My husband and I have recently started looking for a new house.
We aren’t moving anytime soon. But when we first moved in here, to our cozy three-bedroom “starter house,” it was just the two of us with one little baby who wasn’t even walking yet.
Now, we have three small children (who all have a LOT of energy!), two pets, occasional guests, and my husband and I both work from home. So, it’s getting a little cramped!
We’ve been checking out different neighborhoods, trying to determine which part of town we want to live in, how big of a house we need, what features we’re looking for, and what’s even available in our area.
The process is exciting.
I love getting on my phone, checking out all the listings, seeing what’s available, imagining what our life will be like when we move. (I’m totally dreaming of a dedicated office space with bright, white walls, indoor plants, and a ridiculous number of huge, open windows.)
But… it’s also leaving me feeling pretty guilty too.
After all, there are people out there who don’t have a home at all – much less a nice one. There are children out there literally dying because they don’t have enough food to eat and clean water to drink, and here I am dreaming of white walls and windows.
Our families are excited for us. “You deserve it!” they say. “It’ll be so nice!” they say.
But I still just feel like a selfish jerk.
How can I have so much, when others have so little?
Chasing The American Dream
While definitions vary, the “American Dream” is essentially the right of every person, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or income level, to pursue a good/better life for themselves and their family through education and hard work.
But it’s not just that.
It’s the nice house, the nice car and the nice paycheck. It’s waking up in the morning and going to a job you love, then coming home to a family you can provide for without worry. It’s comfort, security, betterment and enjoyment – all because you got up, worked hard, and made it happen.
As Americans, this dream runs through our blood. Ever since we were children, we were taught “You can be anything you want to be when you grow up. Work hard and do good in school and the world is yours.”
And you know what? I believe they’re right. Here in America, we pretty much can and do have it all. Lucky us.
…But what if that’s not such a blessing after all?
So lately, I’ve been wondering… How should we, as Christians, view and relate to the American Dream?
Is it okay for Christians to pursue the nice house, the nice car, and the nice paycheck?
Is it okay for Christian to work hard with the intention of being wealthy and/or having nice things?
So, naturally, I wanted to dig in and see what the Bible had to say. And this is what I found…
There is Nothing Sinful About Having Money
In fact, the Bible gives tons of examples of very religious, Godly people who were also very wealthy. For example:
- Abraham (Genesis 13:2)
- Jacob and Esau (Genesis 36:6-7)
- Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:22)
- Job (Job 1:1-3)
- Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57)
- Lydia (Acts 16:14)
- and many others.
If being wealthy were sinful, we wouldn’t see so many examples of great, God-fearing Bible characters who were.
In fact, the Bible even tells us that wealth is a gift from God. In 1 Chronicles 29:12, David says “wealth and honor come from you,” referring to God, and in 1 Kings 3:11-13, we see that King Solomon’s wealth was a gift from God as well.
Material blessings are a gift from God and it’s okay to enjoy them!
But Money Can Be a Real Distraction
That being said, just because God chooses to bless some people financially doesn’t mean that being well-off is always a good thing. In fact, the New Testament presents money in a pretty negative light.
Take these verses for example:
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” — Mark 10:25
“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” — 1 Timothy 6:9
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” — Matthew 6:19
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” — Luke 16:13
Yikes! That’s about enough to make any dedicated Christian give away everything they own. (And those are just a few negative verses about money – there are tons more just like them.)
If our real goal in life is putting God first (and it should be), then it seems like money is a pretty costly distraction.
So Which is It? Should Christians Be Wealthy?
The good news is, money itself isn’t good or evil. It’s a neutral object. It’s just a piece of paper. Completely morally neutral. You could have a million dollars of it or two cents of it and still be an awesome Christian. As long as you came by it honestly, it truly does not matter how much of it you have.
But what does matter is why you want it in the first place.
Why Are You Really Chasing the American Dream?
Sure, there’s nothing wrong with having the American dream, but why? Out of all of the goals you could reach for this year (either consciously or unconsciously), why would you choose to have more stuff?
- Is it to impress other people?
- To feel better about yourself?
- So you’re more comfortable?
- To prove nay-sayers wrong?
- Because of selfishness or greed?
It’s a tough question to ask, but it’s so crucial: Why do you want the American dream? Why do you want more money or a nicer house? What is it about it that calls to you, really? What are you really trying to obtain?
That makes all the difference.
- Are you motivated by pride? Or by the desire to be a good steward of the time and talent the Lord has given you?
- Are you selfishly hoarding more, more, more for yourself? Or are you committed to generously seeking out ways to bless and serve others out of your own abundance?
- Are you using your wealth to glorify yourself? Or do you go out of your way to use your time and talents to bring glory to God?
- Are you looking to money as your source of strength, security and safety, or do you trust God to provide?
I really hope you’ll take some time to get honest before God and yourself to answer the question. “Why do I want nice things/more things? What does my heart really desire? To be more Godly… or something else?”
And secondly, what do you have to give up in order to get there?
Because, realize it or not, gaining wealth does come with a cost.
Will you spend more time working and less time reading your Bible? Will it mean skipping church on Sundays? Will it tempt you to lie to your spouse, to your family or to your boss in order to get ahead?
These may not seem like a big deal now – or they may not even feel like options at this point – but when you start chasing wealth instead of God, it slowly but surely shifts your priorities whether you realize it or not.
The World Needs Rich Christians
Still want to be wealthy? That’s okay. The world could use more rich Christians.
After all, it’s hard to wipe out world hunger and find cures for diseases and bring people the resources they need if you don’t have any way of doing it financially.
But rich, generous, God-fearing Christians can make it happen.
Rich Christians can wipe out poverty, feed the hungry and still find time to volunteer in their local churches and around their community. They have the resources to do so.
(And honestly, I don’t care how broke you think you are. If you live in American, you’re rich and I’m talking to you.)
Let’s Get Real: Finding Your Motivation
So, what does your heart desire? Are you chasing the American Dream? Why?
I’ve been thinking about this a LOT lately, and yes, I want a nice home. But not for me. I want a nice home because I want a place for friends and family to gather. A place where we can share the gospel and model for people what a solid, God-fearing, Christ-centered family looks like.
I want to do life with people. I want people to see my marriage and my parenting and say “Yes! I want that!” – not to be more like me, but to be more like Christ. To see that His way really does work, and that it really is worth all the effort.
I want my kids to bring allllll their friends over. And I want to have a TON of foster kids someday. I just want to adopt them all and bake them batch after batch of chocolate chip cookies and tell them how much I love them, how much Jesus loves them and that it’s all going to be alright. Really.
And every time I hear a radio commercial for Cure.org or Compassion International, or I get mail from Food for the Hungry or Water Mission, I just want to whip out my credit card and give them alllllllll the money without even batting an eyelash. Because while my kids are clamoring for their third breakfast, there are kids out there who won’t get breakfast at all, and that breaks my heart.
That’s my American Dream.
And you better believe I’m going to work my rear end off until I make it happen.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
Remember what Jesus said at the conclusion of the sermon on the mount:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock…
And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
Many Christians think it’s ok to accumulate wealth or become rich as long as their motivation is pure and it is for the kingdom of God.
Does Jesus say this?
Did He say, “don’t lay up treasures on earth unless you want to do it for the kingdom”?
Did Apostle say, “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation unless they desire to be rich for serving the poor.”
At what lengths will we go to make excuses for our own greed?
That would be true if we really were just making excuses for our own greed, but what about the parable of the 3 servants with their talents? We also need to use what we have been given to bring more for the Kingdom, not just bury what we have (money, abilities, opportunities, etc)