The American Dream and The Kingdom Dream

by Max Andrews

Preface:  I consider this post as a rant on how God has blessed me.

I woke up today next to my wife at 6 AM to prepare for the day.  I have a full-time job but I work an irregular schedule, which includes some weekends.  I happened to have today off.  My wife started her second job today, which happens to be in the same office I work in (her other job is in retail).  We did our morning routine but I was lagging behind enjoying the slow morning.  I helped her with breakfast and saw her out to the car as she drove to work.  I remained home and had a rather large breakfast, which is unusual since I’m not normally hungry in the mornings.  I had two eggs, two pieces of toast with jelly, a blueberry bagel, and a Carnation Instant Breakfast chocolate milk (it’s good!). I read through some of my philosophy notes and read my Bible during breakfast while the cat kept trying to jump on the counter and bring sticks from the outside in the house (I kept the door to the kitchen open since it was a cool 74 degree morning).  I had my multivitamins, some I hate taking because they either smell or they’re large horse pills, and my medicine I need to take for Crohn’s.

After eating and reading I did a blog post on my devotions (not a typical devotion really, the imprecatory psalms?).  I enjoyed a nice long shower as I listened to some science podcasts and then cleaned up around the house (dishes, vacuum, sanitize, sweep the patio, water the plant that doesn’t want to live, etc.).  I then decided to go to the local library which is only a two-minute drive down the road.  I figured it was the American thing to do, if anything it’s the responsible thing to do.  I have free access to information, why not use it?  I get in the car and the “check engine” light comes on. No problem. The engine sounded a little funny anyways. I park the car and check my fluids.  Oil and coolant were low. I go to my shed (which is really an outdoor closet sticking out of the side of my house) and I happen to have oil and coolant.  I fill them up and I’m good to go.  (There may have been other reasons why the light was on but I’m not skilled enough to pin point, I have a good friend who is a mechanic who blesses us with his skills in that area, thanks Josh).

Anyways, I go in smiling, probably like an idiot, and ask to register for a library card, which I was given.  I have to learn German, quickly, so I looked up a few German books but I either couldn’t find the book or it really wasn’t in the catalog when I looked it up.  I strolled down the shelves and found the math and science section.  I decided to check out The Facts on File Dictionary of Mathematics.  I’ve been reading through Lawrence Sklar’s Space, Time, and Spacetime as background information for my research in the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God from cosmology, particularly as it relates to the multiverse.  I was researching the cosmological constant and the spatial curvature of the universe (this is an aspect of inflationary cosmology).  I wanted to understand inflationary cosmology more fundamentally so I decided to get my hands dirty and I need to learn more about Euclidean geometry and what it means for the universe to be flat, spherical, or hyperbolic in its spatial geometry and what that means for a negative, 1, or positive [1+] curvature.  I drove back home and here I sit…

Throughout my day, as short as it has been thus far, I couldn’t help but think about two sermons I’ve heard recently on the Kingdom of God.  One of them included the “American Dream” and how it is so contrary to the Kingdom of God.  I thought to myself, “I’m already living the American Dream.”  The American Dream today has been polluted by greed, covetousness, and this world’s lusts.  The American Dream is simply the freedom and opportunity to do and to act in a manner in which I see appropriate (this isn’t a political rant so mind your politics for now as far as how free we really are).  I’m also striving to live after the “Kingdom Dream” (I couldn’t think of a better phrase so let’s run with it).  The Kingdom Dream is a life pursuit of obedience and contentment in God’s providence no matter how he takes you to where you are going and wanting and being satisfied in the manner in which he brings you there.  Here’s the real rant…

I have a loving, beautiful wife.  We both have excellent health. We rent a small duplex home and have two cars.  We have a loving family that supports us and raised us well.  My parents taught me discipline and work.  The gift of work has been one of the greatest things they have ever given me.  I have had a job since I was 15 years old.  I am currently employed and I live paycheck to paycheck, no shame in that, I’m saving and trying to earn what I have.  We have a fully furnished home thanks to thrift stores and friends.  We both own our cars and we’re generally pretty good about keeping the maintenance needed on them (take care of your vehicle and it takes care of you).  My first car was a pink 1993 Geo Storm I found in someone’s yard my Junior year of high school.  A good friend loaned me $1,500 to buy it and I paid back my friend in a couple of months.  That car treated me well but has since passed to cubism last November (moment of silence please). I have an undergraduate degree in Religion and I’m less than a year away from a Master’s degree in Philosophy (all of which I had the ability to take a loan out for and the ability to payback my debt to those who helped me).  I have food, I have health, I have family, I have shelter, I have a computer, I have internet, I have [many] books, and I have all that I really need.  The question is will I be satisfied if I had more? The question is will I be satisfied if I didn’t have this?

