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Happiness?

Weekly Devotionals

Happiness?

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Recently, I read a Washington Post article about raising nice kids.  Here’s the part that struck me most:

Children need to hear from parents that caring for others is a top priority. A big part of that is holding children to high ethical expectations, such as honoring their commitments, even if it makes them unhappy.

It’s so contradictory to what we regularly hear today, “be happy”, “do what makes you happy”, “do more of what makes you happy”, “I just want to be happy”, and so on.  As a parent, I’ve often said to my children, “I just want you to be happy.”  These days, we even make big life choices based on a happiness meter.  It made me think about how this applies to my life as a believer of Jesus Christ.  What I came to realize is that living as a follower of Jesus Christ often means forsaking my happiness.  A good example in the Bible is the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.  Here’s a man who stopped to help a man who had been badly beaten and left for dead.  He bandaged him, used his oil and vinegar on him, put him on his donkey, took him to an inn to take care of him overnight. The next day, he left two denarii for his care and offered more if necessary.  Just imagine yourself on your way home from work when you encounter a man who has been badly beaten and left for dead.  You call 119, wait with the man until the ambulance comes, go to the hospital with the man, stay by his bedside overnight, pay for his immediate care and return to check up on him and take care of any additional medical bills.  How many of us can honestly say that we would do this?  Of course, this is an extreme example and I believe Jesus told it like it is to make a point.  Nevertheless, the truth is that sometimes we will need to choose between our happiness and helping a friend in need or building a ministry, fasting, committing to growing in the habits of grace, pursuing a degree, a new job, career, etc.  Often, to be kind or merciful, will make us unhappy.  We’ve become so used to flinching back from anything that causes unhappiness that we’re probably not living our lives to the fullness that God intended. So as we embark on a new year and through our church’s theme of Habits of Grace, I’m challenged to refrain from asking myself, “does this make me happy?” Instead I will get into the habit of asking, “have I been kind?”, “have I shown mercy?”, “have I persevered?” – essentially, “am I bearing the fruits of the Spirit?” (Galatians 5:22-23)