RIP to the American Dream

David Marvin // Feb 8, 2022

Many of us have been chasing after the American dream: a lot of money, a great job, a big house, a nice car, and a picture-perfect family. In this message, we look at Luke 12 to learn how to say RIP to the American dream and hello to something so much bigger and better - living for eternity.

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All right, let's go! 2022 looks good on y'all. Welcome, everybody in the room, everybody joining us online. To the 14 Porch.Live locations, I want to highlight Porch Indy; Porch Boise, Idaho; Midland, Texas; Scottsdale, Arizona; Cincinnati, Ohio; Austin, Texas; Fayetteville; and all of the other locations.

We're continuing a series called R.I.P. to the Old Me. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ…" If you have put your trust and faith in what Jesus did on the cross, his death and resurrection, you have been made new. You are a new creation. Whether you feel like it, whether you believe it, God says you are new. The Christian journey is now learning to live the new life and who God says you are currently.

Tonight, we're going to explore and dive back in and cover another topic. If you missed last week, JD did an awesome job covering R.I.P. to the Victim Mentality. How do I live as a victor, not a victim? Tonight, we're going to cover another message or topic that I think is crucial for you and me to understand, according to Jesus, if we are going to experience the abundant life full of purpose and vitality that he desires for us.

To do that, I'm going to start with an illustration from the past few days in my life. In Dallas, Texas, as everyone in the room knows, in the past week we had a snowstorm. It was 70 degrees, and then it was 12 degrees, because we're Texas. That's how we roll. Because of that, there was snow and ice on the ground, and I have kids. I have a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old… Oh, I forgot to tell you all. And we had a baby. That's why I haven't been here. This is baby bear Michael. Just cheeks, man…cheeks for days. The best.

Because it was snowing outside, I took my 6-year-old son and my 3-year-old daughter, and we did what you do when you're 6 and 3 and there's snow on the ground. You go attempt to make a snowman. This was a challenging feat because most of it was ice on the ground. So, we're trying to pile things together and get it to stick. Eventually, we got the snowman to work.

I tell my son, "All right. We have the three-ball layer. We need to get eyes. I want you to go inside and ask Mom for Oreos." He goes inside and comes back out with raspberries. "I said Oreos." He said, "I know, but my favorite color is red. Can we do red?" I said, "I don't think that's going to go well, putting raspberries for the eyes. It's going to melt. It's not going to end up looking how you want it to look. I think we should go Oreos." "No, Dad. My favorite color is red. Let's go red."

So we did raspberry eyes. I posted it on Instagram, so you may have seen it. There we are. It looks like a snowman from a horror movie. It's like Olaf meets The Blair Witch Project or something. I was right. That decision led to things looking not exactly how he or anyone wanted them to look.

Now, tonight, I want to talk about a topic and a teaching that Jesus is going to paint a picture for us and give us some instructions and say if you and I don't follow these instructions, it's not going to end up with a life that looks the way you want it to look. Further, he's going to say it's not going to end up with an eternity that looks how you want it to look.

I think tonight's message is crucial for us who live in America, who live in Dallas, who live in Scottsdale, who live in the most affluent country the world has ever known, to understand, because Jesus is going to say some really profound things about the danger of a very common belief, or a very common goal a lot of us have, specifically called the American dream. So, tonight, we're talking about rest in peace to living for the American dream and hello to living for eternity.

Now, what do I mean by the "American dream"? I love America. I have USA socks. I'm not wearing them right now, but I would. I love America. This has nothing to do with being anti-America, but giving your life to the vision of a white picket fence, "I got the house, got the spouse, got the 2.5 kids and a Golden Retriever, and I can retire early," Jesus would say, is a foolish thing to give your life to in light of eternity.

It is probably the thing that, as much as anything else, we're so inundated with, because we've only lived in a world where wealth is constantly telling us we don't have enough. Tonight, we're going to explore some profound teaching of Jesus that I don't want to be an instruction for just your 20s or your 30s, but God is going to paint a picture for what to give your life to. In other words, I hope the application buries into your soul and your mind and you and your spouse someday spend the rest of your life giving your life to what Jesus says matters.

Rest in peace to the American dream, and hello to living for eternity. We're going to look at three reasons the American dream is a foolish thing to give your life to. We're going to start in Luke, chapter 12. Jesus is in the middle of teaching, and something happens that's funny as Jesus has been teaching in Luke, chapter 12.

