What Does It Take to Make You Happy?
“Happy are those who are conscious of their spiritual need.”—Matt. 5:3.
1, 2. What determines a creature’s requirements for happiness?
WHAT does it take to make dust happy? Nothing, for dust lacks the power to feel anything. But what if the Creator takes that dust and makes a living organism? Then what does it take to make it happy? It depends on what God made from that dust. If he made a single-celled organism it would not take very much. Some oxygen, some moisture, a little food, and the needs of the organism might be fully satisfied.
2 But what if Jehovah took that dust and made a man out of it? What would it take to make him happy? It would take some air and water and food, but it would take much more than that. Man is more complicated than a one-celled organism and his needs are far greater. God made him with certain appetites and if he is to be happy these must be met. Man makes cars to run on gasoline that needs air mixed with it and a spark to ignite it. Meet these needs and the motor will purr; let water get in the gasoline and the engine will splutter and die. Similarly, God made man with needs that must be met if man is to function happily. It takes more than air and water and food. Man does not live on bread alone, on material provisions only.
3. Why are man’s needs greater than those of other earthly creatures?
3 God did not make man in the image and likeness of any other earthly creature. He was made according to a superior pattern: “And God went on to say: ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every creeping animal that is creeping upon the earth.’” Man was made in God’s image, meaning he had the godly attributes of wisdom, power, justice and love. Because of this man has needs that rise above the mere material provisions that suffice to satisfy fish and birds and wild and domestic beasts.—Gen. 1:26.
4. How is the mind’s hunger shown and best satisfied?
4 Jehovah’s giving man the attribute of wisdom does not mean man began with a head packed with knowledge. It means he was given a brain with a capacity and hunger for knowledge. The brain’s hunger from birth is shown by the baby’s intent gaze and its busy hands always reaching out to touch and to take things to its mouth for further testing. When it can talk questions pour from its mouth in an endless stream, to the amazement, bafflement, exasperation and exhaustion of adults. But the barrage is to satisfy a natural curiosity and hunger, and this quest for knowledge should not be discouraged in the young or be lost by the old. The nerves feed their messages into the brain, and the brain has the power to register them, ponder them, digest them, think abstractly upon them and reach conclusions about them. To a great extent we live with our thoughts, but these must come from somewhere. The richer our thinking the richer our living. The richest thoughts are Jehovah’s thoughts; so to enrich our lives the most we must mine the wisdom laid up in his Word: “If you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God.”—Prov. 2:4, 5.
5. How can man’s attribute of power bring happiness?
5 Jehovah made man with the attribute of power; and with wisdom to direct his hands in work, man has the power to perform many things that give happiness and deep satisfaction. He may plant flowers, raise crops, build houses, invent machines. He may write poetry or paint pictures or compose music. If he gets his wisdom from God and uses his power in harmony with Jehovah’s will he happily gains “the peace of God that excels all thought.” But man may misuse his wisdom and power, and if he does his capacity for wrongdoing is great.—Phil. 4:7.
6. Why does the attribute of justice affect happiness?
6 To prevent this, man was given another divine attribute, that of justice. Man is a moral creature with ability to know right and wrong, and when the sense of justice is trampled beneath the feet of evil the conscience is hurt and cries out. Even if by habitual wrongdoing the conscience is seared and silenced there are inner feelings of guilt that disturb and upset and may bring on psychosomatic illnesses. So entrenched in man is the moral sense that even chronic sinners try to justify their evil as good, as Isaiah wrote: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” They may bury their wrongdoing out of sight but not out of mind, and if complete happiness and contentment are to be theirs they cannot ignore this Bible truth: “Better is a little with righteousness than an abundance of products without justice.”—Isa. 5:20, RS; Prov. 16:8.
7. Why is the attribute of love so important?
7 But the quality that will perfectly blend all faculties and powers is love. It will properly balance all attributes. Its scope and importance is reflected in this brief statement: “God is love.” Love is not passive but is active and expresses itself in acts pleasing and helpful to the loved one. Because we love ourselves we look out for ourselves, care for ourselves, provide for ourselves, protect ourselves. We should love others as we love ourselves, doing things for their welfare also. The love we show to others causes others to show love to us, and it is necessary for us to both give and receive love if we are to be happy. If we fail to give love to others we become self-centered. If we do not receive or accept it from others we may be crushed and retire like a snail within its shell, or we may rebel in bitterness and plunge into delinquency. There is no happiness without love.—1 John 4:8.
8, 9. What natural urge do men have, and how must it be met?
