Why the “American Dream” Isn’t Biblical
Written by Dave Herrmann | July 15, 2015
Growing up in America, we are told about the “American Dream.” The American Dream can be defined as such:
“a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.” (Wikipedia)
We are told if we go to college, then work hard for 30 to 40 years, we can retire by the age of around 65. We store up our fortunes in our 401ks, our pensions and our social security system. Some work their entire lives with the simple mindset of upward mobility. The thought is that if you can attain a home with a yard and a happy family including a dog or cat, you’ve made it.
The American Dream is an ethos for a nation. But it’s not of God. In fact, the American Dream directly contradicts what Christians should be doing. Let me explain.
Take a second and read Luke 12:13-21. This is a parable Jesus spoke about “the rich fool.” This rich fool is described as the following:
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
So, this rich man yielded an abundant harvest, then he ran out of room for it all, so he did some upward mobility by building bigger barns to store it. Once the work was complete, he thought to himself, It’s time to retire and live life easy.
The American Dream!
Now, here is where God comes into the story. (Jesus always had a way of just shaking people up, didn’t he?)
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Wait—so storing up treasure and living for retirement isn’t what it’s about?
Essentially God is saying the American Dream is foolish. The American Dream isn’t biblical! It contradicts what we’ve been told.
Now, I need to stop for a second….
I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive for success and live a great life. I encourage you to strive for a great career, a great family, a great home! But I’m putting an asterisk on that life. The reason? If you simply live this way, you’re not a Christian. You heard me right. You’re what the Bible describes as a lukewarm Christian.
A lukewarm Christian is mentioned just once in the Bible, in Revelation 3:15-16. It was written as a response to a church in the city of Laodicea. Laodicea was a banking center and a truly wealthy city. The church’s crime was in finding their value in wealth, not Christ. Essentially they’d go to church and praise God, but not live a life FOR God. They were comfortable Christians. They didn’t take the giving aspect of their faith. The exact thing Jesus has called us to do.
Does that sound familiar with regard to churches today? Examine your heart. Are you a lukewarm Christian? Do you value your stuff more than anything else? If Jesus came to you right now and said, “Drop everything and come with me,” would you REALLY do it? In America we’ve ingrained this American Dream ethos into our minds. We’re not living a life for God. We’re not doing what Christ has called “the great commission” because we’re so comfortable in our lives here.
So, what can we do? Well, start with the following:
- Examine yourself, your finances and your heart. Are you giving with a thankful heart? Are you surrendering EVERYTHING to God? If you’re feeling uneasy about that question, that’s called conviction. It’s time to start, my friends.
- Ask God where you should be giving. Now, we’re told to give to our church. That’s standard. But it’s not all. There is no stopping a giving heart. It’s talked about throughout scripture that a giving heart is a blessed heart. I love resting on 2 Corinthians 9:7. Start there.
- Re-examine #1 and #2 all the time. Back to the lukewarm Christian thing. When we start to give, we get in the habit, and that’s great. However, is it changing you, too? If you’re giving but it’s not impacting your faith, maybe you’re not giving enough. Maybe God is calling you to give more?
The American Dream isn’t biblical. Let’s create our own dream. A dream where people are led by faith and compassion. A giving nation that helps people without expecting anything in return. Let’s be difference-makers. Your life will change in more ways than one when you refocus your “dreams.”
In American churches we’ve become accustomed to listening to a sermon but not acting on it. I challenge you today as you read this: ACT on the words in scripture. Be a giver, be a lover, be a soldier for Christ. Our nation is in need of a spiritual revival. It starts with you.