He's in the middle of a sermon that's talking about heaven and hell and about acknowledging Jesus, and a guy in the crowd begins to speak up and almost heckle Jesus and say, "Hey, hey, hey. All that heaven and hell stuff…that's great. Question real quick." He begins to ask a question, and it's related to the topic of money. Jesus uses that to springboard into the dangers of pursuing what, today, we would describe as the American dream. I'm going to start in verse 13 of Luke, chapter 12.

"Someone in the crowd said to him [Jesus], 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' Jesus replied, 'Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?' Then he said to them…" So, he takes his comment, and he's like, "What do I have to do with that?" Then he addresses the man and the crowd based on what the man just said. "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." Which had to sting if you're that guy. It's so savage Jesus.

The guy says, "Hey, will you tell my brother…? He didn't share the inheritance. I want you to come with me, go to the house, and tell my brother Carl to give me my share of the inheritance," and Jesus says, "Let's talk about greed for a second, guys. This is a clear example of how we're able to be tempted or fall into the trap of greed." Then he goes right into a story. Here's the story.

"And he told them this parable…" That's another word for story. "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest." So, there's a guy who had a farm and had a lot of crops that grew. "He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself…'" This guy talks to himself a lot in this story. "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."

Now, if Jesus stopped the story right there… He's talking to an audience that was incredibly poor, first-century poverty, and he's talking to an audience that was also agricultural, agrarian, in that the ability to have tons of grain for the rest of your life… This was not just the American dream; this was the Jerusalem dream, times 10. We think, "Man, it would be amazing to be able to stop and to retire." People did not retire in this day and age, so this man has hit the jackpot.

They're probably thinking as they hear, "Dude, that is the dream. Maybe Jesus can tell us how this man was able to accomplish that and how he was able to succeed and make that happen." Then the story takes a turn. "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God."

So, there's a guy who has this big harvest, a lot of crops. He says to himself, "You know what? I'm just going to store all this food, make even bigger barns, and I'll be able to live for the rest of my life, kick it up, and retire early." Jesus says, "And then the man dies." All that he accumulated and got for himself and put together for himself was totally lost, and he didn't get to experience the Jerusalem dream or the American dream.

He was looking to all of his accomplishments or wealth to find security. Jesus reminds his audience there is no security in wealth. That comes from one place: God. You can have all the money in the world and not live to spend any of it.

  1. Living for the American dream makes you a fool. Pursuing or living out and being ruled by living for the American dream makes you a fool. Do you know the only time in the Bible where God calls someone a fool is this man? Think about that. Why? "Jesus, are you just against people having things? We're just all supposed to be poor to follow Jesus? Is that what he's saying?" No.

He's saying if you live for just accumulating and getting the house and getting the car and getting the job and getting the lake house and getting the ability to retire early, you're a fool, and you have spent your life and wasted it. Jesus' point is not anti-stuff. He doesn't want the stuff to be the focus and the pursuit of your life.

This, honestly, is so convicting, because I think in America we're, candidly, numb to how much we have. I said earlier America is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. There was a missionary who joined our staff for staff prayer. We have a meeting every Tuesday morning for a couple of hours. We meet together, pray, and share stories of what God is doing.

He joined us, and he had been gone from the States for 10 years. Somebody asked him… It was his first time back in Dallas on furlough. They said, "What has changed in the last 10 years since you left?" I'll never forget his answer. He very quickly said, "Oh, all of the storage units." In the audience, we all had the same response, like, "What is he talking about? Storage units?" Then I drove around that day. You begin to look for them, and they're everywhere.

Do you know that the number of storage units…? By that I mean the facilities, where you go, and you have so much stuff you can't fit it in your house, so you're like, "Honey, we have to rent out a small cube to put some of our stuff in." The United States has 25 times more of those than all of Europe combined. There are more storage unit facilities (I don't mean units, like, a single box; I mean facilities, companies, franchises) in the United States than all of McDonald's, Starbucks, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and 7-Eleven combined. We are inundated with stuff.

Jesus is teaching us there is no amount of stuff that will leave us satisfied. You can have all the abundance of possessions, but that's not what life is ultimately about. Our culture tells us that if we just had more, if we just had more, if we just had more, it would scratch some need, it would leave us fulfilled. It tells us that the game of life is kind of like Monopoly. At the heart of the American dream is the idea of that game you played growing up, Monopoly, where you try to buy as much stuff as you can, and the winner at the end is the person who has the most.

The Bible says that's not true at all. Jesus is going to tell us that life is a lot more like the game of UNO. Do you guys remember UNO? Your grandma plays UNO. Most of you probably haven't played, because you're not over 85, but UNO is this game where the winner is not who has the most cards; it's the one who gets rid of the most. Jesus is going to say, ultimately, life is not about acquiring and getting more; it is about giving more to the only kingdom that will last, which is Christ's.

