Happy New Year and a Happiness Index

Magazine Leader – January 2011
“Happy New Year!” How do you know whether this proves to be the
case? Can you measure a nation’s happiness, or an individual’s wellbeing?
Recent public debates have drawn attention to how measuring
economic activity doesn’t deliver all that we need to know. After all, it’s
argued, it doesn’t take account of wider social factors e.g. when economic
success is at the expense of social problems. Others say that the whole
debate is in order to sidestep the economic reality. Whichever political
point of view we take, it is surely an issue which concerns us all.
The Bible says that our well-being results from our relationship with
God. Jesus taught about true wellbeing. In media friendly sound-bites he
commends those who are real about their relationship with God, so that
it spills out into everyday life. These are the ones he commends. His
teaching of the beatitudes [Lat: beatitudo = ‘blessed’], comes in a series
of statements that all begin ‘blessed is/are….’ These memorable oneliners
are ideal for the media. Jesus’ teaching is neither about happiness
(which narrowly focuses on our emotional wellbeing), nor is it to do with
chance or luck (which is an idea that stems from a belief in pagan gods
thought to randomly determine a person’s destiny). Rather, Jesus
commends all who make their relationship with God a priority so that it
transforms the way they live:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they
will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be
called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of
righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
[Matthew 5v3-10].
The point is that true happiness or blessedness is found in relation to God:
knowing God leads to living His way which makes us more like Him.
This relationship brings amazing rewards to both the individual and to
others. Knowing God means that we increasingly invest in eternal things
for we have discovered what is truly valuable.
So, I hope you have a happy and blessed New Year!
January 2011 Magazine
Paul Kingman