The American Dream: Friend or Foe?

By Joel Vestal –  July 2002

The American dream, what is it? Independence, personal rights, the pursuit of pleasure, safety, freedom, and security give us a bit of a description. Were these the characteristics of the teachings of Jesus? I would argue that the core of the teachings of Jesus and “American dream” stand in contradiction to each other. Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” (John 14:12) Jesus was not about his own pleasure, safety, or security but he came to do the will of the father who sent him. Jesus says “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it (Lk.9:23-24).A call to Jesus is a call to die to our own will, pleasures, and ambitions and embrace the will of the God the father. We know that the will of God is that the gospel must be preached to all nations (Matt. 28:19-20; Rev. 7:9-10). We know that the will of God is to minister and care for the poor (Ps 140:12; 1 Jn.3:17)The “American Dream” is what has captivated Christians in American. We are more occupied with our own safety than God’s glory among all nations and justice to the poor. We are more consumed with financial security than doing the will of God by caring for the orphan and widow (Jam 1:27). The Great Commission cannot be taken seriously because millions of Christians bathe in the pool of luxury and safety while billions die without Christ and live in poverty without the the basic necessities of life. What is God going to say to us on judgment day? The church in America is a sleeping giant desperately needing to be awakened to God’s global heart and passion for all nations to know and worship him. I am greatly disturbed of how Christians feel that our political process will save our society and the world. As election year is upon us, we need this reminder, “It is not by might, nor power, but my Spirit says the Lord! (Zach 4:6) Thomas Merton writes, “If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair; but ask me what I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”

Are you living for God? What is keeping you from fully giving your life to God? What is keeping you from living for his desire to be known and worshiped on every shore and among every tribe on earth? Are you living simply so other may simply live? Are you more concerned with the “American Dream” than being a true disciple of
Jesus? I pray we all can live fully for the purposes of God and His glory and not get trapped in living for the American dream that will disappoint. Meditate on these words of a song written in 1868 by Mary Thomson:

“O Christians, haste, your mission high fulfilling, to tell to the entire world that God is light; that he who made all nations is not willing one soul should perish, lost in shades of night.
Send heralds forth to bear the message glorious; give of your wealth to speed them on their way; pour out your soul for them in prayer victorious; and all your spending Jesus will repay.”

Following the Purposes of God!

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