Friday, September 6, 2013

The American Dream Misleads Many

In 1931, James Truslow Adams wrote a book, The Epic of America, that would forever change the perception of American culture.

In his book, Adams says, "That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." This was Adam's American dream, and his concept spread rapidly among the states.

The American Dream
The thought of prosperity, material things, and the ideal job has enticed the hearts of Americans, and through the generations, we have developed a sense of entitlement. A man consumes his life with what he desire the most, and for Americans, it is the American dream.

Most of us have aspirations to get a great job, get married, buy a nice house, have two kids, go to church on Sundays, get a dog, and live happily ever after, but will this really make us happy? Is 401K plans and retiring with a surplus amount of money the pinnacle of satisfaction?

If I took a survey of people who saw the American dream as a positive thing, I would assume that many of those people would claim to be Christians, but it leads me to wonder what would Jesus think of the American dream.

The more I read the Bible, the more I see that pursuing this innocent dream has actually become a huge distraction to the most important thing in the world.

When I read about the young rich man in the book of Matthew, I shutter. This man had done everything right. He then asked Jesus what else he could do, and Jesus replied,“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

This man had everything and yet had nothing because he did not have the affections of the Christ. Today, this rich young man would have been your average American. An avid church goer, who probably would have had a great job, and lived out the American dream to perfection, but when Christ told him to give up everything and follow Him, he was stopped dead in his tracks.

The man was so consumed with his material possessions, he was blinded to the glory that Jesus was offering him and he walked away sad. Why would a man who had everything this world could offer, walk away sad?

Some of us read this passage and gladly thank Jesus that he has not called us to give up everything, but in reality, He has. When Jesus says,"Follow me." He never wanted your half-hearted attention, but a life long devotion. 

The American dream will never satisfy our hearts. C.S. Lewis puts it best when he says,“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

I long for a generation that sees past the superficiality of the American dream and will go to whatever lengths to follow Jesus and spread the Gospel. This is the most important thing in the world. I pray that many would come to the realization that Lewis did. There is something worth so much more than living for worldly desires.

As for the American dream, it can go to hell, where it is leading so many.



  1. I think the definition of the American Dream has been lost. The original dream revolved around stability, family, providing a good life for your children- very few immigrants ever planned on being successful millionaires. Instead, they sought freedom to own a piece of land, to keep there children fed, and provide them with an education to lead a better, less impoverished life.

    I agree with you that spending your life seeking wealth is no way to find happiness and certainly not salvation. But the Lord does tell us to use our talents, and to give to the poor (as cited in the story of the young rich man). Now if we have no money in the first place, how can we give to the poor? How can we further build the kingdom without resources?

    I think God wants us to be successful, in our jobs, in our families, and in all our spiritual, education, personal endeavors. It is what we then do with that success that then matters to him - do we give or keep for ourselves? Do we bless others or do we hold it tight within the walls of ours homes? That I think is where many lose their way on the path of the American Dream.

  2. Thanks for the comment! The point I was making in the article is that people's view of the American life does not really add up with what Scripture tells us to do. I am not trying to say that it is bad to be successful, but when that becomes your primary life goal and Christ becomes secondary, it is an idol. With that being said, if we aren't willing to give up everything for Christ, we are no better than the rich young man.

    I don't think everyone should go be an overseas missionary, and I do feel it is important that there should be Christians in the secular workplace to witness to others.

    I would love to see a generation of Christians who took jobs not for salary but where they could best position themselves to share the Gospel.

    I am not opposed to the idea that God blesses some people financially, there are many examples of this throughout the Bible.

    But I do believe wealth is not our primary means in furthering the kingdom, and we do not need to be financially well off to give to the poor. Jesus was homeless(Matthew 8:20), and his disciples left their livelihoods to follow him. God also used the disciples (who owned very little) to start the foundation of the Christian Church.

    I believe that the motivation behind our jobs and lifestyle should not be for our own desires, but wherever Jesus is leading us, whether that cost us a small amount of money or our whole lives.