Chained to the American Dream


Children growing up in America have been the recipient of something wonderful and terrible: ambition.  We encourage each new generation that they can be anything they want to be!  We tell them to dream dreams and go achieve them.  We tell them to work hard and they will run the world.  We tell them to study hard, graduate, and go earn the big bucks.

  • What happens when that is not achievable?
  • Is every child college ready?
  • Is every dream able to be a reality?
  • Is every graduate getting a job?
  • Is every degree going to pay off the student loans?

These are just a few issues that surround us today.  Is ambition wrong?  When the Bible speaks of being content does that mean to settle for second best?  Again, good questions that people are asking.

Ambition is the desire for success.  The issue behind ambition is our definition of success.

  • A young woman graduates from college and enters her field of study and does well but cannot make ends meet.  Is she a success or failure?
  • A young man graduates at the top of his class but has no job prospects because of a failing economy and job structure.  Is he a success or failure?
  • A middle-aged husband and father of 3 quits his high paying job and moves the family to India to reach people for Jesus Christ and lives on a mediocre salary.  Is he a success or failure?
  • A 30-something never been married woman operates a success company but goes home to an empty house.  She soon moves in with her aging mother and cares for her when she is not at work.  Is she a success or failure?

Our definition of success is skewed.  The American Dream involves life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  The desire to acquire that dream has caused a skewing of what success really is, what ambition should look like, and the degradation of contentment.  Our demand and drive for more money results in broken families. Our need for fashion and beauty has caused a spike in depression and suicides.  The casualties of ambition are many, but do they need to be?  I would suggest that a misunderstanding of ambition, success, and contentment are to blame.

God has created each of us to fulfill a particular purpose in this world during our lifetime.  Having the ambition to become that person and fulfill that purpose is actually Biblical.  Being content with the station in life to which God has called us brings fulfillment.  Achieving inner peace, social harmony, and utter satisfaction is true success.  All of this is possible when we understand and drive ourselves toward the plan of God.

Our culture has an unwritten caste system with regards to success.  The person who works hard at a nominal paying job, loves his wife, and teaches his kids a biblical ethic is regarded as a failure.  However, I would contest this label.  If you are doing what God has designed you to do, you are successful.  If you are ambitious to be all God has in mind for you regardless of the outcome you will be more satisfied than anyone else. You will have more joy than anyone else. You be the you God designed.  Put society’s labels in the garbage, exchanging them for those of God.

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me.  Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.  Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.


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