THE PURSUIT OF UNHAPPINESS (JAMES 4)
Iris Mauss, at the University of California, Berkeley, tested the idea of pursuing happiness with a detailed questionnaire, asking participants to rate statements such as:
How happy I am at any given moment says a lot about how worthwhile my life is
To have a meaningful life, I need to feel happy most of the time
I value things in life only to the extent that they influence my personal happiness
Mauss’ team found that the more strongly the participants endorsed those sentiments, the less content they were with their current life. Mauss and her colleagues then asked half their participants to read a fake newspaper article extolling the importance of happiness, while the control group read a similar article about the benefits of “good judgement”, with no reference to emotion. The team then asked the participants to watch a heart-warming film about an Olympic win, and questioned them about their feelings afterwards.
Once again, they noted an ironic effect: the film was less likely to buoy the mood of the people who had been primed to desire greater happiness, compared with the people who had read the neutral article. Mauss has since shown that the desire for (and pursuit of) happiness can also increase feelings of loneliness and disconnection, perhaps because it causes you to focus your attention on yourself and your own feelings rather than appreciating the people around you. “
We are living in a society and a world that in increasingly narcissistic, neurotic and negative, and never neighborly, neutral or nice. Young and old, men and women, unbelievers and believers alike are disillusioned, distant, and distressed. The dependable, dignified and dream-like world as we know it we have now has now turned deceptive, dangerous and disruptive.
What roles do we have in a discontented, disjointed and disastrous society? How can we put or piece together a world gone wild? Why are we still agents of change and ambassadors of Christ to people who have no hope or honor today?
Desires Lead to Dishonor
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian writer, had a deep insight into human nature. In one of his books he speaks of a Russian peasant who was told that he could have all the land he could measure by walking in one day, from sunrise to sunset. The agreement stipulated that by sundown he must be back at his starting point. The man envisioned great holdings.
Early in the morning the man began walking; but as he realized that every foot of land on which he stepped belonged to him, he began to run at a feverish pace. The agreement stipulated that by sundown he must have returned to his starting point. His greed was so great, however, that more than half his time had elapsed before he turned back. He had to run at top speed to beat the setting sun. It was a real struggle. If he were not at the appointed place, he would lose all. He finally made it. But even as his foot touched the starting point, he fell dead from exhaustion. All that he gained in the end was sufficient land for his dead body—six feet of earth. That was his final inheritance. (from Illustrations of Bible Truths # 341).
The first passage in verse 1-3 is characterized by the many “not” (v 1, v 2 three “ouk” one “me,” v3 one “ouk”). James is certain and convinced about the source and snare. The fastest way to look at the mouthful of words from James is found in the nouns of verse 1 “fights and QUARRELS,” which is reversed to verbs in verse 2 “QUARREL and fight,” and the “desires” of verse 1 and “pleasures” at the end of verse 3 are the same for “hedone,” which is always in plural
Fights/wars and quarrels/fighting (v 1) are slightly different. The first is translated elsewhere as war (Matt 24:6), battle (1 Cor 14:8) and fight (Heb 11:34), whereas the second (quarrel/fighting) are translated as fighting (2 Cor 7:5) and strife (2 Tim 2:23). The first is outside clash with others and the second is internal conflict within self.
Desires (v 1, hedone) is best translated as pleasures (Luke 8:14) and lusts (James 4:1), or the playboy philosophy – using people as toys and objects. Desires/lusts are unquenchable, unfulfilling and unconscientious. The answers we give usually are more, max, as much as (humanly) possible.