This article is not really about the American Dream. But it sort of is. It all started on May 20, 2000. With one great sermon, John Piper single handily took down a version of The American Dream for an entire Christian generation. A countless number of pastors and missionaries look back to that moment as pivotal in their life and calling. Yet there are others. Others who were unknowingly handicapped that day. This was the pivotal moment for them also but to the negative. Since that sermon, there has been a generation of Christians scared to death of the American Dream. “God whatever you do, don’t give me a nice life!”
This version of the American Dream become a boogie man overnight. Sermons were preached and books written, calling people away from the hideous dream. To be sure, Dr. Piper was making a valid point; living for an “a nice house, a nice car, a nice job, a nice family, a nice retirement, & collecting shells” in his words, is a wasted life. But I missed the nuance in Piper’s words. In my mind, having those things were equivalent to wasting my life. I don’t think I am alone. Let me explain.
Years ago, I watched a video in which John Piper was asked a question about Doug Wilson. In response, he said “Doug Wilson is brilliant. But he is surrounded by people who are really dumb.” I think those words are applicable to Piper’s Passion sermon. I don’t think he intended on demonizing all forms of the American Dream. But that’s what dummies like me heard. That’s what dummies like me have preached. I misunderstood what the American Dream is and demonized a version of it that I did not understand.
From what I can tell, when Piper preached that sermon he had a nice house, a car, a nice job, a nice family, and a retirement plan in place. The only thing missing was the shells. He had the “Stuff” of the American dream he described. God gave those things to him. Was John Piper, as he preached that sermon, wasting his life?
I am a Christian man, with a wife, two kids, a house, two cars, retirement plans, and I enjoy collecting shells on the beach. These are gifts from God with stories of His grace and power attached to them. At times, God has lavished so many blessings me that I felt uneasy receiving them. That’s what grace does. It makes people say “I don’t deserve this! God, what are you doing blessing me like this?!” Unfortunately, there are still large swaths Piperites and even some radical dummies who are horrified that God may give them the same. “Anything but that God! Let me die alone and homeless for your glory before giving me that evil American Dream!”
God gave me the American Dream (Which is really the antithesis of the American dream if you think about it) and it’s awesome. My family and my stuff are gifts from God I do not deserve. He is not scared of the gifts he has given me. If anything, I love my family and my stuff to little, not too much. Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” I am in the process of learning to love and take care of what God has entrusted to me. It’s foolish to despise or be lazy with the gifts God gives.
Lazy asceticism for “God’s glory” is easier than noble stewardship for God’s glory. Therefore, there will always be dummies.