Is America God’s favored nation?

Mar 20, 2014 by

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Jesus once told a parable about a rich farmer who “yielded an abundant harvest” (Luke 12:16). His crop was so plentiful he didn’t have enough space to store it. After thinking about the matter, the farmer decided he’d simply tear down his barns and build bigger ones to store his surplus food. He could then “[t]ake life easy; eat, drink, and be merry” (16-19). In other words, with his stored-up wealth he could retire and live “the good life.”

I suspect most Western people would have thought the same way. The man frankly seems like nothing more than a good capitalist. What should you do if you receive an unexpected inheritance or win the lottery? Quit work, buy nice stuff, save for the future and enjoy life. It’s the “American dream.” It all makes perfect sense (if you’re thinking like a good capitalist). Yet, God called the man a fool (Luke 12:20-21).

Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament are against wealth itself. The problem was that this wealthy man was not “right toward God.” He did not submit his wealth to God but instead considered only how he and his family could benefit from his fortunate harvest.

All indications point to the conclusion that most Americans have become entrapped in this view of wealth. Studies have consistently shown that the richer we’ve become, the more we’ve kept for ourselves and the less we’ve given away. This isn’t to say that all Americans are greedy. Many individuals are incredibly generous. But as a nation, we’ve become entrapped by our wealth.

Many people claim that America is a nation uniquely favored by God. We are “blessed,” they say, as is evident from the fact that we have an unprecedented amount of wealth. But consider how we spend enough on entertainment each year to feed all of the hungry people on the planet for a year. Almost two thirds of Americans are overweight, while close to 1 billion people on Earth are malnourished, with 40,000 people dying each day from illnesses related to malnutrition and extreme poverty.

Jesus said, “[W]oe to you who are rich … ” and, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.”

Perhaps we should be careful about making claims about the favored status of our nation. One could argue that America is a nation positioned to be uniquely judged by God.

We’re conditioned to think that living with as much luxury and convenience as possible — the American dream — is what life is all about. Whatever we may theoretically believe about God, we’re conditioned to find happiness, worth and security in things.

We who are committed to living under the reign of God are called to revolt against the consumer culture and the powers that fuel it. Though Jesus was rich, he made himself poor (2 Cor. 8:9).

True joy, peace and wholeness is found in sacrificing for others. This shouldn’t surprise us since we are made in the image of the servant God who divested himself of his privileged status to identify and sacrificially serve impoverished humanity. We are most fully human, most fully alive, when we reflect this image.

Greg Boyd is senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn. This blog originally appeared here.


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