Don't live your life and be foolish. He says this man was a fool, because the American dream, if it's pursued at the expense of knowing God and making him known, makes you a fool. The inverse is living for eternity is the only thing that can make you full on the inside. Living for the American dream makes you a fool, but living for eternity is not just something that's going to have impact for eternity. It fills, it satisfies, because you were made for it. Jesus looks into the eyes of this man and to his crowd and says, "Don't buy the lie that you're here to just acquire and acquire."

There's a friend of mine who tells the story about the time his company went public and he became a billionaire overnight. He said, "There was a party in this hotel we were at. We had just gone public. Everyone was downstairs. They were all celebrating. I'd just become a billionaire. I went back up to my hotel room, and I started working again. I wasn't following Jesus. I just wasn't able to be satisfied," because he wasn't following Jesus.

Even turning a billionaire overnight didn't satisfy, because there is no amount of wealth, status, or success that can, but Jesus can. Jesus says if you spend your life buying the lie the world around you sells of "The American dream is what it's all about," you're a fool, and so am I, but if you spend your life living for eternity, it will make you full on the inside. Then he launches into another challenge that the pursuit of the American dream creates.

He says this: "Then Jesus said to his disciples: 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…'" He brings up anxiety, which is at the heart of, honestly, why a lot of us want to have and get more and have more in the bank. "…what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!" Translation: God will provide for you.

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?" He brings up another illustration. "Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan…"

Those are people of the world. Those are people who do not know God, he's saying. They run after all those things. "…and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well." What is Jesus saying? There's so much there we don't have time to unpack, but he's driving home: "You have a heavenly Father who will provide for you."

Chasing the American dream is often fueled by fear. "I'm going to get more. I need to accumulate more. I need to have enough so I can retire. I need to have enough to pay for kids. I need to have enough so I can get married." Jesus says those all are ingrained with the lie that you are the source of provision in your life, and that will create anxiety.

  1. Living for the American dream makes you anxious. This is why the man in the story is driven to go to Jesus and take his one shot with the Son of God and say, "Jesus, the heaven and hell stuff…that's great. Hey, will you tell my brother to give me some money?" It's fear. It drives us. Often, fear of not being seen as successful creates an anxiety that "I'm not living up to other people's opinions or the standards or where I should be or where my friends are in this stage of life."

Jesus is saying living for some version of what the world says is success is foolish, and it will make you anxious. Living for the American dream will make you anxious. Jesus says the solution to your anxiety is not more money. It is a deeper understanding of who your God is, how he has promised, "I will provide for you. I ultimately provided for you on the cross where I gave my life for your greatest needs."

That's what Christians believe, if you're not a follower of Jesus. They don't believe good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. They believe Jesus went through hell for us so that we wouldn't have to. He came to earth, died in our place as the payment for our sin, and then rose from the dead showing the payment cleared. It was more than enough. That's what Christians believe.

He not only provided there. Jesus says God will provide for your needs. Not for the path of success you want, not for everything you want in life, but he will provide for your needs. You can trust him. If you chase after, "I need to accomplish and succeed and live up to what everybody says is the goal," it's a recipe for being anxious, because living for the American dream just creates anxiety.

As one great poet, Biggie, said, "More money, more problems." We think it's a solution, and Jesus says, "It's not a solution." You can have everything everyone else wants and be miserable. This is a girl named Cheslie Kryst. Cheslie was Miss USA in 2019. She was a lawyer who also had her MBA. She was a model. She was a D1 athlete at one point in time…incredibly successful, top 10 in Miss Universe. She was on Extra as a TV correspondent. She was Emmy nominated. Ten days ago, she took her life.

She was beautiful, had everything the world would say matters, everything you would want, and it didn't satisfy. It created angst, anxiety, depression, because everything the world says matters can't fill the part of your soul that was made by God, for God. Pursuing some version of success and what everyone says…"This is the goal, this is the car, these are the clothes, this is the way to look, this is the number of followers, and this is the house to have"…can't fulfill the part of you that only God can.

You can either spend your life chasing and striving after that, only to arrive at the epitome of what everyone would say is success and find it doesn't, or you can look to the one source that can, which is Jesus and a relationship of walking in line with him. I've been doing this a long time, and I have seen how chasing the American dream has left young adults and their families empty. I've sat with young adults in tears, who have more money than I will ever have, who don't have to work at all, and they, through tears, cry out how money destroyed their family.

