During my lifetime, the American Dream has been so pervasive in our values, assumptions, and expectations that we have allowed it to be a comfortable, acceptable, welcome part of Christianity.
The American dream: Upward mobility. Abundance. Living the good life.
Back in my twenties, those were my goals. I admit it. In my circles, including my church circles, that was the thing to do—that was the way we lived.
Like I said in “I was chasing the American Dream,” when I was a teenager and a young wife and mother, I never questioned those goals. I never questioned my motives for pursuing them.
What a shock it would have been for me if, back then, I had read David Wilkinson’s words in The Prayer of Jabez: “Do we really understand how far the American Dream is from God’s dream for us? We’re steeped in a culture that worships freedom, independence, personal rights, and the pursuit of pleasure.”
Christianity and the American dream clash when our motives for getting more money and possessions are to show off our success, to impress others with our lifestyles, to use our status as a way to compete or exert power, or to pursue self-indulgence and self-gratification.
My husband, Dave, sensed I planned to pursue that kind of American dream, and I thank God for giving me a thinking, questioning man. Dave didn’t want that lifestyle for our young family.
This topic is not easily covered in one short blog post, but I’ll highlight Bible verses that spoke to my husband’s heart back in our pre-Lomalinda days (and later, spoke to my heart, and still do):
Jesus said: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothes? . . . Do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25-33, NIV).
The New Living Translation words verse 33 this way: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
Eventually I realized I needed to look at the American dream in a new way, the better way. Dear Chuck Swindoll—my life and faith would be so different without him!—says, “If I am to seek first in my life God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, then whatever else I do ought to relate to that goal . . . . Every decision I make ought to be filtered through the Matthew 6:33 filter: where I put my money, where and how I spend my time, what I buy, what I sell, what I give away.” (Dear Graduate: Letters of Wisdom from Charles R. Swindoll )
Here’s another of Jesus’ teachings: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. . . . No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:10-21, 24 NIV).
Or, the New Living Translation words verse 24 this way: “No one can serve two masters. . . . You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
The New Century Version words verse 24 this way: “You cannot serve both God and worldly riches.”
Each person and family must decide how to apply those teachings of Jesus.
My husband and God eventually persuaded me to let go of chasing after that American dream.
Instead, our family took a big pay cut and moved to Lomalinda—no medical insurance, no retirement plan. We had to believe God would give us everything we needed—and He did! (And there’s a huge difference between what a person needs and wants.)
I recommend the following for more on this topic: