Putting the American Dream to Death

I know a lot of people that freak out when they go into a church and find the pastor preaching on money or tithing or stewardship. Those kinds of sermons never bothered me. I suppose that’s mostly because I’ve never had a lot of money. And the bleeding-heart activist in me has always caused me to be willing to give what money I’ve had to the church or to charities. And though some months are harder than others, my needs have always been provided, my bills always paid, and I’ve never gone hungry.

So, when I read Chapter 18 of Richard Stearns’ The Hole in Our Gospel, I almost felt that I couldn’t identify with it. But then, I thought again.

Stearns focuses a lot on “material success” in this chapter. But he also talks about getting into “God’s game.” So, what this really tells me is that what he’s really proposing is not for people to get rid of all of their material wealth. He’s proposing that people change their definition of success.

When I was younger, my definition of success was to feel loved and to feel secure. But over the years, I’ve seen how selfish, self-centered, and self-absorbed that truly is. Today, my definition of success is changing. I see success more along the lines of making others feel loved and secure.

Last weekend, as I was snowed in at my parents’ house for Christmas, I did a quick scan of my Facebook page that turned into a long period of time looking through the pictures that everyone had posted of their Christmases and their fun times in our unseasonable NC snow. And in the midst of looking through all of the pictures, I saw my friend Scott’s status update:

If anyone has an emergency or urgent need, please let me know. I’m ok with driving through the snow!

In some ways, it seems such a small thing. It’s not like he’s offering to run into a burning building to save a child. (Though, knowing Scott, I know that he would do that.) But Scott was offering what he had. Being from the Northeast, he’s comfortable with driving in the snowy conditions that we Southerners are unused to and often uncomfortable driving in. He was thinking of others and offering what he had.

Stearns quotes a scripture that I love, Acts 2:44-45.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

The American Dream that Stearns talks about is all about “me, me, me!” and “mine, mine, mine!” What he’s saying (and I’m agreeing with) is that the better, higher success is about others and not about ourselves. At my brother’s recent wedding, the father of the bride told the newlyweds something that I think applies to all of us. He said, “It’s going to be hard. There are going to be days when you can’t stand each other. But the key to succeeding is waking up each morning and deciding to serve the other more than you serve yourself.”

What is your definition of success?

This post is part of our regularly scheduled Wednesday discussion about Richard Stearns’ book, The Hole in Our Gospel. This week’s discussion is about Chapter 18 – Putting the American Dream to Death. If you’ve written a response to the chapter, please visit my co-facilitator Jason Stasyszen’s site Connecting to Impact to link up. I invite you and encourage you to jump into the discussion whether you’ve read the chapter or not. Your thoughts are important to us!

About Sarah Salter


  1. Good insight Sarah. That material success is often a preoccupation with many of us is a good take away. As for driving in the snow: my oldest daughter lives in Knoxville now and she gives me running commentaries about southern drivers and how school is canceled with the seemingly first snow flake. 🙂

  2. Deciding to serve others more than yourself… The more I read and study scripture, the more I believe that this is a natural outpouring of our relationship with God. How can we Love God without loving people and serving their needs?

    Good word today Sarah.

  3. Love your take on this, Sarah. I think people who have the ability to create wealth and do it for Kingdom purposes should go for it, but it’s not about the American dream, security, and selfish hoarding. We all have to be stewards of what we’ve been given–period. Success is defined by surrender.

    Thank you, Sarah!

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