8 We need to love Jehovah, need to know and worship him to feel secure. We were created with the urge to do so. In the Woman’s Home Companion for April, 1954, the article “We Are Born to Believe” has this subtitle: “We all feel an urge for God as powerful as our instincts for sex and hunger, says a daring new school of psychiatric thought.” This article by a doctor states: “If men and women will recognize their need for a belief in God and in a meaning to life beyond their personal pleasures, this new school says, they can find peace of mind and happiness. . . . Men and women are driven not only by sex and ambition but also by an overriding need for God. They must overcome the modern-day notion that religion and God are not real needs and that it is unsophisticated to search for a spiritual side to life.”
9 Actually, it is this urge to worship a higher power that accounts for the development of so many religions, even among savages. The need is there and they attempt to fill it. Left to themselves and their own thinking or to blind leaders, the people fill it in the wrong way, with the wrong religions, perhaps worshiping images or looking to spirit mediums or to the stars of heaven for guidance. In modern times this urge to worship Jehovah is perverted to the idolizing of movie stars, athletes, politicians or scientists. Many make a god of money; their religion is the pursuit of pleasure. But none of these substitutes satisfyingly feed our inherent hunger for God. Only by using our mind to learn God’s commandments and to understand his principles and then put them into practice can we rightly meet the urge and show our love for God, for “this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.” If we fail to meet this need we fall short of complete happiness, for Jesus spoke a truth when he said: “Happy are those who are conscious of their spiritual need.”—1 John 5:3; Matt. 5:3.
WHAT IS MATERIALISM?
10. What is materialism?
10 The great enemy of our spiritual need is materialism. What do we mean by materialism? Not food and clothing and shelter. “Your heavenly Father knows you need all these things,” Jesus said. It is not materialism to provide yourself with good food and nice clothes and a comfortable home. It is not necessarily materialism to have a television set or a fine car or a substantial bank account. But if we have a love for food that makes us gluttonous, a love for clothes that makes us vain, a love for house that makes us proud; if we have an addiction to television that gobbles up our time, a desire for an expensive car to make an impressive display, a love for money that makes us miserly, then we have fallen prey to materialism. Material things are all right, but when they become an ism to us they are wrong. “Ism” means, according to Webster’s dictionary, “a distinctive doctrine, ideal, system, or practice;—usually disparaging.” When material things become our chief aim or ideal and their pursuit becomes as a guiding doctrine to us, we are practicing materialism.—Matt. 6:32.
11. What harm can come from having too little?
11 Having inherent need for both material and spiritual things, we must strike the right balance. Either too many or too few material provisions can bring us spiritual injury: “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Let me devour the food prescribed for me, that I may not be too full and I actually deny [you] and say: ‘Who is Jehovah?’ and that I may not come to poverty and I actually steal and assail the name of my God.” Some religions make a virtue out of poverty, but deliberate physical hardship is sham and mockery: “Those very things are, indeed, possessed of an appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed form of worship and mock humility, a severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.” If material needs are not met suffering sets in, bitterness is sown and hostility grows, and the fruit produced is a blaming of Jehovah for troubles, a cursing of him for woes, and a turning to thievery to meet wants. Material shortages can lead to spiritual poverty.—Prov. 30:8, 9; Col. 2:23.
12. What harm can come from having too much?
12 But an abundance can crowd out spirituality, can even push Jehovah out of heart and bring in a false god: “Their finish is destruction, and their god is their belly, and their glory consists in their shame, and they have their minds upon things on the earth.” Such ones have made their flesh their god and materialism is their creed. They idolize themselves, are guilty of idolatry, for Paul spoke of “covetousness, which is idolatry,” and of a “greedy person—which means being an idolater.” So we can have too much materially and begin to feel independent even of Jehovah, thinking we do not need him. We might fail to recognize him as our Provider and ask in the spirit of Pharaoh of old, “Who is Jehovah?” If that happened, what a shame to us our glorying in material things would become!—Phil. 3:19; Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:5.
13. What did Jehovah warn Israel about materialism?
13 Jehovah warned Israel that material wealth could make them spiritually blind: “When you have eaten and satisfied yourself, then you must bless Jehovah your God for the good land that he has given you. Watch out for yourself that you may not forget Jehovah your God so as not to keep his commandments and his judicial decisions and his statutes that I am commanding you today; for fear that you may eat and indeed satisfy yourself and you may build good houses and indeed dwell in them, and your herd and your flock may increase and silver and gold may increase for you and all that is yours may increase; and your heart may indeed be lifted up and you may indeed forget Jehovah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves; . . . and you do say in your heart, ‘My own power and the full might of my own hand have made this wealth for me.’ And you must remember Jehovah your God, because he is the giver of power to you to make wealth.” And in poetic song Moses was used to warn Israel, addressing that nation by the honorary title of Jeshurun: “When Jeshurun began to grow fat, then he kicked. You have grown fat, you have become thick, you have become gorged. So he forsook God, who made him, and despised the Rock of his salvation.”—Deut. 8:10-14, 17, 18; 32:15.
