What Manner of Man
(A weekly program for knowing and following Jesus Christ)
By Richard M. Eyre
WEEK 6: HAPPINESS
Storm Jameson, the poet-philosopher, wrote perceptively of happiness:
It is an illusion to think that more comfort brings more happiness. True happiness comes of the capacity to think freely, to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to risk life, to be needed.
Think for a moment, in this framework, of Jesus Christ:
—whose thought still frees men’s minds
—who felt (in both directions) more deeply than any other
—who relished and loved all that was simple and pure
—who actually gave his life
—who is needed by every member of the human race.
Edwin Markham wrote of happiness in a slightly lighter vein:
Happiness is a thing of here and now,
The bright leaf in the hand, the moment’s sun,
The fight accomplished or the summit won.
Joy, in the gospel sense, is more than happiness or pleasure, but it is certainly inclusive of both. The Gospels present a Savior who responded to people, who appreciated men’s good humor, who found simple pleasure in everyday life. The scriptures do not tell us of the expression on his face or describe the tone in his voice, but when we consider Christ’s supreme inner peace we begin to imagine the happy characteristics he must have exemplified.
The Lord’s life often seems to suggest a beautiful and light touch—a good-humored approach to life—like a fresh breeze on the sparkling surface of a deep and mighty sea. Do we detect any humor as such? Certainly there would not be humor in the sarcastic, cynical sense—and never out of derision, where on man’s laughter is another man’s misfortune or ridicule—but perhaps humor in the lighter, truer sense: the sense of seeing life’s little ironies, of appreciating amusing things, of smiling at surprises.
The sparkle of the Savior’s outlook comes through in his dramatized object lessons: a mote in one man’s eye, a beam in that of his critic (see Matthew 7:3); a man who was forgiven a huge debt but who would not himself forgive a small one (see Matthew 18:23-25). His understanding of human nature shows as he tells of the man in bed late at night who is too sleepy to answer his neighbor’s knock (see Luke 11:5-8), or of one blind man leading another into the ditch (see Luke 6:39).
Much of Jesus’ life was sociable and people-oriented. To him it was appropriate and natural to be at a wedding (see John 2:1-10); dining out by invitation (see Luke 7:36); or simply relaxing in the house of friends (see John 12:1). And how right it is that life’s perfect example should exemplify joy—and should take joy in the very things he had created in order that man “might have joy.”
The Lord taught that the sacrifices required by the gospel are a joy to make, likening them in parables to the man who in his joy sold all that he had to buy a precious pearl (see Matthew 13:45-46). All of the rewards the lord promised those who followed his gospel were related to this principle. He promised:
—happiness (see John 13:17)
—joy (see John 16:22; Luke 24:52)
—peace (see John 16:33)
—more abundant life (see John 10:10)
—freedom (see John 8:31-32)
The Savior followed his gospel as perfectly as he taught it: and thus each of these rewards was his to receive as well as to give.