The current sermon series at Smoky Row Brethren Church is about how to live well as a Christian in lots of different situations. One of the things Rich asked us to think about is what makes a good life. What does it mean to live well? Do you answer this differently depending on whether you’re a Christian or not? I think some of the answers are likely to be the same for everybody: good health, long life, meaningful work, strong relationships. In some ways, though, a Christian’s answers might stand out from the crowd.
For many people today, the good life is spelled success. To live the good life, you need to be young, rich, sexy, and famous. Living well means having it all. The New Testament writers aren’t impressed by these values: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever” (1 John 2:15-17 NRSV). Jesus says not even to worry about basic things like food and clothing: “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). This sounds too impractical to be a roadmap to success.
The Christian “good life,” though, seems to be less about success and more about faithfulness. That’s how Paul sums up his own life as it nears its end: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). In Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, faithfulness is what the master (God) rewards: “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). Faithfulness isn’t about how much we get, but what we do with what we have.
From what we see in the Bible, the faithful life is a mixed bag. Hebrews 11 talks about some pretty great things: people conquered kingdoms, escaped death, administered justice, saw loved ones raised from the dead. Unfortunately, faithful people also experienced poverty, persecution, imprisonment, and death in many gruesome forms. The faithful life is often less glamorous—and sometimes shorter—than the successful life. On the plus side, anybody can be faithful—anybody, that is, who follows Jesus and relies on the help of the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to be young, rich, sexy, or famous!
We could always sum this up by saying that for a Christian, the good life looks like Jesus. But what does that look like, given that Jesus never went to college, raised kids, worked at a corporation, played sports, retired from a job, or did many of the other things we do all the time? We’ll have a chance to flesh this out as we think about “the good life” in more detail in coming weeks. Stay tuned!