We all want to be happy, but happiness, it turns out, can be divided into two types: wise happiness and foolish happiness.
We don't hear the word "foolish" much in our society, but it's an important term in the Bible. A fool, according to Scripture, is a man or woman who fails to think. A fool is driven by their immediate desires. They rarely consider the consequences of their actions.
From serial killers to missionaries, everyone does what they believe will make them happy. The difference is that foolish happiness is destructive to a person and others, while wise happiness is beneficial to a person and others. It's a matter of consequences.
This is a shocking concept. It places responsibility on each of us for our actions, and many people don't want to take responsibility. Like a child, they look for someone or something else to blame when things go wrong.
How about you? Are you pursuing wise happiness? Let's see.
Maturity takes time and experience. We don't expect little kids to consistently make smart decisions. But like little kids, most adults don't pursue maturity. Instead, they want to have fun. They want to do whatever they please.
Of course that's an option in life, but not the most intelligent one. When you do whatever you please, eventually you hurt yourself and others. Our desires are not always harmless.
That's why we have laws. If everybody did whatever they wanted, we'd have chaos. People would drive through stop lights, steal whatever attracted their eye, rape and pollute.
It's a matter of attitude. Some people respect the law and others don't. But the subtle part that affects everyone —even law-abiding citizens —is their attitude toward God's laws. The Ten Commandments remain the wisest moral law ever written. But many still choose to ignore them.
If your belief is, "I can cheat on the Commandments to do things that make me happy," your attitude is that God is trying to restrict you with those rules. On the other hand, if your attitude is, "God wants the best for me and these rules will keep me out of trouble," then you're headed toward wise happiness with good consequences.
None of us can escape the consequences of our actions. We think we can, and they may not show up immediately, but disobedience to these great laws always brings trouble.
Let's look closer at this enticing thing called foolish happiness.
The greatest misconception about Christianity is that it won't let you "do" anything, that it's basically a spoilsport religion that doesn't want people to have any fun.
The correct view of Christianity is that it doesn't want people to sin.
The confusion comes in because sin is fun; that's why it's so
God hates sin, not just because it violates his laws, but because ultimately it damages people. What are some of the "fun" things Christianity is against?
People who do these kinds of things on a regular basis and get most of their happiness from them think they know what's best for themselves. People who try to avoid these behaviors think God knows what's best for them.
Christianity is about being selective in what kind of fun you pursue. That means surrendering your life to God and letting him be the Boss. It takes humility to do that. It also takes wisdom, a wisdom the Holy Spirit himself grants to a person.
As flawed human beings, we always have mixed motives. Most of us don't obey the Commandments because we put God first. We obey them out of fear of what will happen to us if we don't.
Even so, if you ask most serious Christians, they would tell you they don't feel burdened by keeping God's laws. On the contrary, following Jesus makes them feel free.
One of the paradoxes of Christianity is that obedience to God brings freedom and committing sin (disobedience) brings slavery.
Next, let's see what God thinks about foolish happiness.
The Bible says this about the inevitable law of cause and effect:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7, NIV)
A perfectly holy God demands respect from everyone, and he deserves it. When people mock God by habitual disobedience, bad things happen to them. Since the Garden of Eden, Satan has been telling human beings that "It won't happen to you." But Satan is a liar.
Foolish happiness eventually causes bitter distress. From people in prison to alcohol and drug addicts, their short-term pleasure causes long-term pain.
Some people seem to get away with their sin. They skate through life unscathed, never facing any consequences. But everyone answers to God. No one escapes his judgment.
Because we live in a sin-sick world, bad things do happen to good people, through no fault of their own. I have known that pain and so have you. It's confounding when it comes. In those times, a relationship with Jesus Christ matters. His strength brings believers through every trouble. Christians know they can count on him for help.
Life is more complicated than "Girls just wanna have fun" (and guys too). All around us we see the result of careless fun, or foolish attempts at happiness.
Wise happiness isn't glamorous. It doesn't always result in material wealth or power and prestige, but it does bring fewer self-inflicted problems. Its reward is peace of mind from being right with God. Don't underestimate the value of a clear conscience.
When you think about it that way, wise happiness is the only smart choice. Yes, we Christians still make mistakes and we sin, but it is not our chosen way of life. When Christ is your Savior, he forgives your wrongs. Because Jesus died for your sins, that doesn't make them less serious, but it does make you try even harder to avoid offending God.
This life has so many good things to offer, but it takes a discerning eye to choose the right ones. Study the lives of others. Know what the Bible says. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make shrewd decisions.
The Bible has much to say about wisdom and the principle of wise happiness. Choose the world's way and your pleasure is fleeting. Choose God's way and you gain him and eternal life.