the pursuit of others’ happiness

Does anyone else have trouble keeping their head above water during this tumultuous season? I often seem to be drowning after Christmas because of all the excess around me. I even saw a television commercial the other day that was praising the fact that this season of the year is often bent towards overspending and ridiculous self-gratification. What happened? I am not so much concerned with the commercialization of Christmas. I am a little more concerned with the fact that the church has co-opted a philosophical stance that is antithetical to the gospel. Let’s see how easy it is to fill in the blank…”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and ___________________.” I know you were able to fill in the blank without even thinking. But is this a blank, that as Christians, we should be concerned with fulfilling.

It’s amazing how easily we have adopted this as a philosophical belief in the church, but I am not sure I ever heard Jesus being concerned with our personal happiness. Maybe there was something about not worrying. Maybe even something about bringing our concerns, cares, needs, wants to him. But I don’t think the following statement points towards the pursuit of one’s own happiness, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Mark 8:34. This may be why I have such an issue with a season that has become typified by excess. Our lives’ should be characterized by sacrifice. We should be more concerned about the happiness and well being of others instead of our own. In fact, I believe Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness maybe she be first for others and then ourselves. While I was in South Africa, I came across a great quote from Nelson Mandela. “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Maybe we can simply replace free/freedom with Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness in this quote and then co-opting that philosophy might not be so bad. We have life, as long as others have life; We have liberty as long as others have liberty; we pursue happiness as long as it is the pursuit of others’ happiness.

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