I’m an introvert. My wife thinks this is ludicrous, but I enjoy lunch by myself. I also used to be a “private” person, chalking it up to introversion. But as I saw lives changed by opening my home to others, I realized an isolated life is the product of the American Dream, not a personality type.
When people say they’re “private,” it usually means one of two things.
Number one … you don’t want to be inconvenienced. Cooking dinner for strangers is weird. Having people stay in your home cramps your style. It’s easier to do neither and tell others you’re private.
Number two … you’re hiding something. I know this from experience. I was most isolated when I struggled with addiction or my marriage was struggling. I was afraid someone might uncover my secret sin and struggling marriage, so I played the “private” card.
Whether it’s inconvenience or secret sin, the real issue with isolated Christianity is it’s not sustainable. When Christians become isolated and private with their lives, the church begins to die. A relational faith won’t thrive in a disconnected culture.
4.) You can’t distinguish between necessities and luxuries.
Multiple times every day I say, “Man, I need …” and complete the sentence with crap like
“… a new phone.”
“… that fresh flannel shirt.”
“… a raise.”
Maybe you do this too. If so, here’s an exercise. Count how many times you say “I need …” in a 24-hour period. While this seems like water under the bridge, it’s really more like rushing water threatening the integrity of the bridge.
For the record, “needs” are food, water, shelter and clothing. Generally speaking, everything else is extra.
While it’s a blessing to have your needs met, if you can’t differentiate between wants and needs, many teachings of Jesus will be difficult to comprehend. For example:
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” (Matt. 5:6)
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” (Matthew? ?6:31?)
“Give us today the food we need.” (Matthew 6:11)
These statements might as well be written in some alien language. I’ve never experienced hunger or thirst, which puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding righteousness.
“Give us today the food we need” is not only foreign, it’s irresponsible. Seriously. How would you respond if someone told you they only had only enough food, clothing and resources for today? No extras. No stocked pantry. Only enough for today.
The American Dream would call this irresponsible. Sadly, I probably would too.
5.) The radical life of Jesus sounds more like a threat than good news.
If you use “radical” and “Jesus freak” to describe certain Christians, you’re probably too influenced by the American Dream. Jesus asks the same thing from every follower. He asks you to die.
If you haul the American Dream into the presence of God, you can count on one thing … he will ask you to leave it at the door. Recall the rich young ruler. By all appearances, he was a sincere man. But he wanted to journey with Jesus and bring his stuff. So, when Jesus asks him to leave his stuff at the door, the young man chooses instead to walk away from Jesus.
For Christians influenced by the American Dream, every sermon is a threat to their lifestyle. They pick and choose Scripture. And when confronted with stories like the rich young ruler, they’re quick to justify. “This story is an example of exaggeration.”
You can’t serve both God and the American Dream. If you want God, you must leave your selfish pursuits and ambitions at the door, all of it.