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Joan shows how Hinduism shares the passion of a "life well lived." When Hindus achieve moksha, they ascend above things and desires, and into the real meaning and purpose of life.

About Buddhism, Joan writes that "when we have failed to do what is right and to say what is honest [] we bring evil into our own lives and pain into the lives of others as well [] no real happiness is possible because we have failed to shape it for ourselves. Worse, we have polluted it for others."

Joan draws particular attention to Judaism's "Tikkun o'lam the idea that the role of humanity is to heal and repair the earth. This is what gives the Jewish community their sense of purpose and place in the mind of God. To the Jew, happiness lies in keeping the law of God. It is found in 'doing well and living well.'"

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About Islam, Joan writes that "submission to God's will and adherence to the Muslim community" is the primary model and foundation of happiness, in this life and hereafter.

Finally, Joan takes a look at Christianity, declaring that "Jesus was the living model of how to lead the good life [] Jesus 'went about doing good' [] happiness was a commitment to the greatest ideas life had to offer." She advocates that Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Chapter 5 contain "the key to living a happy life to people." She paraphrases Chapter 5 as follows:

"Blessed (happy) are the poor in spirit"

"Blessed (happy) are the gentle"

"Blessed (happy) are those who mourn"

"Blessed (happy) are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness"

"Blessed (happy) are the merciful"

"Blessed (happy) are the pure in heart"

"Blessed (happy) are the peacemakers"

"Blessed (happy) are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness"

"Blessed (happy) are you when people abuse you and persecute you"

As I ended Joan's book, I began to ponder the above Beatitudes as found in the Bible book of Matthew. Can "blessed" be translated as "happy"?

In Latin, the Beatitudes means "blessed." The Greek word for "blessed" is "makarios," and describes a man who is "singularly favored by God." A second word used in the Bible for "blessed" is "Eulogetos," and is likewise used in connection with God (The Expositor's Bible Commentary by D.A.Carson).

Based on the original language in the text and the corresponding meanings for "blessed," "happy" seems like a poor translation of what Jesus is suggesting. The word "makarios" does not represent the state of an inner feeling. John Stott in "Essential Living: The Sermon on the Mount" (IVP, 1988, p. 33) writes: "Happiness is a subjective state, whereas Jesus is making an objective judgment [] He is declaring not what they may feel like (happy) but what God thinks of them and what on that account they are blessed."

In the book of Matthew, blessed is an eschatological promise. For example, Jesus is not saying "happy are you when you mourn." He is instead promising that even when you are not happy, as when you are mourning, you will be comforted because you belong to me.

I am afraid that Joan's take on happiness based on Jesus' sayings in the Beatitudes simply devalues the Beatitudes' true meaning. Jesus is not a motivation speaker who is saying that when we do such and such, we will enjoy a fleeting feeling of happiness. Rather, as R.T. France explains, the beatitudes "outline the attitudes of the true disciples, the one who has accepted the demands of God's kingdom, in contrast with the attitudes of the 'man of the world;' and they present this as the best way of life, not only in it's intrinsic goodness but in it's results."

My other problem with the word "happiness" is that it comes from the root word "hap," meaning "chance," "fortune," or an "accidental happening." Jesus offers something beyond chance happenings. His Beatitudes are God's promise of absolute certainty to those who are "poor in spirit" and don't deserve it and yet will have it. With His promise in mind, we are indeed "makarios" (even if we do not feel happy today).

There is no "hap" in "blessed."As a believer of Christ,I think it more appropriate to swap "happiness" with a word of "congratulations." It is absolutely certain that you will enjoy God's blessings because of what Jesus has done for you on the cross. His blessings are not based on what you have to do, but is a wonderful gift that is based on what God has already done for us. If you realize and accept God's gift of grace and mercy then congratulations, you are blessed indeed!

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Posted in Other Home Post Date 03/28/2015


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