The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity, success, and upward social mobility achieved through hard work. It is the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success. The American Dream is rooted in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that “all men are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The old American Dream was the dream of the Puritans, of Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard,” of men and women content to accumulate their modest fortunes a little at a time, year by year by year. The current American Dream seems to be of men and women not content to accumulate slowly, but rather craving instant wealth, won in a twinkling by audacity and good luck, at the expense of others. It seems like Americans perceive the Dream as a Lottery, which is actually a Nightmare from which we need to wake up.
Martin Luther King Jr., in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963) eloquently stated:
We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. (page 848 in attached PDF)
One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. (page 849 in attached PDF)Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail
Just as with African-Americans’ quest for the American Dream at the heart of the civil rights movement, our quest today is still to fight for all disinherited children of God. That is the only way to wake up from this nightmare and bring our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers.
Do we really understand how far the American Dream is from God’s dream for us? We need to view our work as an avenue to live out God’s purpose for our lives, not hit the American Lottery. Our work is one of the primary ways in which we love our neighbors and serve the world. Understanding that every day our workplace and neighborhood present us with opportunities to either work for God or ourselves is essential to resolving the tension and discord that exists in America today.
The “Pursuit of Happiness” in our work is a holy emotion and an inherently good thing designed by God to reveal His character as we love and serve others. It is rooted in the Selfless-Zone, not the Selfish-Zone. We inherited it from God when we were created in His image. Because of this, ambition for our work which drives our hustle is a good thing when it’s accompanied by trusting and glorifying God, not ourselves.