The American Dream

Do you remember The Game of LIFE?  The board game was also simply called LIFE.  Invented and promoted by Milton Bradley in 1860, the game is familiar to generations of Americans.  I suspect all of my readers have played it at one time or another.

Each player had a car with six holes for passengers (early versions had eight).  Players started the game unmarried and alone in their cars.  They rolled dice and then moved along a road where they acquired an education, a career, and a spouse.  They had children and added them to their cars.  They received pay raises and bonuses.  They moved into larger homes.  They prospered—or tried to.  The objective was not to finish first, but to finish with the most money and move to “Millionaire Acres.” (Losers went to the “Poor Farm.”)

The game is the American Dream in miniature.  It reduces success to simple, purely material terms.

It is also fundamentally at odds with the Christian view of life.  This is an Epicurean philosophy, not a Christian one.  Do you recall who the Epicureans were?  Today we often use the words epicurean and hedonist interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.  Hedonists were all about the excitement of the senses and physical pleasure.  By contrast, the Epicureans were about the avoidance of pain.  For Epicureans, a life well lived was, above all, a comfortable life.

As Americans, be you Christian or otherwise, you have been taught to be an epicurean.  Think about it.  What is a good life?  You were taught from birth that it was very important to get a good education.

Why?

So you could get a good job.

Why?

So you could make a good salary.

Why?

So you could accumulate wealth.

Why?

So you could live comfortably!

Yes, the life well lived—the American Dream—is to get from A to B, from birth to death, as comfortably as possible.  Achieve that and you win the game!  This pretty well sums up how most Americans, Christians included, parent.  Oh, they sprinkle a bit of Jesus on it, but it’s about material success, not sacrifice or service.

However, even a cursory reading of the Bible will tell you that your comfort is not a primary consideration for God.  It is full of stories of people who had it all in worldly terms, but who nonetheless suffered God’s wrath.

So what, in Christian terms, is a successful life?  What is a life well lived?

The Bible gives answer to this question many times, but perhaps none is more succinct than this:

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you.” ~ Matthew 6:33

Make that your mission statement.  Focus on how you will, this day, serve Him.  I love the words of the great missionary David Livingstone: “This day I resolve that I will be an uncommon Christian.”

Be uncommon.  Not epicurean.

Image Credit: Paul Fisher