Overcoming the American Dream
We are raised in a culture that continually tells us we are all entitled to the American dream: Perfect house, perfect job, perfect spouse, perfect family. It’s our right to be happy, healthy and wealthy and to avoid anything that would lead to the contrary. While driving and talking with my husband the other day, I was hit by the hard truth that this mentality has become a stumbling block to many in the Christian Church.
I read the Bible and I’m blown away by what a follower of Jesus is called to do. Give what we have to the poor (Mark 10:21). Care for the needy, the widow, the orphan. (Matt 25:40, James1:27). Be the servant of all (Mark 9:35). Forgive and love our enemies. Pray for those who persecute us (Luke 6:27-28). Go preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Mark 16:15). I mean, YIKES! This is some serious stuff!
But, I look at God and say...
"You’ve given me an amazing life! Look how happy I am! Look how cute my kids are; how much we enjoy our home! What if following you into broken places changes that? What if life gets complicated? What if my children don’t understand? What if we give so much that we have to downsize and cut back? You don’t literally mean you want me to do that stuff, right God? Don’t you see how good my life is? Can’t I just reach out to the clean cut, ‘normal’ people?”
Then I search his Word, and God breaks through my misguided idea that I’m entitled to an easy life.
I came into this world as a naked, broken sinner and if Jesus Christ had not scooped me up as his child that is where I would still be today. My life, my breath, my eternity are all the gracious gift of my Creator. But all too often I love and treasure the “things/people” he has given me rather than treasuring God himself (Matt 10:37-39).
God tells us he has come to give us life, and life to the full (John 10:10), but that doesn’t necessarily equal the American dream. God says that in him we find life, joy, purpose and every good thing. We were made to worship God, to live our lives in service and complete surrender to him. Only in Jesus do we find life to the fullest. Notice that easy and comfortable are never mentioned in this list. In fact quite the opposite is true:
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. - John 15:18-19
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. - Luke 9:24
For too much of my life I sat immobilized by the fear that living my life completely for God and setting out to do the work He has called me to do would cause me to lose or miss out on some of the great things I had felt I was entitled to.
But God reveals to us a new way of life, far better than the American dream and totally contradictory to it.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4
My life may get uncomfortable. My possessions may not be as a glorious and up-to-date as others. My “perfect,” cute, family may look different, act different and live different. But I’m willing to give up the things the world says I need in order to "set my mind on things above." I'd rather have a “life to the full” (John 10:10).
When you walk down the road of living out what the Bible teaches, I'm not going to lie, life might become less comfortable. I've realized that the things I've had to "give up" in order to follow God have paled in comparison to the joy I've found in living my life for him. I’ve jumped in headfirst, and what I've found is this: a life lived with abandon for God does not disappoint.