One of the major tenets of the Bible is that all mankind are assigned to just two groups; those with saving faith in God and those without which translates once again to those preserved for everlasting life or those reserved for everlasting darkness.
Those with saving faith give the highest priority in their lives to spiritual matters while those without do not. The latter may appear to live an exemplary lifestyle but their major priority might be to exact all they can from this lifetime. The Bible has much to say about those whose priorities focus on the present instead of the future.
Recently both presidential candidates, especially Governor Romney, stated repeatedly that every individual should have the right to pursue and achieve the ‘American Dream.’ The incumbent president on the other hand didn’t focus on that issue; his ideology included the concept that government should provide all that one might dream of having.
The concept of governmental provision can be discarded immediately as unscriptural, but is the American dream in line with Biblical teachings? One popular definition of the dream is as follows:
“The American Dream is…a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity, success, and an upward social mobility achievable through hard work.”
According to this definition the attainment of the American dream can be measured in material terms and upward social mobility, both of which are said to be achievable through personal effort.
Let is be reiterated at this point that material success and upward social mobility are not in themselves ‘evil’ or necessarily to be classified as sin. The issue centers on one’s priorities, or where one places their trust.
Jesus addressed the issues contained in the American dream succinctly.
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow…” Matthew 6:31-34a
Jesus was explaining the difference between needs and wants and then He plainly stated that one’s top priority should be to seek the righteousness of God. If one’s priorities were in order, then they needn’t worry about their needs being met.
Jesus taught his disciples in another passage, in which He was defining the cost of discipleship, that misplaced priorities could mean total failure.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:24b-26
And while upward social mobility is also a significant aspect of the American dream, Jesus offered quite a different viewpoint. He was explaining both to the multitudes and His disciples that the scribes and Pharisees sought after and enjoyed social prominence.
“But all their works they do to be seen by men…They love the place of honor at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’” Matthew 23:5-7
Jesus went on to explain the ineffectiveness of the Pharisee’s actions.
“But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled (put down) and he who humbles himself will be exalted (lifted up).” Matthew 23:11-12
Thus it is apparent that the messages from both presidential candidates fell far short of scriptural teachings. But then, how many votes would a candidate have received if he had campaigned on scriptural issues? Hopefully this great nation will find itself and the issues in 2016 will be substantially different.
And while priorities may not appear on the surface to play a significant role in defining a person’s spiritual condition, in reality the opposite is true. An individual’s priorities are in fact a subtle indicator of which of the two basic groups of mankind one belongs.