January 23, 2019

A Different Estimate of What Happiness Consists Of

Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.
Ps. 128:1-2 

Calvin wouldn't agree with the NRSV's translation of Psalm 128:2. Though it does not actually jibe with the major points of his own theology, he concedes that it should probably read as one thought: When you eat the fruit of the labor of your hands, you shall be happy and it shall go well with you. This, he says,
teaches us that we ought to form a different estimate of what happiness consists [of?] from that formed by the world, which makes a happy life to consist in ease, honors, and great wealth.
And this is a good point. While yesterday's psalm might have served as an admonition to laborers not to be anxious while helping the affluent to see them as God's beloved, this one helps everyone—both the laborer and those who live lives of ease—appreciate the blessedness of faithful persons who gain their daily bread through hard work. While we do not earn God's blessing, there is nonetheless a blessedness to honest, unpretentious labor. This is to be preferred to the blessedness people feel when they live luxuriously or receive the accolades of their fellow humans.

What does it say about our society that those who work with their hands all day every day cannot afford decent housing or healthcare? Though the Bible tells them they should be happy, our nation tells them they have to work two, maybe three jobs, and even then be ruined by an unexpected medical expense. This state of affairs is profoundly unscriptural.

Help me so reorganize my priorities, Lord, that I am not only satisfied with the fruit of the labor of my hands, but that part of my labor is helping to create a society that allows others that same satisfaction. I make this request in the Name of the One who taught me to pray...

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