on June 10: "$46 million lottery jackpot goes unclaimed by deadline."

The winning ticket for the June 9, 2000, drawing had to be claimed by midnight Saturday, June 9, 2001. The winner just got under the wire!

Milligan had forgotten the ticket. After fixing some computers a year ago, he stopped at a convenience store to get a soda. He noticed a Big Game poster and spent $5 to play. He put his ticket in a junk drawer at home and forgot it for a year. On a TV newscast Thursday night before the deadline, he and his wife saw a piece about the unclaimed prize that showed the store where the single winning ticket had been sold. Milligan recognized the store in Montvale, New Jersey, and told his wife about buying a ticket there himself about a year ago.

"You better start tearing up the house!" Mrs. Milligan told him. He found it in about ten minutes, drove to a site where a lottery agent validated it, and dropped it in a mail slot at a closed post office. What a vote for the postal service!

I'll bet you are not a lot different from Milligan. Why, you've told yourself more than once, "Whew, I nearly let this-or-that get away." Worse still, you've likely berated yourself after the fact for letting some great opportunity slip by.

For some, it was an investment you had the chance to make ten years ago. For others, it was far more personal and relates to a college sweetheart to whom a proposal was delayed too long. And for some people, it will be resisting God's grace until death or a hard heart makes it forever too late. The thief on the cross, for example, just got under the wire. That's too big a risk for you to take!

There are forms of gambling more dangerous than lotteries. And there are deeds of carelessness that make Milligan look like a meticulous record-keeper.

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