This title comes from the second paragraph of The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” What a great claim. I wish we had always held that statement true. Yet in our nation’s past Scottish, Irish, and African people were sold and traded as slaves and kept from liberty and the pursuit of happiness and literally had their life taken from them. But I am not writing a political or an historical blog. I am not here to bemoan societal ills. For the most part, I write religious thoughts and that statement from the Declaration of Independence leans very heavily on religious ideology. The unalienable rights, according to those that drafted this historical piece, are ours because the Creator endowed them to us. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are thought to be our God given rights. I AGREE!
I agree we should have those rights physically. I believe God desires us to live to our fullest potential. I believe that God created humanity as one and that we should all live in freedom. I also believe God designed us to pursue what is best for us. But there is more!
These rights are also our spiritual rights. More than simply being our rights spiritually, these are what God desires for us. Consider this:
- “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10). Jesus came for our physical life and for our spiritual life. John says he wrote his account of Jesus’ story so that, “by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31). John explains further in his first epistle, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 Jon 5:13). Jesus came for us to have eternal life!
- Liberty: In Luke 4, Jesus is at a local Synagogue and reads from Isaiah the prophet claiming to fulfill that prophecy. He reads Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;” Notice the phrase, “to proclaim liberty to the captives.” This is not just liberty for those in physical captivity, although the message of Jesus leads to such release. This is not just liberty to those held captive by disease or demons, although Jesus did heal disease and cast out demons. This is for those held captive by sin. Here is how the Apostle Paul explains, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:16-18). Let Jesus’ sacrifice and teachings set you free from your captivity. Learn from the “law of liberty.” (James 1:25, 2:12).
- The Pursuit of Happiness: Notice that our Founding Fathers said we have the right to pursue happiness, not that happiness is a right in and of itself. They seemed to have a very dismal attitude. They seem to imply that happiness is never attainable. Again, they are right. If we pursue happiness by pursuing wine, women, and wealth as the writer of Ecclesiastes did, we will likely come to the same conclusions, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-4). We soon become dissatisfied with what we have and convince ourselves there is something better that we think can make us happier. In the world happiness is fleeting, but in Christ happiness is an achievable pursuit – IN CHRIST. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13). Happiness is knowing that God is there for me, no matter the situation I find myself in. Happiness is confidence in the saving power of the Gospel. Happiness is in Christ.