We as a people are, I think, tragically confused about how to find life. I think we’re not even sure what we’re looking for in life. But whatever it is we’re looking for--happiness, fulfillment, success, or just pleasure--it seems to me that we’re looking for it in all the wrong places. And we look to all the wrong people as our examples of what it means to be happy. The rich and famous and beautiful have become the inspiration for many when it comes to how to find the life they’re looking for. And yet the path many of them have shown us is that the way to be happy is to do whatever we please. The sad truth is that when we turn freedom into a license to do as we please, the end result, time after time, is people get hurt.
But the lessons of prophets and sages of all the ages is that we do not find life by indulging the will to do whatever we please. We find life by following the truth of what is right and good and beneficial to us all. I believe our lesson from the prophet Micah points us in this direction: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8). I realize this flies in the face of the “freedom” we think we have to do as we please. It talks about what God “requires” of us. It sounds like the way to bondage, repression, and restriction, rather than happiness in life.
But if we were to conclude that, we would be missing one of the central points of the whole Bible. From Moses to Micah to Matthew, the witness of the Scriptures is that we find life through our obedience to God’s principles. We find happiness and true freedom through the “truth that sets us free.” And an integral part of that truth is that we find fulfillment in life when we do what is right, when we treat others with love and kindness, and when we recognize that we are not the masters of our own fate. But the converse is also true: when we live for ourselves and our own selfish desires, when we treat others as a means to attain only what we want from them, and when we place ourselves on the throne of our lives, we become slaves to our selfishness, and lose the chance for true freedom and happiness in life.
The kind of life that Jesus advocated, along with many prophets before him and after him, is a way of life that finds happiness and freedom and life through “Seeing that justice is done, letting mercy be your first concern, and humbly obeying your God” (Mic. 6:8, CEV). It seems to me, if we want to find life, that’s the path we need to be taking.
- Dr. Alan Brehm