It’s the American dream. Acquire stuff. Check out your neighbors. Envy what they have and go out and get stuff that’s at least as good and hopefully even better. Bigger houses, cooler cars, bigger screen TVs, biggest sound systems, and the latest electronic toys. The list goes on and on. We buy into the lie that we need these things in order to be accepted, popular, or successful. The American life becomes about the things we have rather than who we are as people and Who we know as Christ-followers.
This mentality even seeps into the church. Please understand that I am not saying the church should be a place filled with perfect people. We are all sinners saved by the grace of a loving God – unearnable, undeserved, and totally free grace! But Christ’s church on earth is to be a place where the focus is on Jesus, not stuff.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19–21
“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:31–33
“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:9–10
This brings me to what I call the American Psalm. Written by a man named Asaph who served as the Temple’s choir director for David and Solomon, it is a candid description of the struggle between what we see others having and what we have in comparison. And what makes it worse is that the others who appear to have so much are not even believers!
Psalm 73 lays out the problem every Christian caught up in “The American Dream” faces.
“But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:2–3
Many of us have asked the Lord, “Why do I struggle along when people that don’t even believe in You have all the goodies?” Have you ever had thoughts along those lines? I think we all have. It’s what our culture wants us to think about.
Asaph wonders the same thing.
“Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure And washed my hands in innocence; For I have been stricken all day long And chastened every morning.” Psalm 73:12–14
Then Asaph comes to a realization. A realization all Christ-followers need to dwell on.
“When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!” Psalm 73:16–19
King David wrote sound advice every Christian should take to heart.
“Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass And fade like the green herb.” Psalm 37:1–2
“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:7
The New Testament book of Hebrews gives us the same teaching.
“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have…” Hebrews 13:5
As Christians we need to fight against this mindset that’s promoted so hard in our American culture. We see, we want, so we do anything to get instant satisfaction.
This sounds like what’s going on in the average American neighborhood. I look, I envy, then I go into debit, selfishly hoard, even steal. I saw a documentary once where they asked prison inmates why they stole. Almost to a man they said, “I wasn’t really stealing; they had stuff that should have been mine so I was just taking it.”
Take a devotional moment and read through Psalm 73 asking if there’s a part of your attitude recorded there. Then ask yourself, “What’s the answer? How do I stop my envy of what the non-believing world HAS and focus on WHO I know?” How can I live within my means, do without, save and wait, get rid of credit cards, live a debt-free lifestyle, and obey God’s Word?
Ask yourself if you can truthfully say with Asaph, the psalmist when he prays,
“Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.” Psalm 73:25
Can you pray this? Do you pray it?
Think about it…