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Another question to consider together relates to the issue of where we invest our time, our talent, and our treasure:
Are we aiming for the American Dream or the Kingdom of God?
Once again, we must define our terms:
The American Dream
- A state of life focusing on financial security/independence
- Personal achievement for recognition
- The attainment of comfort and ease
The Kingdom of God
- The realm of God’s rule and reign
- Where the Lord’s will is done.
Before we go farther in our discussion of the American Dream, I need to make clear what we are not saying.
My wife and I both love our country and served in the U.S. Air Force. We were willing to fight and die to defend and protect America. We are deeply grateful for the privilege of living in the United States.
It is of the greatest importance that this honest look at the American Dream not be misperceived as a diatribe against the United States. Our hope is that this book will serve as a blessing to Americans.
The Redefined American Dream
The American Dream of today is different than the American Dream of the early 1900s.
In the first half of the 20th century, the American Dream represented the opportunity for any person to work hard and reap the benefits without the systemic constraints that had been the norm in Europe for centuries.
In theory, America offered a life without a class system, without racism, and without religious persecution.
The reality was that these general influences were significantly muted in the United States in comparison with most other countries on the planet.
The dream of “equal opportunity” was much closer than it had been before.
The content of the American Dream has gradually morphed during the last third of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century.
The advertising industry has contributed much in this transformation. We can watch the advertisements to understand more of what “we” are seeking. What picture is painted for our destination?
The Dream Revealed
An African bishop was invited to speak at numerous churches throughout the United States. After talking with hundreds of American Christians and observing our culture, he remarked, “America has been taken captive by the spirit of comfort and ease.”
The American Dream of today elevates the pursuit of these two elements.
Hard = bad and something to avoid if possible
Easy = good and desirable.
Doing hard things can be part of the American Dream . . . if they produce the appropriate personal gain.
Herein we find the last stream of the underlying current that all Americans encounter.
The Kingdom of God
If you asked most Americans about the primary message of Jesus during His earthly ministry, their answers might include some of the following:
- The Golden Rule
- Eternal Life
Few would identify “the Kingdom of God” as one of His primary messages. But it was. If we comb the gospels, we find Jesus mentioning the Kingdom of God 103 times.
If we think this theme will fade in importance, we do well to remember what will be written on Jesus’ thigh and robe when He comes again on a white horse, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” —Revelation 19:16
With the prominence of this message in view, we can briefly revisit the two definitions from the beginning of this chapter.
The Realm of God’s Rule And Reign
What are the elements of a kingdom?
To have a kingdom, you need a king, subjects of the king, and the territory where the king is recognized as ruler.
Many lives have turned on a dime in simply recognizing this — there is a King and you are not Him!
Faithful subjects in a kingdom embrace the king’s will and seek to live by his values.
The territory of the Kingdom of God is the choices, relationships, thoughts, words, and actions that acknowledge the Kingship of God.
Where The Lord’s Will Is Done
The Lord’s Prayer gives us a captivating glimpse into the Kingdom of God. In this model for prayer, we are taught to ask our Father for His Kingdom to come to earth just like it is in Heaven. “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.”
The coming of His Kingdom is inexorably linked to His will being done.
We are invited to imagine what it is like in Heaven when the King of Heaven makes a decree. The inhabitants of Heaven do not yawn or act like they did not hear the King. They do not respond with a half-hearted nod. They do not pull out their white boards and make a list of “pros and cons” for doing the King’s will. When the King makes His will known, the reaction of all those in Heaven is enthusiastic a affirmation, delight, and worship of the King.
For those involved in carrying out His will, there is immediate and wholehearted obedience.
Amazingly, we are exhorted to pray for this scene to happen here on earth, in our lives, today. When we live a affirming God’s authority in our lives, we live inside the Kingdom of God and we can honestly describe it as heaven on earth — or “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Hopefully, the discussion of these terms has highlighted the radical difference between the pursuit of the American Dream and the pursuit of the Kingdom of God.