The Happy ChristianMatthew 5:3-12Theme: Blessedness.This week’s lessons point us to Jesus who is the fountain of all happiness.
LessonIf a producer of a popular movie, a director of one of today’s successful television shows, or the editor of a widely circulating news or fashion magazine were to rewrite the Beatitudes from a contemporary point of view, I suppose they would go like this: Blessed are the rich and powerful; blessed are the sexually liberated; blessed are the beautiful and handsome; blessed are the famous; blessed are those the world looks up to. This is the exact opposite of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness” (Matt. 5:3-10).
The striking thing about these Beatitudes, however, is that the life they describe is not put forward as something gruesome or miserable (though necessary for gaining eternal life), but as the way to true happiness. For that is what the word “blessed” means. Blessed means “happy”–not in the world’s sense of a mere superficial gaiety, of course, but in a deeper and far better sense. In the Beatitudes Jesus was saying that the cross is the way to real happiness.
The world does not know this, of course. In the United States people are guaranteed “the pursuit of happiness” as an “inalienable right,” and, like others the world over, they spend much of their time pursuing happiness. One man thinks that the way to happiness is through wealth. So he sets his financial goals on a hundred thousand dollars. He gets his hundred thousand, but he is not happy. He sets his goal higher. He thinks he will be happy if his net worth rises to a million dollars. He gets that and starts on his second million, or his third. John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money is enough. He answered, “Just a little bit more.” A person’s desperate pursuit of money indicates that he or she is searching for something, but it also shows that money does not satisfy one’s desires.
A Texas millionaire said, “I thought money could buy happiness. I have been miserably disillusioned.”
A second man thinks that he will find happiness through power, so he goes into politics. He runs for a local counsel seat and wins the election. Immediately, even before he takes his seat, he thinks of becoming mayor. If he succeeds as mayor, he turns his eyes to the governor’s mansion. At last he wants to be president. Power does not satisfy. One of the world’s great statesmen once said to Billy Graham, “I am an old man. Life has lost all meaning. I am ready to take a fateful leap into the unknown.”
Another person thinks the path to happiness is that of sexual liberation. So he divorces his wife, or she divorces her husband. The person enters the swinging singles scene where life consists of weekday “happy hours,” Friday night cocktail parties, and overnight weekends in the country. If a partner gets boring or possessive, there is always another. CBS once did a television documentary on the swinging singles lifestyle in California, interviewing one single woman after another. The women said, “All the men want to do is get in bed with you. I’ve had enough of this to last me a lifetime.”
People believe they can become happy by writing a best-selling book or by catching the attention of the masses through the entertain-ment medium. Fame brings a sense of euphoria for a time, but it is short-lived. The atheist Voltaire was one of the most famous men in Europe in the eighteenth century. But as he lay dying he is reported to have cried out to his doctor, “I am abandoned by God and man. I will give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six months’ more life.”
According to Jesus, happiness consists in a reorientation of life by his standards. These standards seem contrary to our way of thinking, as they inevitably must because of Jesus’ holiness and our sin. But they are the secret–the secret to becoming a happy person.
According to Jesus, what is the way to real happiness?
Based on today’s lesson, how is happiness defined from a biblical perspective?