Let’s face it. The world has thousands of ways it believes you can be “happy, content, balanced, harmonious and fortunate” – or, to use a single word, makarios.
If you make enough money, you will be happy. If you pick the right planner, you can balance your life. If you have the right job, you are fortunate. If you say the right things, you can live in harmony with your neighbors.
People constantly chase after money, and stuff, and relationships that they sincerely believe will bring makarios to their lives, even if they really can not define the feeling they are trying to achieve. Time after time, their efforts fail miserably.
There’s never enough money. Emergencies blow your well-built schedule to smithereens. The “perfect” job tears you away from your family with its constant demands on your time and energy. You mold your thinking to that of the world in the name of political correctness.
The Teacher understood this, writing in Ecclesiastes 1:14, “ I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
What, then, is the foundation of makarios?
As a follower of Christ, I contend it starts with Him. Frankly, it ends with Him and he is all caught up in the middle of it as well. It would make sense to turn to Jesus’ statements in the Sermon on the Mount that we have come to call the beatitudes, but let’s go back further – much further – to look at what may well be the foundation of a contented life.
The Israelites are on the edge of the Promised Land. Moses, who has weathered the desert with them for 40 years, prepares to recount their journey and the covenant they had made with God at Mount Sinai. Why?
… so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you. (Deuteronomy 6:2-3)
Sounds a lot like what we might describe as a blessed life, doesn’t it? In calling Israel to listen to what must be done to attain these blessings, Moses begins with a declaration that became central to the Jewish faith.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
It’s a declaration of the one true God against the polytheism of the land they were about to inhabit, accompanied by the single command that Jesus proclaims as the greatest commandment when confronted by the descendants of those Israelites gathered at the edge of Canaan.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
If we want to get to the heart of what it means to be makarios, we must start here at the border of the Promised Land, anticipating the good that God has in store for us. Standing here, we declare the supremacy of the Lord over all the glittering distractions our culture flashes in front of us. Standing here, we commit all we are to the One who rescued us, as Eugene Peterson paraphrased it in The Message:
Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Standing here, we begin to understand what it means to experience the fullness of God.
Standing here, we are makarios.