Summary: Jesus thoughts on happiness were a little different then ours. This sermon is reworked from a previous message.
If you were to take a survey of people in 38 different countries asking them this question “Taking all things together, would you say you are: a) not at all happy b) not very happy c) quite happy or very happy. I know that you are answering the question right now in your head, but here is another question, where do you think Canadians would rank in that list?
First? Fifth? Tenth? How about 17th? Iceland was first the Netherlands was number 2 and the UK was # 10. Only 75 % of Canadians surveyed selected the third option. Compare that to Iceland with 94%, Australia with 90 % and Venezuela at 87 %. Now personally I would think we would be happier then Venezuelans. Their average annual income is less then $6,500.00 and the US Department of state traveler’s website reports “Violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive, both in the capital, Caracas, and in the interior. The country has one of the highest per-capita murder rates in the world. Armed robberies take place in broad daylight throughout the city, including areas generally presumed safe and frequented by tourists.” It maybe be warmer there but I would still think we’d be happier here. Unless of course it’s because we define happy in different terms.
But you know the quest for “Happy” isn’t necessarily a new concept, in the first twelve verses of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talks about this very issue. You say “that’s nice a sermon about happiness.” And really for too many people that is their view of Jesus, someone who makes them happy. Almost sounds like Aladdin’s Genie. And yet the concepts that Jesus deals with here are anything but nice because they don’t line up with our views of what it means to be happy.
So what is happy? A number of years ago David Myers of Michigan’s Hope College and Ed Diener of the University of Illinois co-authored an article that was printed in “Psychological Science” entitled “Who is Happy.” And this is some of what they discovered.
No time of life is notably happier or unhappier than any other
There is little difference in happiness between black and white Americans
Wealthy Americans are only marginally happier than poor Americans
Lottery winners are initially elated but the feeling soon wears off
A “Psychology Today” article on happiness a number of years ago was based on a survey of 5,200 readers, I love the response of one reader who wrote “I think I’m happy please verify” and while they didn’t discover what happiness was they did come back with some conclusions about unhappiness, the biggest being “Unhappiness is wanting what I don’t have but think you do have.” And so the stay at home mom thinks that she is deprived of her independence that those who work outside the home enjoy while the working mom thinks the stay at home mom has more freedom to do as she wishes. And so we gauge our happiness by what we perceive others happiness to be.
Which reminds me of the story of the lady in California who was buried at the wheel of her Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, while they were lowering the car into the grave with a crane one grave digger turned to the other one and said “Now that’s living”
Let’s pull up a map, Jesus has been travelling along the road from Tiberius to Metula, which skits the sea of Galilee. The road branches off here at Tabgha and the church of loaves and fishes was built here in the fourth century , across the road about 3 kms north of Tabgha is a hill that is about 100 metres high. It is commonly referred to as the “Hill of the Beatitudes” It was on this hill that Luke records that Jesus called the 12 apostles and there is little doubt that it was here the Sermon on the Mount was delivered, although if it had been in a country a less flat then Israel it would have been called the Sermon on the Mound.
And it was here that we are told his disciples came to him, not the crowds, not the multitudes but his disciples confirming what we already knew and that is the Sermon on the Mount was for Christ Followers. And it was to these followers that Jesus spoke of being happy. So what is “Happy”? Good question, it is possessions, a feeling, unencumbered leisure, absence of all restraint, uninterrupted ecstasty, a sense of purpose and freedom from threats. Hmmmm, maybe the problem is that we don’t actually know what happiness is. Maybe we have allowed the world to define what happiness is and when we reach for it, pouf it disappears.