The following is taken from a paper a friend gave me. It is written by Bart Compolo, and is worth giving it a second thought.
Happiness and the Beatitudes
Note that I don’t care if you are happy. Why? We live in a radically un-Christian society, with a value system that is practically the opposite of the one Jesus Christ set out in his Sermon on the Mount, but we seldom take that obvious fact into account when we think about the family in general. We make a big deal out of the things Jesus says about adultery and divorce, or course, and we teach our children to be honest and not swear, but usually that’s the extent of our practical applications. As Americans, it violates our sense of patriotism to speak of not resisting evil or turning the other cheek, especially when we have a world to run. As responsible citizens who diligently save for a rainy day, it seems blasphemous to say, “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” and irresponsible to say, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or your body, what you will wear.” As Christian businessmen, we take issues with anyone who says, “you cannot serve both God and money.” The Beatitudes sound too passive and we don’t put much stock in persecution for the sake of righteousness because we are doing so well in this country. Besides, who would have the audacity to claim that anybody who says Jesus is Lord doesn’t automatically go to heaven, or that only a few people are ever going to find the road to eternal life? We know better than that sort of negative thinking in this country.
As a result, we have taken the commandments of Jesus and reworked them into a belief system that fits into our way of life instead of calling that way of life into question. Jesus said that the goal of life was to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In modern day America, however we have a different credo to guide our lives: “be happy.” Happiness has become our new ultimate concern. Perhaps it began with that famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence that describes the most basic human rights as “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Somehow though, happiness has become the acceptable justification for everything from choosing a college to filing for divorce. People lose weight to be happy, quit jobs to be happy, have sex to be happy. Incredibly enough, people get married to be happy. They even have kids to be happy. Once they have those kids, they do anything they can to make them happy too. Their reason is simple. How can your kids make you happy if they aren’t happy themselves?
Happiness and Responsibility
It wasn’t always this way of course. People used to get married and have children not to make themselves happy but in order to survive. In the farming societies of bygone years, the family was primarily an economic unit in which every member functioned as a valuable part of the labor force. Men and women had distinct roles and functions, and each needed the other to make things work. Furthermore, large families were normative because each successive child was an economic asset. People did not think in terms of “affording” their children – it was difficult to get along without them. Consequently, children of that era grew up with a genuine sense of value and purpose which grew directly out of their contributions to their families. If you asked a farmer near the turn of the century why he had kids, he’d probably have matter of factly told you, “because I need them.” Contrast that response with the reasons behind today’s family, if you can find any. What exactly is the point of the family today? What is a family supposed to be? Why do people raise children in the first place? Is a child’s value and purpose in life really just to make his parents happy and to be happy himself? Is that really all there is to it?
Happiness and Families
The more I work with parents and kids, the more I become convinced that happiness really is the primary motivation behind today’s family. When I ask parents what they want their kids to do with their lives or what they want their kids to become, I inevitably get the same answer. “Oh, it doesn’t matter to me what they do, as long as they are happy.” In decisions about colleges, careers, friends, spouses, children, location – always the same criteria. “Whatever makes my daughter or son happy is all right with me.” Families today are primarily based on the simple pursuit of happiness. Parents want their kids to be moral, healthy, well educated, hardworking, and even Christian, but they want those things because they instinctively know that those things will ultimately lead to their kids’ happiness, which is the parents’ ultimate concern. That I think is the problem. Happiness you see, is a very elusive goal. Indeed, it seems like the more we try to make ourselves happy the less happy we end up.
Happiness and Service
Sometimes it is very hard thing to be happy. I think I have figured out why happiness is such an elusive goal. The reason is simple: you can only find happiness when you are looking for something else. Jesus said it this way: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Our culture’s preoccupation with happiness and personal fulfillment clearly has made us selfish people, but the worst part of it is that it hasn’t made us happy. And it certainly hasn’t produced a new generation of young people committed to serving the Kingdom of God. In order to develop servant-hearted kids, parents must redefine their families, not as economic units, nor as happiness factories, but as missionary teams dedicated to Christian service.
By Bart Compolo
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.