Christianity and the pursuit of happiness are rather synonymous, or at least, they used to be, when the Declaration of Independence was written.
Also, since the Declaration was written by founding fathers who held to Christian beliefs, we could assume they were speaking from a Christian perspective.
The Pursuit of Happiness and The Declaration
We have a right to pursue happiness. It’s one of our basic, God-given rights. It says so right at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Nothing ambiguous there! These are truths and they are self-evident; no additional meaning or definition needs mentioning.
Back in the day, our founding fathers’ interpretation of the pursuit of happiness meant self-worth, contentment, dignity, fulfillment, and community or civic duty. To quote the Lexical Investigations article on Happiness:
“Happiness meant that feeling of self-worth and dignity you acquire by contributing to your community and to its civic life.” In the context of the Declaration of Independence, happiness was about an individual’s contribution to society rather than pursuits of self-gratification.”
But that phrase has different meanings for different people and different walks of life. In fact, it means something totally different in today’s modern and secular world than it did back when the Document was written by patriotic Christians in 1776.
While it may contrast the original meaning for much of today’s society, is it in conflict with today’s Christians?
Christians and Happiness in the Bible
What does the Bible say about happiness and the pursuit thereof? Let’s look at some key scripture that speaks to Happiness, pursuing happiness and what God says about Christians and the pursuit of happiness.
One caveat: The Bible’s interpretation of pursuing happiness is not about pursuing selfish desires, especially at the expense of others, and even more, never at the expense of God’s Will.
What does that mean? It’s rather simple. I’d bet that if you meet people who are completely selfish, always looking for more money and a lot of material goods, they’re probably not the happiest people to be around.
Unfortunately, I’ve met those kinds of people. Their interpretation of pursuing happiness is getting ahead, regardless of who they have to step on to get there. It’s always me, me, me. They also tend to complain a lot and don’t smile that much.
Christians should never be that narcissistic. We should always put God first. I’ve also realized since getting involved in a solid, Bible-believing church, that helping others genuinely makes me happy.
We don’t have a lot, but what we do have, we share and we thank the Good Lord every day for providing not only our basic needs, but with enough to share with others.
God’s Word and the Pursuit of Happiness
There are many Bible verses, mostly in the Old Testament, that speak to being happy, what makes you happy, what should make you happy, and the pursuit of happiness in general. Let’s look at a few:
Psalm 144:15 “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!”
Proverbs 3:12-14 “13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding;
14 For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.”
Proverbs 16:19-20 “19 Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly,
Than to divide the spoil with the proud.
20 He who heeds the word wisely will find good,
And whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.”