THE MONEY ITCH
14, 15. What false reason is sometimes given for making money a god, and what is the real reason?
14 Why do men make a god of money? Those serving riches will deny that it is their god. They will say you need money to live. It takes money to eat, to buy clothes, to have a home. That is true and it is a reason to make money, but it does not stop there with those who worship money. If money is no more than a means to provide necessary things and even some additional things for recreation, then the more money you make the more those desires would be met and the less additional money you would want. But how many feel that way? A few years ago social scientists interviewed hundreds of Americans on every income level, asking if they were content with the amount of money they were making. The majority were not satisfied with their incomes. The one making $5,000 a year wanted to make $10,000, the one making $10,000 wanted $20,000, the one making $20,000 wanted $50,000. Even those with millions wanted more millions. Reported the interviewers: “It is generally true that the more money a person has, the more he wants.”
15 Money has become a symbol for success. It is thought that money brings security, recognition, prestige, friends and love. These are needs for man, but only partially and inadequately are they met by acquiring money. If it is by money that we have security or some standing in the community, when the money goes so do the security and recognition. If we have friends because we have money, if we are loved for our money, our friends and lovers vanish with our money. We want to be loved for what we are, not for what we have. Money is not the food to satisfy these human appetites, and that is why no matter how much we gorge them on money they are never satisfyingly nourished. The Bible recorded this truth three thousand years ago: “A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver, neither any lover of wealth with income. This too is vanity.”—Eccl. 5:10.
16. Why is there no rest for those afflicted with materialism?
16 To pursue happiness by pursuing money is like chasing rainbows and digging at their ends for pots of gold: you never find it. But deluded persons never stop chasing the rainbow of materialism, not understanding that the need they think money will feed is not filled by it at all. What is honored in a society is what is cultivated by the persons of that society, and since money is honored in this materialistic century that is what so many seek. They measure a man’s worth by his possessions. They see a new car and they want it and they buy it. While paying for it they see a new home that they want. They buy it but make the payments over a long period of time. Still not satisfied, they see new furniture they must have, and get it on the plan “you use it while you pay for it.” By now a year has passed and the new model cars are out. They must have one. It does not run any better. Any difference is more in their head than under its hood. But they must have the newest, the latest, the best, and when they get that they quickly think of something else they want and their life deteriorates into chasing themselves in circles of materialism. They are caught in the whirlpool of worldlyism: “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.”—1 John 2:16.
17. What malady do many have, and what does it lead to?
17 They have the money itch. The more they scratch the more it itches, and the more it itches the more they scratch. Itching palms are not cured by scratching but are inflamed by it. To refrain from scratching is the way to diminish the itching. But money is on their mind and the love of it is in their heart, and that is the root of their malady. It is not the money but the love of money, not the pleasures but the love of pleasures, not the house or furniture or car but the love of house or furniture or car. It is this love for material things that crowds spirituality out of mind and heart, that occupies life and saps strength until no time remains or strength is left to satisfy spiritual needs. It is in this love of money that the ruin of many is rooted: “For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things. However, those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Tim. 6:7-10.
MAKE ROOM FOR THE SPIRIT
18. What texts show the conflict between flesh and spirit, and what does each one lead to?
18 The apostle Paul was not fooled by his fallen flesh: “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there resides nothing good; for ability to wish is present with me, but ability to work out what is right is not present. For the good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice. I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.” The flesh means the fallen human creature with its sinful tendencies, inclinations, impulses and desires. This flesh is sold under sin as sin’s slave, with sin as its master driving it against the spiritual law of God that comes into our mind by study of Jehovah’s Word. Sinful flesh opposes the spirit and makes us do things we would avoid: “For the flesh is against the spirit in its desire, and the spirit against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, so that the very things that you would like to do you do not do.” If our spirit or mental disposition is in accord with Jehovah’s spirit and his Word it will direct us in right ways, and the spirit must win out over our opposing flesh if we are to live instead of die: “Those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those in accord with the spirit on the things of the spirit. For the minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace.”—Rom. 7:18, 19, 22, 23; Gal. 5:17; Rom. 8:5, 6.
