Happiness is…

“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (Luke 11:21-28)

It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. While Jesus was talking about the behavior of demons, a woman in the crowd made a statement that seems very odd and out of place, almost as if she wasn’t even listening to him. Her words don’t seem to fit the context of Jesus’ discussion.

She offered a blessing on Jesus’ mother. What did she mean by that? Apparently, she thought that Jesus was wonderful because he was a teacher and because he had power over demons. So she wished that she could have a son just like him so she could be just as happy as Jesus’ mother must be.

Jesus responded by telling her that the real happiness was not in having power over demons. It was not in having a son like Jesus. Instead, Jesus said that real happiness came from having a relationship with God, listening to what he said, and then doing what he asked. What does God want of us? He wants us to love him and the people around us. He wants us to help make the lives of those we know better. Too easily do we become distracted by what we want in life, that we forget to focus on what God wants. The woman in the crowd thought happiness came from having a perfect son—rather than from having a perfect relationship with God thanks to His Son.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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