The temptation for us… You know, we're young adults. You're poor. You're like, "I have college debt." You're like, "I bet we could handle it." The truth is money is not a solution for your anxiety. It's not a solution for the biggest needs and biggest problems you have. Money is not a bad thing, but it doesn't offer you what Jesus can, which is a solution for that hole that exists in every heart and every person that no amount of status, success, or home can ever fulfill. He says you can trust your Father to provide. Living for the American dream makes you anxious. Living for eternity will give you peace.

Then Jesus goes into the next portion of the text and tells us what is maybe the most tragic portion of this entire thing. He says, "Do not be afraid, little flock…" It's pretty tender language. You know the scene. He's sitting there in front of his audience. A man chimes up from the crowd, and Jesus is like, "Let me talk about this, because this is going to be a big pitfall for a lot of people. They're going to chase and seek something in accumulating or getting stuff that is not going to work." Then he ends with, "So don't be afraid. Your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom."

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." When you begin to live for eternity, something begins to shift in your heart. When you live just for this life, something happens, and at the end of this life, it will leave you eternally bankrupt. Perhaps the greatest tragedy in the American dream is it's so narrowly focused on this life and leaves you eternally bankrupt.

  1. Living for this life only, or living for the American dream, leaves you bankrupt. He introduces a topic of, I think, why Jesus is so passionate about money. He says there's a relationship between money and what you treasure and your heart. Do you know that Jesus, more than anybody else in the Bible, talks about money? In 2,000 verses he talks about money. He talks about it more than he talks about heaven and hell combined.

Why? Because Jesus wants you to be poor and he's against money? No. Because he knows, more than anything else in this life, money competes to sit on the throne of your heart, to make you feel a sense of control, security, peace. It can distract you like nothing else, or like few other things, away from God and build you up and make you think, through pride, you created what you have. Jesus isn't against money. He doesn't want your money to have you. He's not against you having money. Nothing like it competes for your heart.

The verses on prayer are 500. There are four times as many verses on money, because Jesus knows nothing in this life competes for your heart like wealth, which means living in America, the wealthiest country on the planet, and living in cities like this or in suburbs in affluent areas like Scottsdale and like Boise and like Dallas and like Austin and like all of the different locations listening in right now, is one of the most dangerous places you can be for your faith.

Nothing, according to Jesus…where your treasure is your heart will be also (in other words, your heart is going to follow wherever your treasure is)…is competing for your heart like money. We live in a world that is unbelievably inundated in wealth and how much you don't have and what you need.

There's a friend who was on staff a few years ago. His name is Paul. He moved his family to West Dallas. If you're listening, that's just a poor area or higher poverty area of Dallas. It certainly was at the time 10 years ago. Somebody asked him the question… He had kids. They said, "Aren't you concerned about it not being that safe?" He responded with something that I don't think I'll ever forget. It was so convicting.

He said, "Safe? You think the affluent suburbs are safe? You think living in some of the wealthiest areas in the country is safe? You think raising kids around all of the environments where everyone has a Range Rover, and the amount of drugs they'll introduce… Do you think that's safe?" No. It's every bit as dangerous as being in a place that has a higher crime rate. It's just a different type of danger. It may even be worse.

Jesus would say you and I are to be on guard because nothing competes for your heart like money, like getting more stuff, like having more…more clothes, the right car. It does something to our hearts. He also gives us an invitation. "Hey, anything you invest for my kingdom will last for all of eternity." He's not trying to get you away from having nice things. He's trying to get you to see life in a right perspective…to see your world, to see the opportunity, to see your 20s, your 30s, your life in a right perspective. He wants to focus and refocus how we see.

There's something called the Hubble Telescope that went into space in 1990. It was almost $2 billion to create, and it basically was a telescope that went up into space that allowed us to take images from space. I mean, it was amazing. It was incredible. NASA produced it and sent it off into space, and it would allow us to see far distances in the universe and also allow us to capture accurate footage of our world and to see it more clearly.

They sent it up there. You know, tons of anticipation, billions of dollars spent. It's finally up in the air, and they send back the very first images from space from the Hubble Telescope. They get them back, and they're all blurry. That's a bad day for somebody at work. "Carl!" It had not been calibrated rightly on the lenses. They realized, "In order for us to bring it back down, it would be far too expensive. In order for us to send another one out, it would be billions of dollars."

So they came up with a plan. "We're going to make giant contact lenses that we're going to send up into space, and astronauts are going to attach contact lenses onto the outside of the Hubble Telescope." It worked, and we were able to see in perspective these crystal-clear, beautiful images of our planet. There's one from the Hubble Telescope.

