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Jesus is Opposed to the American Dream

Jesus’ worldview is in violent opposition to the “American dream” that we live here in the 21st-century. We see that in the gospels as he starts his ministry. He spells it out to his disciples (Matthew 5–7). Then he models it for them (Matthew 8–9). Then he calls his disciples to l…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Jesus’ worldview is in violent opposition to the “American dream” that we live here in the 21st-century. We see that in the gospels as he starts his ministry.

He spells it out to his disciples (Matthew 5–7).

Then he models it for them (Matthew 8–9).

Then he calls his disciples to live it in Matthew 10.

If you read those passages and absorb them, as a disciple of Jesus here in America, you will experience cognitive dissonance. I have been experiencing cognitive dissonance for 25 years!

One of the first people to hear me articulate my struggle with Matthew 10 in 1991 was a Presbyterian pastor who wanted to come on staff at Adventures, but who was secretly struggling with sexual addiction.

Eventually, I unearthed his secret and didn’t hire him. He died several years later of AIDS, his worldview sadly out of sync with his life.

There is another guy I know who grabbed the golden ring in the American dream merry-go-round. He started a company that went public and made him buckets of money. He came to me this past year and said, “I haven’t been relevant in 10 years. I want to be relevant.” This is the hollow fruit of the American dream.

As I continue to walk out my faith with fear and trembling, I daily have to recognize that I am not a human being having a temporary spiritual experience, but a spiritual being having a temporary human experience. That worldview shapes how I live and what I commit to.

How about you? How much have you bought into the American dream? How does it impact your choices and the way you organize your life? Following Jesus requires a counter-culture lifestyle. Better a wakeup call now rather than later.

Comments (14)

  • Let me temporarily set aside the term “The American Dream” which is ambiguous to me, and use two biblical terms I can understand: idolatry and covetousness. I think there is a reason behind the order of the 10 Commandments. Idolatry is #1. Covetousness is #10. Covetousness “successfully” practiced appears to be success in life, and what many think is The American Dream. In the tenth commandment, the specific material examples are a man’s wife and his house, and then it includes anything else another person owns. Those are the very blessings God gives us, but the sinful desire for them displaces God. When covetousness is practiced to fruition, we lose focus on God entirely, and it ultimately leads to idolatry.

    We are in the world but not of the world. We have families, we have minds and careers, jobs, and houses. We are wired by God. Scripture teaches us that God gives us good things right here on earth to enjoy, to meet responsibilities, and to share. They are the fruit of our labor, which God gives us the strength to perform. It is not that Jesus is opposed to the acquisition, use, and enjoyment of material blessings available on earth, and that have been poured out upon America. God blessed us with them. But He is and always was and always will be opposed to covetousness and idolatry, where we exchange our eternal adoration of Jesus, of God, for the temporary adoration of things of the earth.

  • Hi Seth, Great article, I have also been struggling with Believers who still hold on to the idea that all that america does is blessed by God . We Say God Bless America as if this is a given. I always point out to others that not all material things come from god but are rather the fruits of our selfish nature.

  • This is my favorite sentence…I daily have to recognize that I am not a human being having a temporary spiritual experience, but a spiritual being having a temporary human experience. That says it all.

  • Ok … I have never commented on Seth’s blog, but this blog “headline” grabbed my attention. I agree, good reality check for me. I want to tremendously grow my company and I’m proud of our collective vision to create shareholder value and become a public company. I believe in the principle that work is good, innovation is great, that “drive” is a virtue > this reminds me that capitalism can work and should work to serve the greater human good and bring glory to God. This principle it seems, can ultimately only be achieved with daily intention, aligning our consciousness with God’s will. So, I shall strive for “The American Dream” (for capitalistic success), but will attempt to achieve within the realm of balance & perspective. God, give me the strength to and wisdom to be open to this instruction on a daily basis. Thanks Seth!

    • Well it’s about time you commented, Hulet! Point well taken. I don’t think the American dream is entrepreneurial success. You know how I feel about that. I believe that God wants more entrepreneurs like you!

      My view is that it is about personal security and comfort. Anything that would get in the way of our dependence on God is going to arouse his jealousy.

  • That’s a good analysis Bill. Perhaps Seth’s amigo slid too far down the slope of covetousness. But there could be other interests of God in that man’s prosperity that he himself didn’t forecast. “When covetousness is practiced to fruition…” well put!

  • Seth, this last qualification of your perspective on the American dream helps (at least for me) to take the rough edges off the categorical dismissal. I have another line of thought that I will send via email as a response to the gnostic quote you employ as a foil to the problem of the “hollow fruit of the American Dream”. Blessings!

  • Pastor Keme CHRISTOPHER

    I agree with Bill’s opinion that seems right to sound reasoning.
    What we need as children of God is to appropriate the teachings of Jesus to our contemporary life situations and live it out. we are allowing the world to influence us which itself is opposed to Christ teachings. Light will never struggle in darkness. Let us shine and dispel darkness

  • Pastor Keme CHRISTOPHER

    Sure. That’s absolutely true. Let’s manifest that reality. But the contrary is the experience of most spirit beings. What do you have to say?

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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