When Dreams Become Nightmares
(from Enough: Stewardship, Adam Hamilton)
Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10b NIV)
The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
“For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Matthew 16:26)
The American Dream
What characterizes the greatest hopes, desires, and dreams of most Americans?
For most people, the American dream has to do with the desire for achieving success and satisfying the desire for material possessions. It is the opportunity to pursue more than what we have, to gain more than what we have, and to meet success. We tend to measure our success by the stuff that we possess.
The pursuit of immediate material pleasure
The love of money and the things money can buy is s primary or secondary motive behind most of what we American’s do. We want to consume, acquire, and buy our way to happiness – and we want it now.
The American Nightmare
The American Dream has become an American Nightmare owing to two distinct yet related “illnesses” that affect us both socially and spiritually.
“Affluenza is the constant need for more and bigger and better stuff – as well as the effect that this ‘need’ has on us. It is the desire to acquire, and most of us have been infected by this virus to some degree.
- The average American home went from 1,660 sq ft in 1973 to 2,700 in 2016.
- Today there are estimated to be 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space in America.
“Credititis” is an illness that is brought on by the opportunity to buy now and pay later, and it feeds on our desire for instant gratification. Our economy today is built on the concept of credit-itis. Unfortunately, it has exploited out lack of self= discipline and has allowed us to feed our affluenza, wreaking havoc with our personal and national finances.
- Average credit card debt in American in 1990 was around $3000. Today its nearly $17,000.
- The average sale is around 125 percent higher if we use a credit care than if we pay cash because it doesn’t feel real when we use plastic instead of cash.
Credit-itis is not limited to purchases made with credit cards; it extends to car loans, mortgages, and other loans. The life of the average car loan and home mortgage continues to increase while the average American’ savings rate continues to decline.
The Deeper Problem Within
There is a spiritual issue behind both affluenza and credit-itis.
Our souls were created in the image of God, but they have been distorted. We were meant to desire God, but have turned that desire toward possessions. We were meant to find out security in God, but find it in amassing wealth. We were meant to love people, but instead, we compete with them. We were meant to enjoy the simple pleasure of life, but we busy ourselves still pursuing money and things. We were meant to be generous and to share with those in need, but we selfishly hoard our resources for ourselves. All of us have an inclination toward this sin.
The devil plays upon this inclination toward sin
Jesus said, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In order to destroy us, the devil doesn’t need to tempt us to do drugs or to steal or to have an extramarital affair. All he needs to do is convince us to keep pursuing the American Dream – to keep up with the Jones’s, borrow against our futures, enjoy more than we can afford, and indulge ourselves. By doing that, the devil will rob us of joy, makes us slaves, and keep us from doing God’s will.
- MT 4:8-10
- LK 8:14
- MK 8:36
- 1Tm 6:10
The Bible’s Solution
We need a heart change.
Although we received a changed heart when we accept Christ, in a sense we need a heart change every morning Each morning we should get down on our knees and say, “ Lord, help me to be the person you want me to be today. Take away the desires that shouldn’t be there, and help me to be single-minded in my focus and pursuit of you.” As we say this prayer and act on it, God comes and cleanses us from the inside out, purifying and changing our hearts.
We must all Christ to work in us.
Christ works in us as we first seek his kingdom and strive to do his will. As we do, we begin to sense a higher calling – a calling to simplicity and faithfulness and generosity. We begin to look at ways we can make a difference with our time and talents and resources. By pursuing good financial practices, we free ourselves from debt so that we are able to be in mission to the world. A key part of finding financial and spiritual freedom is found in simplicity and in exercising r4estraint. With the help of God, we can:
simplify our lives and silence the voice constantly telling us we need more.
- Live counterculture-ly, by living below, not above, our means
- build into our budgets the money to buy with cash instead of credit.
- Build into our budgets what we need to live generously and faithfully.
Activity: Place your hands in your lap, extend palms upright. Pray quietly with me: Change my heart, O God. Clean me out inside. Make me new. Heal my desires. Help me hold my possessions loosely. Help me to love you. Teach me simplicity, Teach me generosity. Give me joy. I offer my life in Jesus. A