“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
That is the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence. So succinct and striking are its words that few people even remember the first sentence. Thomas Jefferson’s most famous statement was truly revolutionary.
It has become the creed of our democracy. It basically states that God has endowed every human life with value. Every person is inherently equal before God. No one person’s rights and freedoms are greater than another’s.
Sadly, many in our country today understand these words to also mean that God’s purpose for our lives is that we pursue happiness or that it’s the government’s responsibility to make us happy. If you look closely, however, the Founding Fathers simply wanted to ensure that every person had an equal opportunity to pursue their own happiness.
I’ll be honest, though. That last phrase has always made me a bit uncomfortable. Where does God say in the Bible that he has created all people with the inalienable right to pursue happiness?
Our society today zealously pursues happiness. Young adults often bounce between jobs, hoping to find a career which makes them happy. We join dating sites online looking for someone who will make us happy. People flock to buy lottery tickets hoping that a million dollars will bring them happiness. Advertisers assure us that a new car, a flat screen TV and a George Foreman grill will truly make us happy. Some people in their desperation run to drinking, drugs, sex or pornography hoping to find at least a moment of fleeting happiness.
Even some churches encourage us to pursue happiness. Their message is basically, “God wants you to be happy. This is how you should live to be happy. The Bible is your guidebook to true happiness.”
Now don’t get me wrong. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is joy. The good news of God’s love and forgiveness gives true happiness. Jesus won for us a home forever in the happiness of heaven.
But God has not placed you in this world for you to pursue your own happiness. He wants you to pursue godliness. The life of a Christian is a life of self-denial and sacrifice. God wants us to pursue the happiness of others. And as we do, he promises to bless us with joy, peace and contentment.
Jesus said, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). We don’t need to pursue happiness. We can pursue godliness. We can give and sacrifice and even suffer in our service to him, with the confidence that he has already won for us the happiness of heaven.
Sadly, the pursuit of happiness is the predominant driving force in our society today.
What about you? What drives you? Has the pursuit of happiness become your creed?
Pursue godliness. Serve. Sacrifice. Seek the happiness of others with the confidence that God has already ensured your happiness forever in heaven.