Poverty or Riches: Deconstruction of the American Dream

I wonder if it is a possibility that anyone is worse off than us now.
Dare I compare our sorry plight to the “children in Africa”? My references to the “children of Africa” are not out of pettiness, but, of which I will refer to frequently in this post is a reference to anyone who is financially poorer than me. But is financial need not one of many of life’s problems of which we have to solve?

In many ways we are different: I live on a different continent. I live in a country that is comfortably defined as First World, compared to their Third World developing countries. I am receiving a college education, while they are likely to have never attended elementary school. Yet, in some ways we are similar, like how I have spent the past hour sorting through a carton of feijoas searching and eating the rotten ones, they likely do this daily and have been for everyday of their lives. Yet at the same time, we are essentially different because at the same time I was typing an essay on the role of the B.N.Z building in the development of New Zealand architectural history on a laptop with sticky fingers.

Here is the fundamental difference between these: they have no incline of the American Dream. 

They don’t seek to become successful in this world. It is a total paradigm change when you are transformed from hunter-gatherer to business man. The disappearance of the worry of surviving through to the next day, turn to seeking to create something of yourself. Almost at once, it seems that anything in the world is able to be accomplished and within our reach. We know that only a few reach the top of this pyramid, but somehow we think we are one of those. There is something really emotive about helping the children in Africa on television, but I wonder if it is all worth it. Smiling constantly while we are glued to our television screens, I wonder who the poor ones are. I wonder if the children in Africa are ever seeking fame and riches when they are suffering to feed their families. But no, their entire mindset is built around surviving, and if sponsorship money would survive them to the next day easier then perhaps that is worthy to them.
There is a moment in 30 Rock, where Jack Donaghy takes his baseball team that he is coaching into his office at 30 Rockfeller Place. Tracy Morgan as part of his community service for one of his crimes is assigned to coaching this team, but Jack soons takes over.

The Wisdom of the Young Ruler

Many people think of the young ruler as an idiot.

In many ways I find him very wise, but ultimately lacking perspective. I don’t know, I do very much understand why he would run away from Christ when asked to give up all he had, it is reminiscent of something of that inside of myself. Maybe I’m the only person that takes seriously what a fantastic claim that Jesus gives when he asks of us to give up everything we have, and follow Him. What a huge decision that is, to be asked to give up everything we trust in for something we cannot be totally sure of. It is hardly the things that could be decided in the moment’s thought of the altar call. That is somewhat undercutting what a great sacrifice this is, I have been thinking and mulling over this proposition for a very long time. Slowly and slowly, the caverns of my heart are opening up as the Holy Spirit comes and airs every room of my heart.

In some ways, the young ruler was the wisest of us all, such a huge decision cannot be made with such lightness. Externally, we may have the greatest ambition, but internally we know nothing of Jesus. To walk away in my eyes was a more righteous action than committing a part of our hearts. Anaias and Sapphira would have profited greater from not giving their share to the apostle than giving short of everything.

Reading from an outsider’s perspective of the calling of the disciples, it is simple to think it obvious to drop the nets to follow Jesus. A book is still somewhat a disconnection from reality, and it is easy to read of faith of other peoples within the Bible. Yet, when the rubber hits the road, when Christ demands of YOU, to give up everything that we hold dear, I find that an entirely different proposition more difficult than reading of other people who had done so before.

There is a disconnection I think we feel from the young ruler, that we are somehow better than him. This decision is without realising how much of a sacrifice, that is, without having experienced poverty in life. For one, I feel like him more often that not torn between what I can see and what I cannot understand.

The sermon at church today was of Simon Peter and his redemption through Christ in the last few verses of the Gospel of John:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.””(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”” John 21:18-19 (English Standard Version)

What church history tells us, is that the death that Simon Peter suffered was one of cruxifiction. Origen said of his death, “Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer.” As one who would not consider himself worthy to die the same way as Jesus. There is an intense humility in that, that I do not possess at this time.

To be brought continually to that place where we realise we have nothing, we deserve nothing and we are nothing is a place of continual rejoicing for me. To some, it might be reprehensable but to know the insurmountable riches in Christ, and that perhaps that is something of worth. To reach that place in my heart, I need faith, more than I have now. To know that assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things not seen.

I am increasingly becoming sure that if there was just one righteous man on earth like Jesus, then the world would be changed. But in the meantime, we have billions of young rulers too scared to step outside of their comfort zone. I am a young ruler, tempered to what the world proclaims as success, chained to the desires of the heart. More than not, I am scared of what is hidden behind closed doors, than wanting people to see what I do when eyes are not closed.