What does it mean to be a Christian in a society of affluence and provision in America? What does it mean to be a Christian in a time of history when not just our daily basic needs are taken care of, but we can plan for success multi-generationally? How are we to conduct ourselves amid such abundance? What cross will we take up in the face of such overwhelming prosperity?
So Rich & Yet So Poor
The Bible is primarily (though not wholly) silent on this peculiar circumstance – being a Christian in America. It is truly a unique place and time in the history of the world; never before on this earth have even the poor been so rich, and never before has there been such a wealth of assistance for those in need. Yes, there is still suffering, and there is still pain, but never before has a citizen of little means been able to so quickly rise to stand in society if he or she will only pursue that goal with utter determination.
That is to say, nothing about the surplus of time most of us enjoy. If you ask most Americans, you are still likely to hear such cultural colloquialisms as “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” But the truth, in America, we have more free time than anyone ever has in the modern world. An excellent example of this is food.
Simplicity Of Food In America
Gone are the days of growing your food, painstakingly laboring for a crop, waiting for vegetables to grow, or developing a crop of wheat so that you might have flour; few raise their animals for meat or dairy, and even those among us who do, still frequent the supermarket from time to time, subsidizing their farming with the convenience of modern life. We eat and enjoy food from all over the world, and we want meat multiple times a day without having to raise, butcher, and store the animal ourselves; for the most part, we have no sweat equity in our food, but we enjoy the most luxurious flavors with a positively passe attitude.
If you want proof of this, look at vanilla. In the west, we use vanilla as a synonym for mundane or boring, many of us not realizing that vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world and a delicacy few on this planet would ever experience before the age of modern convenience.
Modern Technology Gives Us Back Time
Vehicles have made travel over great distances a fraction of what it once was, the internet and smartphones have made communication instantaneous, and a massive infrastructure is built around the value of time. And what do we do with it? How do we capitalize on it? Many of us don’t, or we delude ourselves into thinking we pursue something meaningful only to find out later that it is, as the Preacher writes, “Vanity, Vanity, All is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 1:2-8
As a people, we have massive amounts of disposable income and huge amounts of disposable time. As a people, the possibilities of what we can accomplish because we do not have to worry about these things have never been greater, the opportunities to achieve have never been so vast, and so why do most of us do so little? Why waste so much of it when glutted on luxury, convenience, and time? We go home in the evenings and watch TV, play video games, and often do more than we already seem to be an exhausting idea, even if that idea is the search for meaning or a deepening of our relationship with God.
What Should We Do In America?
How can we address our apathy, discontent, and general dissatisfaction in the face of such an overwhelming opportunity? Can we overcome our spiritual paralysis? Have we gone too far or been removed, or would the cost of gaining the Kingdom of Heaven be too expensive?
These are the ideas I will spend the next few posts unpacking, hopefully giving encouragement and bringing Scripture to bear on a very complex problem that I think we all face in one way or another. I hope perhaps (in my inadequate way) to draw us back to something more significant even than the rewards of American life, to inspire those of us who name the name of Jesus as our Savior to press on in the face of such incredible opposition and distraction, and occasionally, to warn those of us (myself included) who can be so prone to inadequate living.
I said at the beginning of this post that the Bible was not altogether silent on this issue, and there is one verse in particular that has been brewing in my mind and stinging me like a wasp as I chew on this topic; it might also though, serve as an excellent place to begin this discussion, so in the interest of mystery loves company I’ll share it with you and also end with it today, pray on it and consider it with me, let us begin by looking in that awful place when discussing the world and culture around us: The Mirror.
For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they eat and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. Then it will come about, when many evils and troubles find them, that this song will testify before them as a witness –