1 Timothy 6.17-18
As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.
My family, like a lot of others, grew up watching Disney movies. To this day I have the entirety of the Lion King memorized, I can whistle along to all of the songs from the Little Mermaid, and I still laugh at all the bits from Robin Williams in Aladdin.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I owe a great deal of ice breakers to that movie. For, whenever a conversation is in need of beginning, or restarting, one of the easiest questions to ask is as follows: “If you had a magic genie, what would your three wishes be?”
There’s something quaint about the idea. It’s not just one stand alone thing you could want, and the availability of wishes don’t go on forever either – it forces the person answering to really consider what he or she would ask for. And other the years I’ve asked that very question A LOT and I can say with assurance that the majority of answers have been about money, comfort, and fame.
All of those things smack us across the face with our relentless pursuit of happiness. We open up Instagram to discover perfect looking people with their perfect lives and their perfect homes and their perfect possessions. We pass by the magazine rack at the grocery store, we turn on the television, and it goes on and on and on.
It seems that the American Dream, however we might define it, has been commoditized to consist of wealth and possessions with a profound emphasis on the idea of more. Without thinking much about what we are doing, we work more hours and we pour out more effort into a never-ending desire for more money, more success, more comfort, and more of anything that money can buy.
I’ve heard it thousands of times that “money can’t buy happiness” but rich people seem to look pretty happy!
And then we read from Paul’s first letter to Timothy and things take on an ominous tone: As for those who are rich, command them to stop pursuing their wealth and instead focus on the Lord – the rich are supposed to do good, to be generous, and to share what they have with others.
It’s right there in scripture and yet when we think about or talk about money it is almost always in the sense of accumulating more for ourselves, even at the expense of others.
A friend of mine from seminary recently started his own church in North Carolina and part of their whole ethos is, of course, worshipping the living God but by doing so through paying off the debts of the congregation collectively.
And, to be clear, not the church’s debts! The people who participate in the church willfully contribute money each and every week dedicated to the sole purpose of paying off one person/family’s debts at a time.
And when the church’s program was announced it was ridiculed by people from other Christian communities as being antithetical to the American Dream.
Which leaves me wondering: When did the American Dream become more important that God’s Dream?