Ten-thousand years of accumulated human wisdom has determined that people are the happiest when they do two things: 1) humbly trust the Almighty Creator, and 2) have loving relationships with their family and friends.
Now, here’s what our modern, sophisticated culture tells us to do in order to be happy: ignore silly religious traditions; accumulate far more material possessions than we need or ever could use; and proudly and arrogantly compare ourselves to others, so we can boast about how much better we are than they.
Western civilization has never been more secular, prosperous, and self-centered than it is right now. So, if modern, sophisticated wisdom is correct, we should be the happiest we’ve ever been since the dawn of time, right?
Wrong. Nowadays people are downright miserable. Consider these undeniable facts: The suicide rate is skyrocketing. Drug abuse is rampant. Divorce is commonplace. Families are disintegrating. Anti-depressants are being prescribed in record numbers. Far too many people, especially children, live in fear and loneliness. And no one can trust anyone because rampant self-centeredness causes people lie, cheat, and steal without compunction, making them untrustworthy and unreliable.
We keep hearing how our modern society is so intelligent and brilliant, especially with our amazing technology and the countless new methods we’ve devised to maximize comfort and pleasure. But since we’ve all but abandoned the wisdom of our ancestors—which is the true source of happiness—I sometimes think our modern society is dumber than a bag of rocks.
Jesus summarized this ancient wisdom when He said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said this in answer to some Pharisees and scholars of the Law, who asked Him which commandment is the greatest.
Although Jesus was addressing a specific question about the commandments, His answer is appropriate for so many situations. First, it’s the “Cliff Notes” summary of the most important question in the whole world: How do we get to Heaven?
The Bible, Church Tradition, and 2,000 years of deep-thinking Christian theologians have given us volumes on the topics of salvation, justification, and sanctification. When boiled down to their most basic components, however, all these teachings are talking about the correct path to spend eternity in Heaven with God.
No matter how deep and detailed the writings of these great minds of the Church, everything can be distilled down to Jesus’ two commands: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. If we do these two simple things, we’ve got it covered. (Be aware, when I say “two simple things,” I don’t mean “two easy things.” The path to Heaven is simple; it is, alas, far from easy.) But the point is, if we love God and love our neighbor as best we can, we’ve got the faith the Evangelicals focus so much on, and we’ve got the good deeds Catholics emphasize.
In addition to the most important eternal question—the destination of our souls—Jesus’ two commands provide the solution to our earthly dilemma: how to be happy here in this life?
If we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, we will be doing exactly what 10,000 years of accumulated human wisdom has determined to be the best way to be happy. So, if you find yourself a little too caught up in the hectic rat race of our modern society, and as a result it seems happiness is elusive, you just may be following the hollow and foolish wisdom of our modern culture. You just may be focusing a little too much on yourself and pridefully comparing yourself to others.
Please break the habit. Focus instead on divine wisdom, the wisdom that says the key to happiness is to forget about yourself. Try loving God and loving your neighbor. You’ll be amazed at how much joy it will bring to your life.