By: Tera Ertz
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
“It’s a dream that we can find a job with wages that support a family. That we can have health care that’s affordable for when we get sick. That we can retire with dignity and security. And that we can provide our children with education and opportunity – so that they can be what they want to be and live how they want to live. They are the common dreams that can finally unite a nation around a common purpose.” Barak Obama ~ Reclaiming the American Dream Speech January, 2008
Christians are losing the debate over dealing with fiscal problems, growing national debt, and social welfare programs. We always get bogged down with the appeal that the American Dream is out of reach of so many people. They can’t find jobs, they are losing their houses, health care, and retirements. They can’t get a good education or continuing education. We grow stymied because we believe in the American Dream. We believe in lending aid to those who cannot help themselves. We believe in education. Whether we, as Christians, are liberal or conservative in our philosophy, we believe in these things because they stem from a deep love for our fellow human beings. But, we’ve bogged down in the details, lost sight of the goal, and failed as agents of God’s hope and transformative power in the world.
The contrast between the two quotes above struck me this week as I was explaining the concept of free markets to a young woman. We do not need to reclaim the American Dream. We need to remember what it actually is. We need to remember that it was rooted in the beliefs of those who founded this nation that we each have a purpose. The Bible tells us that God has prepared for each of us good work. When the Founders declared the inalienable rights of man, they did not specify the pursuit of property, as was written elsewhere in contemporary documents, they specified the pursuit of happiness. They did not specify a passive presence of happiness, they specified an active pursuit.
Over the intervening centuries, we have allowed others to change the meaning of the dream held in those words. The focus has become outward, passive pieces of property: a house, a car, a job, health insurance. These are called the “common dreams” that can unite us around a common purpose. But, houses and cars, jobs and money are not dreams, they are simply tools. They are the trappings, prone to thieves, moth and rust, that God places in our lives to fulfill His dreams for us.
Martin Luther King spoke of the dream God gave him, that he would be given the opportunity to use his skills to change the face of a nation. Ronald Reagan spoke of the dream God had given him, that his efforts as President would tear down a wall. Mother Teresa shared the dream God gave her to alleviate the suffering of the forgotten, and changed our global consciousness. The Founders shared the dream God gave them of building a nation that would strive toward liberty.
These are the eternal dreams that we call the American Dream. Happiness encompasses so much more than simply property. It is the right to determine what success means to us individually. It is the right to dream God’s dreams. It is the right to measure ourselves by His will instead of man’s limitations. We already have that eternal Dream, we just need to remember it, and run the race He puts before us. Be blessed and be a blessing.
Tera Ertz is the founder of Hope and Change Ministries, author of God Talk: The Beginning, mother of five, and a child of God. You can find her on Facebook, or subscribe to Hope and Change Ministries or Contagious Transformations to keep up with the latest.