I recently read the book, “Radical” by David Platt, a pastor in Birmingham, Alabama. The book has messed me up a little. The author confronts American Christians on our allegiance the American dream and the idea that we can accomplish anything to which we set our minds.
“The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American Dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability. But the gospel has different priorities. The gospel beckons us to die to ourselves and to believe in God and to trust in his power. While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God.”
Last month, I was hanging out with a bunch of girlfriends and we were playing a game of questions. (My husband would dispute that this is actually a game since there is no official winner!) One of the questions asked, “What do you most strive for in your life: accomplishment, love, security, power, excitement, knowledge, or something else?” It was amazing how many of us chose “accomplishment.” Our culture encourages and rewards success and achievement.
Matthew 9:9 “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.” As a tax collector, Matthew likely made a good living. It is probably that he had success and status and all the things we would praise and encourage in our society.
In Matthew 10, Jesus commands his disciples to “go to the lost sheep of Israel” and to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.” For someone accustomed to nice things and comfortable living, Matthew is instructed to, “Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.” For someone probably used to enjoying the company of powerful officials, Matthew was told, “…you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” For a man who was likely educated and eloquent, Matthew was told, “…do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.”
I am encouraged and convicted by Matthew’s example – to leave everything most comfortable to me, even my own ambition, so that I might follow Jesus and His commands. When I say Platt’s book has really messed with my head, it is because I realize that most often I am not living to make God’s glory known to all nations. I most often live to see my own ability glorified, my own success achieved. I hope to remember, as Platt says, “We were created for a purpose much great than ourselves.”