The Bible & The American Dream
This is an interesting topic in my opinion and since somewhere around 100 million Americans (or maybe more) identify themselves as Christians, its a pretty relevant topic. If you don’t consider yourself a Christian, this may not apply to you but why not read it anyway?
Christianity in America has definitely been influenced by the idea of the American Dream. My goal here isn’t to put down the American Dream but to talk about it in the context of American Christianity. The American Dream is an idea that its all about me. If I work hard enough, I will make much of myself. Now, Christianity – Biblical Christianity – is about making much of God. When you blend them together as we’ve kind of done with American Christianity is we get something that is more like if we add God to our lives, our lives are even better. It’s like the American Dream sort of Christianized.
If Christians are to really read the Bible and really read the Gospel, however, you will see something pretty different. But for now, let’s table that and get into finances specifically.
Now, if you listen to Dave Ramsey you will hear him talk about God and he would definitely say he is a Christian (whether he is or isn’t, I don’t know, I don’t know him personally). Now, first let me say that I like Dave Ramsey… a lot. He does a ton of good and helps people big time in their lives because so many people have disastrous financial situations. Additionally, many people would agree that he maybe also directs people towards God. What I’m wrestling with though, is he really directing people toward God or the American version of God?
The discussion can quickly turn towards wealth and generating wealth and whether that is a good thing or not. Now, wealth in and of itself is not bad or evil, but I believe most people that are wealthy have a tough time not making money their God – including myself, although I’m not wealthy (by American standards).
So, much of this discussion has come to the surface for me recently because I read a book called “Radical” by David Platt (see the intro video at the bottom of the post). Man, what a book. This book hit me and several people I know very, very hard. The subtitle of the book is “Taking back your faith from the American dream.” This book offers a pretty different view of wealth and finances than Dave Ramsey offers.
I would encourage anyone to read this book. It poses tough questions like how much is enough? It confronts us with the reality that even if you have a roof over your head, running water, and some form of transportation (even public transportation), you are in the top, top wealthiest group in the world. Billions of people live on less than $1-2 per day. Then, the question becomes what are you doing about it? Are you using your money to hoard resources for yourself or are you helping the real poor of the world? Very convicting stuff.
Questions such as where do you draw the line between responsible saving (advocated by the Bible) and greedy hoarding (condemned by the Bible) are discussed in this book. Great examples paint the picture of people living out “radical” Christ-following lives with their time and their money. As I read this book, I can’t help but feel that these guys are much closer to the Gospel of Christ than the vast majority of American Christians. To be frank, it makes you question whether the majority of American Christians are Christians at all – although, this isn’t the point. The point is ourselves and what are we doing (not what is everyone else doing).
Again, let me get back to Dave Ramsey. There’s nobody better when it comes to personal finance. But, where David Platt hits it out of the park is that he says this isn’t about personal finance. It’s about something bigger. The glory fo God is bigger than our retirement accounts. Taking the gospel to the nations is much more impactful than how diversified we are. Maybe you get that maybe you don’t. And maybe Dave Ramsey gets that and maybe he doesn’t, I’d love to hear more from him about such an idea.
For more information on “Radical”, check out David Platt introducing his book below. You can buy the book here. (I don’t make any money from this link)
This should surely lead to interesting comments…