Joshua chapter 5
Pastor Bill, “If I were to ask you what the American dream is, what would you tell me? Is it a car in every garage, a chicken in every pot, and 2.3 children?”
Is this a rhetorical question, Pastor? Seriously, I think that there is more to the “American” dream than just the car, the chicken, and the children. Actually, I think these are no longer dreams but as American’s what we expect. Our dreams flutter more around our egos, which is compensated by the material objects we can possess. Sometimes, even those possessions go beyond material objects and encase themselves around owning people – look at him/her hanging off my arm. Hmmm…
Pastor Bill, “How does the American dream fit into the gospel of Jesus Christ?
As the American dream goes, we can do anything we set our minds to accomplish. There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we combine ingenuity, imagination, and innovation with skill and hard work. We can earn any degree, start any business, climb the ladder of success, obtain any prize, and achieve any goal.
James Truslow Adams, (in 1931) who is credited with coining the phrase “American dream”, stated, “a dream in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and recognized by others for what they are.”
So, is there anything wrong with this picture? Certainly hard work and high aspirations are not bad, and the freedom to pursue our goals is something we should celebrate. Scripture explicitly commends all these things.
underlying the idea of the “American dream” is a dangerous assumption that, if we are not cautious, we will unknowingly accept and a deadly goal that, if we are not careful, we will ultimately achieve.
So you are telling me that the bible says to work hard and achieve our high aspirations. That Adams said it right, clear, and true. How can what we are suppose to do, and accomplish our goals, be “deadly”?
Pastor Bill, “The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability. The American dream prizes what people can accomplish when they believe in themselves and trust in themselves.”
Hold on a moment. Isn’t it me that is working hard? My fingers bleed? I am away from my family because I am out working, hard, and earning that paycheck that says I am living the American Dream. And who else am I suppose to trust to take care of my needs and that of my family? Is this a trick question?
Pastor Bill, “As we are drawn towards such thinking, the Gospel has different priorities. The Gospel beckons us to die to ourselves and to believe (Trust) in God and to Trust in His power.
In the Gospel, God confronts us with our utter inability to accomplish anything of value apart from Him. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Even more important is the subtly fatal goal we will achieve when we pursue the American dream. As long as we achieve our desires in our own power, we will always give us the credit. To use Adam’s words, we will be recognized by others for what we are. This, after all, is the goal of the American dream: to make much of ourselves. The Gospel and the American dream are clearly and ultimately opposing to each other. While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the Gospel is to make much of God.
If we are willing to humble ourselves, to follow the gospel and partake in the values of God we will be richer, maybe not wealthier, but certainly richer. The American Dream is about wealth, not necessarily richness; while the gospel is about richness not necessarily wealth.
I have to say that in my two decades as an adult, and even some of myself as a teen, I can recognize the difference, and try to teach this to my children. There is a difference between being rich and being wealthy. It may be semantics of usage but for me it is in these semantics that we start to define our lives, and how we make our decisions.
When I look at someone like Pastor Bill I see a very rich man. When I look at someone like George W. Bush I see a wealthy man. What distinguishes the two? One is about the soul and spirit, working on the values of living, reaching others; while the other is working to fill his own needs which is, in my humble opinion, embedded in green bills.
How do we cross the divide? How do we go from the needs of self to the needs of others when we are living in a society of myopic venue? Can we start one relationship at a time and make a difference when we are the lone fish swimming upstream?
To me… YES!
How? How can “you” (being me) say “yes”? And how can you help us say yes?
I’m just a humble servant. I cannot preach the gospel to you. I cannot recite bible verses. What I can do is walk among you, just like you, as an extension of you and smile. I can talk to you. I can laugh with you. And share sad, funny, touching stories with you. And when we part we will both be richer for the exchange. I’ll take this wealth and hopefully spread it to others.
The words repeat themselves…
Pay if Forward
Give it to Your Children
Those ideals should be the American Dream. This is what our children should be learning with their ABCs and 123s. Imagine a country that is the richest in the world, because we adapted what God really wants us to carry in our wallet.