Luke 6:20-31, Ephesians 1:11-end
Do you like to be happy? Surely the greatest question we can ask ourselves. There have been many books written on the subject. How to be happy, how to lead a good life. People tell us lots of ways we can achieve that in this life.
Some say it is through money, especially being rich. Clifford Thurlow the journalist says “Money does buy happiness. Money equals freedom, the highest form of happiness. Money equals pleasure. The more you have the more pleasurable life is.”
The problem is that Clifford also says the poor are deluded and that they are there for the rich to take advantage of. He also assumes that the purpose of life is to maximise pleasure and minimalize pain. Hedonism. The problem with this approach is that aside from the fact that it puts maximising pleasure before God, Clifford links pleasure with money and that’s wrong. You can have pleasure and happiness with no money, you can be rich and be miserable. In this world a reality of existence is also that no matter how much money we have, how many things we have, we cannot avoid pain and suffering. It also doesn’t resonate with attempts to be Christlike, as Christ suffered pain, was crucified, and suffered death into which we too are called to be crucified with Christ so that we no longer live but he lives in us (Galatians 2:20).
We can also turn to quick fixes to try to make us feel better. W.C. Fields once said “I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food”. I know when I feel bad Ice Cream can cheer me up but, eating to make me happy doesn’t last, and generally after eating it I go back to feeling bad again. Its something I need to keep working on. I know though that worldly quick fixes for happiness whether that be food, alcohol, shopping, are only temporary.
There is a difference between eating to make you happy and eating because you need to. Certainly, in the Christian tradition the breaking of bread and the sharing of fellowship around a table is vital. Let us remember that Jesus himself was accused of being “a glutton and a drunkard” (Luke 7:34), but it was a malicious false charge. We shouldn’t look to food and other worldly things as a substitute for true happiness which can only be found with God. Equally God calls us to self-control and away from gluttony as it makes us worldly and not godly.
In a similar way adrenaline junkies, those who love high risk sports and activities are also being worldly. I guess the same can be said of those who play computer games, but it depends on your relationship with said games. Some video games glorify things such as violence and lewdness, perhaps not so good. Others can become addicted or obsessed with computer games, again perhaps not so good. The point is that if you are looking for thrills to make you laugh, to make you happy in life, then sadly the game will end or you will become bored with it, equally when the high risk sport or activity is over the adrenaline will wear off. Then we are back to being unhappy again.
Finally, there are those who think being famous brings you happiness. A Greek called Pericles once said, “Famous people have the whole earth as their memorial”. The problem is fame is fickle and there is no lasting happiness in it. We hear of many who are famous saying their lives remain unfulfilled and empty. Social sciences also teach us that popularity does not correlate with happiness. That is because fame is worldly, temporary, and fickle. If we try to obtain worldly fame, then I’m afraid as time passes so will our happiness.
Why am I telling you all this?
It is exactly these things Jesus tells us to avoid if we want to be happy. In contrast to this Jesus tells us that:
The beatitudes tell us to set our hope on Jesus. In him is true riches, true sustenance, and true joy. This is our inheritance as members of the household of God. As saints. If we hold fast to this, then we can be happy and we can lead a good life. As an inheritance we are also called to not squander it but share the good news with a world which continues to seek the happiness that is right there in front of them.
Dear Father, help us to remember that we can never find happiness by seeking the things this world has to offer. True happiness can only be ours by following your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Revd Gareth Morley, Curate