The Pursuit of Happiness
Most dogs are food motivated. If my dog knows I’ve got a hotdog in my pocket that I’m willing to share, she will rise out of a dead sleep to give me her undivided attention in the hopes that I will tell her how to make that blessed transaction happen.
In the New Testament the word blessed is the Greek word makarios, which means happy. Dogs are so easy to make happy. All you have to do is come through the front door and they behave as if they’ve won the lottery. This kind of ecstatic happiness is something we all long for. I know I do. It’s quite possible that my desire for this elusive mindset could be the true motivation behind everything I do. Even my most virtuous acts of self-giving just may have happiness as the root. After all, didn’t Jesus say, “It is more blessed (happy) to give than to receive”?
Is it possible that I have no idea what makarios really is? Because I know how good it feels to be the recipient of extravagant giving. But it’s just not the same when I go out of my way to bless someone else in a similar way, especially if the beneficiary receives my gift with indifference or outright ingratitude. Then I’m not happy at all; I’m downright irritated. There is obviously more to this word than I’ve previously known and I want to experience it on a daily basis! The generosity that God has—to give without reservation for the sheer happiness and joy of giving.
There are many ways to seek happiness. But some ways are destructive. They leave children devastated and families in ruins as mothers and fathers forsake their vows of fidelity in order to satisfy their all-consuming desire for it. Others pursue riches or fame in hopes of finding it, but end up shipwrecking their faith instead. How is it that something so wonderful can cause such evil and heartache? Could it be because we don’t listen to the One who offers it freely to those who pursue it correctly?
Happiness seems to be just one more of those spiritual realities that is experienced by “backwards/upside-down” methods: The last shall be first; to find life I must lose it; to be exalted I must humble myself; to live life to the full I must pick up my cross and die. God’s ways always sound and feel so contrary it’s really hard to believe that: —Happy are those who mourn—or—Happy are those who hunger and thirst (not for happiness) but for righteousness (*God’s approval). And, happy are those who are persecuted (not for pursuing their rights to be happy but…) because of righteousness (*living in order to please God rather than self or the approval of others).
Do I believe this? If I do then I must embrace a life of trouble, suffering and sacrifice as Jesus did, for His sake. Only then will I experience this same makarios that He had. Go ahead and call me selfish, but I want to be happy. Don’t you?
-dikaiosýnē (from díkē, "a judicial verdict") – properly, judicial approval (the verdict of approval); in the NT, the approval of God ("divine approval").
-dikaiosýnē ("divine approval") is the regular NT term used for righteousness ("God's judicial approval").
-dikaiosýnē ("the approval of God") refers to what is deemed right by the Lord (after His examination), i.e. what is approved in His eyes.