Jesus and the American Dream

I had a bit of a revelation a couple of weeks ago.  It was one of those revelations that brought me a tremendous amount of peace and also a great deal of unrest at the same time.  Has that ever happened to you?

Many years ago when I was in high school I was hanging out with friends in the parking lot after school.  One of my friend’s dad arrived to pick him up and I noticed the license plate of his car.  It was Psalm 37:4.  I loved that my friend’s dad had a Bible verse on his car’s license plate.  He was a pastor so it didn’t surprise me, but I didn’t know what the verse said so I made a mental note to look it up when I got home.
It says this:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

The verse/license plate was on a Mercedes Benz.

At first this made me think, “Ooh, if I really work hard at knowing Jesus better I’ll get what I want!” which for any human, especially in the western hemisphere, is a promising thought.  Just think of all the cool stuff I could get if I spent my life praying, getting to know Jesus and acting like a good Christian girl.

But over time I got sort of bothered.  What about the believers in Mexico who truly LOVE Jesus but live in in absolute poverty, multiple generations living in a one-room cardboard house?  Or the believers in Uganda whose villages are burned to the ground and whose children have been snatched from under their noses by the LRA?  Surely the desires of their hearts are more noble than desiring a sweet ride… like walls that won’t collapse in the rain, peace, the return of their children.

Something wasn’t adding up.  Why do we in America think Jesus owes us  prosperity because we align ourselves with Him while others in the world suffer so much?  Why should my desire for more material wealth trump those desires of those who have suffered for their faith and yet considered it PURE JOY? (See James 1:2-4… super important).  I didn’t have the answer so I tucked my questions away for later because I didn’t want anything to rock my baby Christian faith.  Being 16 you can do that to a degree and get away with it.

Fast forward many years and many questions later and this verse comes up again.

I’m not sure what it was exactly that altered my understanding of the verse, but let me tell you, alter it did.  You see, I had always read the verse like this:  Summer, if you delight yourself in God, the desires you have?  He’ll give them to you!”

But that’s not at all what the verse says.  My previous understanding put the emphasis on me and what God can do for ME.

What the verse means is this:  If you delight yourself, find joy in, seek after, strive toward the Lord Almighty, He will place His desires for you on your heart and they are what you will desire.

This was earth-rocking for me.  It’s not about what God can do FOR me, but what knowing Him does TO my heart. So much of the American Christian church today falsely preaches that by “loving Jesus” (read: going to church, serving in the nursery, saying “Amen” during service or raising hands during worship), we’ll receive earthly treasures.

But this is not true.  Does God desire to bless His children?  ABSOLUTELY.

Do His blessings always have monetary value?  NO.  Oftentimes they have no monetary value at all.  They might, but certainly not all of the time.  If they did, why would He say that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”? (Mark 10:25)  If God wanted our focus to be on earthly wealth, he wouldn’t have said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)

Being a follower of Jesus isn’t just going to church regularly.  Being a Christian, (a “Christ-one”, a student/disciple of Jesus Christ who was God in flesh) means that we look to Him not to bless us for our own desires but that we look to Him to learn from Him; to yearn for His desires.

We should follow Jesus because we love Him for who He is and what He did on our behalf, not what He can do for us (i.e. Hell insurance).

Instead of asking, “What can He do for me?” we should be asking, “What can I do for Him?”

This thought has left me realizing that I don’t do a lot for Jesus.  Sure, I read my Bible, tithe regularly, write in my prayer journal and quote Scripture to my kids when they’re being naughty (all good things), but what am I doing for Jesus?  How am I responding to His teachings about loving my neighbor?  Or serving the “least of these”?  Am I going to make up an excuse about my limited free-time or blame my 2-year-old’s nap schedule on my inability to serve Him when really it’s my 1) laziness, 2) fear of the unknown, 3) ignorance?  Now that He’s brought these things to my attention I cannot NOT respond.  Not responding would be telling Jesus “NO.  I don’t want to serve you like you have asked me to.”  I have to say, “Yes, Lord.  I will do what you’ve asked.”

If I don’t, I am guilty of turning my back on Him.

I don’t know if the pastor who drove that Mercedes with Psalm 37:4 on his license plate had any idea of the impact he may have had on people by driving that car.  Did he have the same understanding I did when I was younger?  Did he just happen to put his favorite verse on his car that happened to be a Mercedes?  I have no idea and it’s not for me to make a judgment on as only God knows what’s inside the heart of men (and women).  What I do know is that, true to His form, God has worked all things together for the good of this one who loves Him and has been called according to His purposes.  Those few seconds of looking at a license plate 20 years ago have made a profound difference in how I want to serve Jesus Christ.  I want to want what Jesus desires for me.  I don’t want to be a “Prosperity Gospel” Christian.  I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Will you join me?

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7 thoughts on “Jesus and the American Dream

  1. Maggie Singh says:

    i join you, thank you very much indeed for this post. it is my prayer each day that we, Christian will understand the true meaning of prosperity in Christ.

    Like

    • Summer Wilson says:

      Hi Maggie! Thank you so much for your kind words. I agree, as believers we need to constantly remind ourselves that “prosperity” in Jesus doesn’t necessarily equal dollar signs and that is a GOOD thing! We’re to store up our treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy!

      Like

      • experiencesinwordoffaith says:

        I’m not sure where to start. I am open to talking over the phone if you are. I find texting impersonal and too easy for messages to get lost in translation. In the meantime, I’ll start here: why was the tithe started and what was its purpose? Lev 27:30, Neh 10:31-39. I like to stick with scripture. Sooooo…..can we chat…sister to sister??

        Like

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