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The Bible & The American Dream

20 July 2010 11 Comments

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.

Dave Ramsey

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…


  • wingtipwalker said:

    I had not heard of this book, I will be picking it up after work today!

    I will be interested to see how this challenges me in my ingrained worldview of the "American Dream", even though I don't think in terms of "the dream" on a regular basis. This is a very relevant topic within the Church given the rise of the prosperity doctrine in the modern church. The notion put forth by many pastors (Joel Osteen comes to mind) today that "God wants you to be wealthy" is just simply untrue and leads many to a carnal faith and ultimately disappointment. If faith in Christ meant you were going to be rich, who wouldn't want to be a Christian? God looks deeper than money, jobs, titles, etc. As Jesus said it's easier for a camel to pass through the head of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. We are to be content with where we are, and good stewards of what we currently have.

    At the same time, I don't believe the gospel calls every believer to voluntary poverty. I'm thinking of RG LeTourneau who famously reverse tithed, living on 10% of his income and giving 90% away. But he didn't exactly live like a pauper on the 10%. As the parable of the talents portrays, God gives more to those who can accomplish more for the kingdom–that's not always money, but in the case of money, he gives it that He may be glorified, not for our comfort/enjoyment.

  • 20smoney said:

    wingtip: I look forward to your feedback on the book. and as you'll see, he doesn't tell everyone to sell everything because as you mentioned God doesn't call all to do that.

    Basically, just one part of the book looks at this and says that the one who is called to sell everything is the one who doesn't want to sell everything, the one who is willing to sell everything most likely isn't called to sell everything. why? The end isn't poverty or wealth, or selling or not selling. The end is that God is #1 in your life with or without money.

    I appreciate all the comments!

  • 20smoney said:

    Since the response has been positive and you brought up the prosperity gospel (which I completely agree), I'd encourage everyone to check out stuff from John Piper, Paul Washer, John Macarthur who I believe are preaching a Biblical gospel. Stay away from Joel Osteen. 🙂

  • William Brannan said:

    It is unfortunate that we often create an artificial divide between the practical issues of life and radical Christianity. Being a radical disciple of Jesus includes bringing our whole lives into divine order as revealed in the Bible. The Bible has a lot to say about managing wealth, and so should sold out disciples.

  • Kenny Norrie said:

    The heart of your writing whilst sounding reasonable initially, did not work perfectly with me after some time. Someplace within the paragraphs you actually were able to make me a believer but just for a short while. I nevertheless have a problem with your leaps in assumptions and you would do well to help fill in those breaks. If you can accomplish that, I will definitely end up being impressed.

  • Elreta Dodds said:

    I've written and recently published (November of 2010) a book entitled, "Racism, The Bible, and The American Dream." Although the message of the book is somewhat different from what is being discussed here, I thought there might still be some interest since this subject thread centers around racism and the American Dream. The purpose of the book is to dispel any misconception that the Bible condones racism, to better enlighten the public about the seriousness of institutional racism that does indeed exist in America against minorities today, to reveal how the Bible actually speaks against racism in any form, and to redirect, as many as possible, those who erroneously use the Bible as a weapon to justify racial hatred. The book emphasizes the position that racism is not just a social issue, but a moral issue as well. The book is available at bookstores and online. It won the 2011 National Indie Excellence Book Award in Social Change and also came in as a finalist in African American non-fiction. Check it out if you get a chance and feel free to let me know what you think. My email address is presstowardthemark@netscape.com. Blessings. Sincerely, –Elreta Dodds.