Honestly, my worldly self would probably not be satisfied.  I’d like to say that I’d be satisfied selling all my possessions but I probably won’t.  I don’t believe in the prosperity gospel or the poverty gospel.  When Jesus spoke of selling your belongings and giving it was finding the idols in our lives.  Are we willing to give up our idols for the Kingdom’s sake?  God isn’t anti-wealth or anti-materials, God is against idolatry, that’s the real issue.  The American Dream is really living in a privileged land at a privileged time that permits us to do what we want to do and the opportunity to do it.  What is more important is the Kingdom Dream.  It is what we do and where place our hearts and desires.  I think of Matthew 6.  God will provide for us, all he wants is our obedience.  It’s not so much of taking from God and giving back to God, God doesn’t need anything.  What he wants is our obedience.  Now here’s the hard part.  Sometimes God’s providential care isn’t the American Dream.  I have it so much better than others.

I’ve been on missions to Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico, the poorest state, twice and I’ve seen the poorest of the poor.  I know the blessings of living where I do and when I do. Sometimes God’s care comes in different forms.  These forms may include living in poverty, pain, suffering, and barely getting by.  We so often get so upset with God when we feel like we aren’t being provided for.  What if the best teacher or means of provision is that God takes us through pain and suffering?  Will you accuse God of breaking his promise?  God’s love and care may be that you have a disease or have cancer.  That pain is so momentary!  As physically and spiritually painful as it is to endure any suffering, perhaps that’s the best, or only, way for you to appreciate the gift of life, friends, family, or whatever.  We know the end purpose of life and that’s the know God and glorify him.  How that comes to be and the means in which it comes about is unknown to us at many times.  We do not live in a spatiotemporally privileged position to see it the way God does.  We don’t have all the facts and contingencies so why charge God with doing wrong when you don’t have all the evidence and when you aren’t being obedient and trusting him?

It’s hard. I know it’s hard to be obedient and trust God.  As John Piper aptly puts it, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.  I thank God for the overflowing gifts he has given us.  I pray that the Holy Spirit provokes my attention to his hidden graces that I have neglected and not been thankful for.  I pray that God gives me a perspective of pain and suffering, blessings and goodness that he has.  I pray for God to suppress my words, thoughts, and desires to take credit for the things that have come to pass that I consider to be good and that I turn to him prior to anything.  I hope that he continues to give me this perspective and to not retract these words and ideas from my head when things “seem worse.”


8 Comments to “The American Dream and The Kingdom Dream”

  1. Whooo! Amen, brother. This struck home with me tonight. How could we be satisfied with “more stuff” when we already have everything we need as children of God? Sometimes, well oftentimes, we look over those things that are essential to our happiness that have been provided and sustained by God (our health, family, freedom to worship and to work) and instead niggle and gripe about all the things we don’t. This is a beautiful, funny, and poignant reminder to keep it all in perspective. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Max, you’re not ranting. You’re just honest enough to admit something we’re all guilty of doing inadvertently. A lot of times, without thinking. Great post again, my good friend!

  3. Phew! You almost lost me there with your talk of “inflationary cosmology” and “Euclidean geometry??” — Hey, I think they kinda rhyme!
    But I’m glad I kept reading! Very much in line with a lot of things I’ve been thinking about, hearing about and reading about lately. Really well done. Thanks!

    • HAHA, I appreciate the encouragement Betsey 🙂 It’s a hard issue to deal with right now and it’s hard to keep the right perspective, let alone getting that right perspective.

  4. Really inspiring and insightful post Max! I’m just a lurker, but I felt the need to comment and thank you for this post and the blog in general which I find very interesting and helpful — being a younger person with the same general goals in life as you (studying philosophy and trying to seek God). I’m greatful that people like you exist and take the time to share these kind of things. Thanks & keep up the great posts.

    • Tim, thanks for the encouragement. I know that when I’m randomly surfing blogs commenting on a new one usually takes a lot for me so I appreciate it. I hope you stick around and we can have dialogue 🙂

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