For most of us, the American Dream is a know-it-when-I-see-it concept. We might not be able to express it in precise terms, but we think we know it when we see it. Ask us to define it, and we’ll reel off a list of things we associate with living well: a nice car, a pleasant place to live, clothes, furniture, appliances, food, and vacations.
An official measure called “Standard of Living” is one means by which authorities such as economists and sociologists assess society’s state of development and success. There have been additions but in its initial stage of conceptualization, this standard was all about income or earnings. The official standard is mainly quantifiable. Personalities and countries are evaluated based on wealth, possessions, and access to necessities and comfort.
With its introduction, the pursuit and direction of society steered towards achieving this “Standard of Living”. For centuries, the focus was achieving education, employment, and influence that will bring the greatest yield at the least possible time. Then was birthed a discrimination in education and jobs. In former times, any job is to be proud of if you put hard work into it. Now, many people think that you can only be proud of a job if it brings in good money.
People cultured a belief that life is only good if you have things. The pursuit of life is to have things. With more things your standard of living is high; you have achieved the state of optimum living. So, raise your standard of living and you can say you have achieved the standard for life and significance.
The Christian’s Mindset.
It is healthy to aim for betterment. But in pursuit of a “quantifiable standard”, the Christian must watch that he doesn’t become covetous, or greedy. He must not fixate on wanting more. In Luke 12:15, Jesus tells us to guard against greed and covetousness. He reminds us that our life does not consist in the abundance of the things which we possess.
Contentment is essential.
1 Timothy 6:7,8 puts us in proper perspective. We brought nothing in this world and we can carry nothing out of it. If we have the necessities then there is sufficiency; we ought to be content.
Idleness is not an option.
Being content doesn’t mean we should be idle. Trusting God for necessities doesn’t give us the excuse to slack off. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says whatever our hands find to do, we should do with all our might. We must continue putting in efforts. The Apostle Paul felt strongly against laziness. In 2 Thessalonians 3, he said that if one didn’t work, he shouldn’t eat.
Gratitude is a perspective.
We know from Deut 8:18 that it is God who gives us our very ability to acquire things. From 1 Tim 6:17 we are reminded that it is ultimately God who gives us things to enjoy. With gratitude we understand that we receive not because we are entitled but because we are blessed. With gratitude, we see the blessing in every opportunity and in every circumstance. With gratitude, we think less of the lacks of life and become more appreciative of what we have. With gratitude, we see the right value to things and life. With gratitude, we put our efforts into more worthwhile pursuits. With gratitude, there is contentment at whatever stage and “level of living” we may be in.
Honoring God is the goal.
Yes, a better life is what we desire but we put our life purpose at the top of the list: “to declare the praise of Him.” (1 Peter 2:9). 1 Cor 10:31 encourages us to do everything for the glory of God. The pleasure and honor of God is one thing that separates the Christian worker from others who do not have a relationship with God. The child of God puts in good work regardless of the nature of the task. The child of God is pleased to do the work regardless of the nature of the task. The child of God is able to maintain this positivity and drive because the purpose is the same, to bring a smile on God’s face whatever he may be doing.
2 Cor 8:21 also instructs us towards “providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” This means that when we work we must work rightly. We must do work that brings validity to God’s reputation. From Old Testament times, God has been assuring His people that those who trust Him and live a life of obedience will “prosper in their work and in whatever they put their hand to.” (Deut. 15:10). His promise is not always wealth for all people. But His promise is always fruit for every Christian’s hard work. God honors those who honor Him. (1 Samuel 2:30). What is done for His honor and pleasure will never be in vain.
A better life is a healthy goal. It is a right goal. But in one’s quest for a better life, the Christian must remember to stay content, to keep God center, and most importantly, to enjoy the life he has now.