Formerly, it was out of focus, and then those lenses… Everything came into focus. This is what Jesus is attempting to do through his teaching. He's not telling them, "Hey, living a life where you have nice things or you have a good job or you get out of debt or you have a car and you live in a house someday are bad things."

What he is saying is, "You spending your life living for your kingdom, building into your kingdom, spending not just your 20s but all of your life investing in acquiring more stuff and having more things and having the life that everyone in the world says is successful is going to leave you eternally bankrupt. You spending your life investing in my kingdom, serving and sharing in my kingdom, is going to leave you eternally with treasures that will never fade, a reward that cannot be taken from you. Nothing you invest in this life can be taken."

Candidly, my fear, because this generation… We haven't done this for a while. There is a higher level of materialism in young adults today, in the church today, than just a few years ago there was. I don't know what happened. It has been a challenge for me this week addressing, "What happened?" Maybe it was social media and the fact that everything everyone wears gets posted everywhere, and there's all this pressure to look some certain way.

It's like the church all of a sudden shifted from this radical, reckless, "Whatever you want from me, Jesus, take it all. I'll give anything and everything. I want to live for your kingdom. I'm not living for what other people think and what car I drive and the house I have. I want to live for you…"

It's like that shrunk in the hearts of people. Not all of them. There are men and women who, just like that Hubble Telescope, see things in perspective. They see light. They see our world more clearly and this life more clearly. They're not giving their 20s, they're not giving themselves to living for a kingdom that's going to fade, which is theirs, which is any kingdom that is not Jesus'.

Think about this man's question and how narrowly focused he is. He's standing in front of the Son of God. He has a shot to talk to Jesus. Very few people who ever lived got that shot. Think about how small and petty what he asks for is. How much was the inheritance? Five grand? Which would have been enormous in that day and age. He's standing before Jesus, and he's like, "Jesus, I want you to come with me. Come to my house. I want you to talk to my brother."

In the same way, think about how small the perspective of living for the American dream… "Hey, I'm going to get the car." Good. Get the car. Then what? "Then I'm going to get the house." Good. You got the house. Then what? "I've got to have a spouse." Okay. You got the spouse. Then what? "Then we're going to have kids." Okay. Then what? "Then we'll have a Golden Retriever, and then I'm going to retire." Then what? Do you think that's going to fill anything?

Are you really going to give your life to something that's going to fade, that doesn't satisfy, that story after story after story tells you and Jesus on the planet says, "You are wasting your life," or are you going to use the gifts God has given you, the time God has given you, the finances God has given you, the story God has given you to say, "I am going to live for Jesus in my generation. I want to go all in with you, Christ. Use my life. Take me and use me as a force in a really dark world for you. I want to make your name great, not my name great," and in doing so, Jesus says, invest in the only kingdom that will last, which is his?

In conclusion, living for the American dream leaves you bankrupt eternally; living for eternity leaves you rich. Living for the American dream makes you a fool; living for eternity will make you filled and full. Living for the American dream makes you anxious, but living in light of eternity with the God of eternity brings you peace.

That snowman… Because we're in Texas, something happens when two days later it's 70 degrees. It goes away. All that snow and all that was created is just gone. Let me tell you my biggest fear for this room. That snowman is a picture for how many people spend their lives. They work, and they build. They create. They amass. They get their house, get the job, build the company, put it all together. Just like the snowman, when the sun comes back, it's gone.

When the Son of God comes back, you will have built a kingdom that will not last and invested your life in something Jesus said is foolish…not because he's against you having nice things; he's against things having you and you giving your life to them. So, we rest in peace to the American dream because we were made for something far bigger and far greater and were put on this planet for a purpose: to know God, to make him known, to not waste our lives building snowmen that will fade, but to build a kingdom the Bible says is unshakable that will last for all of eternity for those who know him, and anything we build toward that will last for all of eternity. Let me pray.

Father, I pray you would unleash in our generation men and women who serve you and live for you with reckless abandon, who wouldn't get caught up and distracted in the temptations of the cities and places and spaces we live in, of all of the things the world says, "This is what success is. This is what matters." For that to happen, God, we need your help.

Would you take ground in our hearts, the places in our hearts that run after the things of this world, that seek security in things that, ultimately, can't provide it and find our identity or our worth or peace in things that are fleeting, and we'd find them in you, and we would live radically for you? Thank you that you are a God who radically gave his life for us so that anyone who trusts in Jesus would spend all of eternity with him in the only kingdom that will last: his. We worship you now in song, amen.