I was travelling home several months ago from our second “Young Adult Ministry” meeting where Pastor David DeHaan taught us from God’s Word on what it means to live a “poured-out” life for Christ as Paul did versus pursuing the American Dream as our culture encourages us in multiple ways. I flipped on the radio because my iPod is not working and scan for something catchy…I was in a mood where I just wanted to listen to some music. I happened to catch a song at the beginning that sounded very catchy…one I had not heard before, and it perfectly illustrated the flip side of what Pastor Dave had taught that very night. The name of the song is “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy featuring Bruno Mars. Here is how the song starts (radio edit, of course):
I wanna be a billionaire so frickin’ bad
Buy all the things I never had
Uh, I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine
Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen
Oh every time I close my eyes
I see my name in shining lights
A different city every night oh
I swear the world better prepare
For when I’m a billionaire
Our culture is all about living the high life: big cars, big houses, leisure, big vacations, partying all night, and on and on and on. Ultimately, it leads to emptiness, because the promise of the American Dream never satisfies. As a young Christian man or woman, it can be so easy to get caught up in this, but it is also so contrary to living for Christ as we are called to do.
Pleasae, do not get me wrong, I am not saying a follower of Christ cannot have big cars or big houses, but what is it that drives you? This is completely about the heart and where your treasure lies. Christ warns us in Matthew 6:19-21,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What is your purpose? What are you working yourself for? What are you striving for? Is it to accumulate riches and things here on earth, to build your own empire, to live a life of leisure, to retire early and head off to Florida? Or are you toiling away for Christ? Are you taking advantage of every circumstance the Lord has placed you in to proclaim Christ and him crucified? Are you sharing with your neighbors, coworkers, and family members the wonderfully great news of all that Christ has done to redeem your life from the pit? Are you laying up for yourself treasures on earth or in heaven?
Paul’s warning to Timothy is much more blunt:
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:6-9)
Contentment is not a buzz word in our culture. Advertisements are designed to make us discontent. But Paul reminds us we brought nothing into this world and we will be taking nothing out of the world. His warning is not against riches, but the desire to be rich. The consequences of such desire are dire…ruin and destruction.
So how can one guard oneself against slipping into the trap of desiring to be rich, laying up treasures on earth, and pursuing the American Dream? Pastor DeHaan summed up his teaching that night with four resolutions for the young people who attended:
- Resolve to pursue spiritual maturity.
- Resolve to embrace God’s purposes for trials and suffering.
- Resolve to make Christ known to others.
- Resolve to follow God wherever He leads me.
Not the most popular resolutions this day and age, but four for the young (and old) Christian that will help him or her live the poured out life Paul spoke about to Timothy,
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
Paul laid up for himself treasures in heaven and looked forward to the crown of righteousness from the Lord. Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit that enables us to fulfill these resolutions in our life. He gives the strength and ability to follow through. And He is glorified when we resolve to live for Him and our life proclaims His name.
So Christian, what are you toiling for? Treasures here, the American Dream, or treasures in heaven, the crown of righteousness?
From the Valley of Vision, “Man’s Great End”:
“Lord of All Being, There is one thing that deserves my greatest care…to glorify thee who has given me being, and to do all the good I can for my fellow men…Yet, Lord, how little is this the thought of mankind! Most men seem to live for themselves, without much or any regard for thy glory, or for the good of others; They earnestly desire and eagerly pursue the riches, honors, pleasures of this life, as if they supposed that wealth, greatness, merriment, could make their immortal souls happy; But, alas, what false delusive dreams are these! And how miserable ere long will those be that sleep in them, for all our happiness consists of loving thee, and being holy as thou art holy.”