The American Dream is Not True (Spiritually Speaking)

When I say the American Dream, I’m sure different thoughts come to different people’s minds. I mean the idea that if you work hard, and play by the rules, you can be wildly successful. (Not that you will be, but that you can be.)

I do still believe this. I believe America, better than most places, gives you the opportunity to be wealthy and/or do what makes you happy. The American Dream forces us into tough choices though. How much time do we spend on our career versus how much time do we spend with our families? How much wealth is really enough? How much money do you spend vs. how much do you invest vs. how much do you donate to good causes? We have a limited amount of resources and an unlimited supply of possibilities.

As Christians we try to apply the same American principles to our Spiritual lives. If we work hard, and play by the rules, we will be spiritually successful. This is not true. It is a lie. Everything in Scripture points to fact that we can’t do it on our own. That as humans we will only fail, we will never be successful in God’s sight.

Imagine being in a deep dark hole. The walls are made of steel and the floor is made of dirt. You start digging, thinking if you keep piling the dirt up on one side that eventually you can dig your way out. Unfortunately each foot of dirt you add to one side of the pit, you are digging equally deeper on the other side. You can only dig yourself deeper in the hole, and your efforts are only guaranteeing total collapse. The Gospel is the beautiful promise that Jesus will get you out of the hole. Jesus does all the work. You do none of it. The Gospel Dream is a better dream. The richest person in the universe comes down to your neighborhood, and willingly switches places with you. That illustration absolutely pales in comparison to what Jesus did for us. (Just like being trapped in a well pales in comparison to how horrible, depraved, and sinful we are.)

What happens when we apply the American Dream to our Christian lives today is that we end up working harder and harder and doing more and more. We start struggling with how much time should we spend in ministry versus time with our family? How much prayer and scripture reading is really enough? How much time do you spend in bible studies vs. witnessing vs. volunteering? How much money do you spend on yourself vs. the church vs. missionaries? We have a limited amount of resources and an unlimited supply of possibilities.

We are thinking about this all wrong. We think that Rest and Abundance are two opposite ideals – like infra-red and ultra-violet or Les Miserables and The Expendables. In the American Dream, rest and abundance are opposites. You work hard in order to have enough abundance to finally rest. Or you choose to not have an abundance and thus are able to rest more in your life. It’s like a never ending game of tug-o-war – rest v. abundance.

Spiritually speaking, Jesus is both the Lord of Rest and the Lord of Abundance. He’s both. How do I know this? Jesus says it about himself at least 3 times – “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” For the Jewish people, the Sabbath was a time of rest and time of abundance. The rest because God created the world in 6 days and then rested on the 7th, and the abundance because even though the Israelites worked one less day a week than everyone else, they had an abundance of crops, and livestock, (and children.) So on this Sabbath day the Jewish people would rest in Jehovah and reflect on the incredible abundance He’d given them. They’d sit around the campfire and tell stories of the greatness of God.

Jesus declares himself the Lord of the Sabbath. He can be that because he’s better than the Sabbath. He can be that because He fulfilled the whole Law (including “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”) Jesus proves He is Lord of the Sabbath by constantly healing on the Sabbath despite the Pharisees protests.   It put the Pharisees in a tough spot. They think Jesus is being disobedient by healing sick and lame people on the Sabbath day, but then why does God keep blessing the event by healing the people? (They definitely didn’t understand that Jesus was God.)

For us believers today, this means that Jesus is our source of rest and our source of abundance. Just like Jesus is both God and man and those seems like opposites, humans can experience both rest and abundance in Jesus even though they seem like opposites.

Jesus is not the God of stress, He’s the God of rest. Jesus is not the God of emptiness, He’s the God of abundance. When you start seeing your life as a constant tension between what you have and what needs to be done, you are not experiencing Jesus as the Lord of the Sabbath. Don’t miss Jesus in your never-ending quest to get more done for Jesus. Jesus is both the journey and the destination. Jesus is our source of rest and our source for the abundant life. Jesus is both. Jesus is everything.

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