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Living in New York City can put a lot of pressure on you. Especially if you are a minority with immigrant parents, growing up in an immigrant community. Since the time you could walk yourself to school you are bombarded with images of the rich and famous and their expensive vehicles parked in front of their seven bedroom multi-million dollar beach house on MTV Cribs. This is the “American Dream” your parents could never imagine for themselves, but you are expected to pursue.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with achieving great things. Attaining a comfortable lifestyle and an affluent career are not sins in and of themselves. But what if you don’t? What if you don’t reach the “American dream”? What if you don’t accomplish more than what your parents could — a decent job and enough money to get by?

Chances are if you are a minority growing up in an immigrant community you will have to overcome more obstacles than your average Anglo-American to meet the same level of success. In New York City 2013, for example, while there was a record high employment rate in Washington Heights (an immigrant community), among its actual residents unemployment was four percentage higher than the citywide rate. The citywide average annual salary was over $83,000, while residents of Washington Heights held jobs that paid an average annual salary of roughly $34,000. There are not enough resources in these communities to prepare their residents to compete for higher paying jobs. Only 17% of students in elementary and middle-school, in 2014, met the proficiency standard for English, and only 22% for mathematics. That was significantly lower than the rest of the city.

I am not trying to say it is impossible for minorities to overcome these obstacles and be successful. Neither do I want to insinuate we shouldn’t encourage our young to “reach for the sky.” I just want, for a moment, for us to synchronize ourselves with reality. Those who do reach the “American dream,” are an exception — not the norm. Less than 15% of married, latino males in the U.S. make an average annual income of $72,000. Less than 15%! That means it is more probable (if you fit the above description) you will fall into the rest of the 85% of latinos that will be paying more than 30% of their income just to cover their rent.

So what if you are one among the 85%?

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The Apostle Paul would say “you still have Jesus.” Nothing in this world can ever surpass the worth of knowing Him personally! Paul, in his case, had already achieved everything that could be desired and boast about in his time: the best education, a promising career, and an influential platform in his society. Yet, after encountering Jesus, all these achievements paled in comparison to the “surpassing worth of knowing” Him.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8, ESV)

The King James’ use of the word “dung,” in the place of “rubbish,” better reflects the original meaning of what Paul intended to convey. In light of knowing Jesus, Paul’s pedigree, reputation, and earthly achievements was nothing more than manure, feces, or if you want a more sophisticated word: crap. To gain Jesus, in other words, was the greatest achievement he could ever have gained in his lifetime! So much so he was willing to lose everything in order to “gain Christ.”

Is this how we look at Jesus? Is the worth of getting to know Him greater than achieving the “American dream”?

In the end, we will all suffer the loss of everything we would have gained, and have worked so hard for in this lifetime to the grave. The only possession that will always remain even after death…is Jesus. Seek Him now and see the “surpassing worth” found in Him.

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