19. What must be included when counting the total cost of materialism?
19 With the help of Jehovah’s spirit and by keeping ours in accord with his we can win out over the fallen flesh. But it means we must make room for the things of the spirit. To seek material things that in themselves are not bad may lead to our ruin by consuming all our time. If you cannot turn its knob when it should be shut off, television will cost more than the price of purchase. It costs you the time to watch it. It may cost you meeting attendance or back-calls or Bible studies. For your expensive car or fine home you may pay over the privilege of teaching someone the truth or of training him to serve Jehovah. Count the total cost of materialism. Count more than the dollars and cents on the price tags. Count the cost in spirituality also. There was nothing wrong with the wealth of the rich young ruler, but it kept him from following Jesus, which was wrong. There was nothing wrong with looking over a purchase of oxen, or being with a new wife, or seeing a piece of property just bought; but if harmless things keep you from serving Jehovah they become harmful. You can let them become thorns that choke out good: “There are still others who are sown among the thorns; these are the ones that have heard the word, but the anxieties of this system of things and the deceptive power of wealth and the desires for the rest of the things make inroads and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”—Mark 4:18, 19.
20. What should those trying to give up materialism consider, and what did Paul say on the matter?
20 Root out materialism to make room for the spirit. “Do not put out the fire of the spirit,” Paul cautions. A fire needs air; if too much stuff is heaped on, it will be smothered. Do not smother the fire of the spirit with an overloading of material cares and possessions. With limited time and energy “you cannot be slaves to God and to Riches.” Which will you choose? Is it difficult to decide to give up materialism? Then consider this. You have started Bible studies with persons and then had them quit when they saw the obligations of service. You knew they were wrong, that they should not have worried about such things, for in time as they learned more they would have grown strong and wanted to preach. They could see what they must give up, but were too new to appreciate what they would gain. Well, some witnesses are like this concerning materialism. They see what they are asked to give up, but they do not appreciate what they will spiritually gain. But they can take Paul’s word for it, since he was inspired: “I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ.” So look beyond the material loss to see the spiritual gain that makes the loss as nothing.—1 Thess. 5:19; Matt. 6:24; Phil. 3:8.
21. How do some try to justify their materialism, but how does it leave its mark on them?
21 Materialism leaves its mark on a person. Watch the man who gravitates toward material things. He now gives more attention to his clothes, living quarters, car, entertainments. He may argue that his position requires him to keep up a front, that the world expects it of him. But wait, Is his position higher than that of Jesus when he was on earth? Did he let the world shape his policies by its materialistic way of viewing things? Did he have the finest steeds to ride or a luxurious place to lay his head? No, he repudiated materialism by both word and deed. He set an example of lowliness by washing the feet of his disciples. Rather than his position calling for a showy front, he felt it called for just the opposite. He was interested in spiritual strength, not display. But note the man that becomes more materialistic. Are his comments quite as good, his talks as upbuilding, his conversation as perceptive spiritually as before? If not, his materialism is showing, whether he has eyes that will see it or not. His brothers can see it, and be assured God can: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit. So let us not give up in doing what is right, for in due season we shall reap by not giving out.”—Gal. 6:7-9.
22. What is one great evil of materialism, and what can this evil cost you?
22 Jesus said: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself.” One great evil of materialism is that its victims do not deny themselves. Unseen, like termites in a timber, it eats away strength and will power. Catering to the flesh gnaws at the moral fiber and robs us of that fruitage of the spirit called self-control. We should daily exercise the ability to say no to ourselves in little things, for without the daily exercise of the faculty of effort we lose the faculty of effort. By denying ourselves small things we develop the strength to say no to ourselves when big issues rise. Being faithful in little, we will be faithful in much. Or failure in little things sets the pattern for failure in big things. Inability to deny yourself can cost you your life: “Really, of what benefit is it for a man to gain the whole world and to forfeit his soul?” Do not lose your head trying to get ahead. You cannot walk with God and run with the world. Money is one of the gods of this modern world and for them money talks. They are deaf when Jehovah speaks, but prick up their ears when money talks. They can hear money whisper in the cellar, but they cannot hear preaching from the house-tops. Money has no voice but it can talk them out of everything, can talk them out of their life, can talk them to death. Better for us to listen to the voiceless heavens proclaim Jehovah’s glory.—Mark 8:34, 36; Ps. 19:1-4.
23. Why should we cultivate simple tastes, and how did Paul train himself?
23 To be happy, satisfy wants. To satisfy wants, keep them simple. Do not hinge happiness on possessions. Many things thought necessities are not necessities at all. A taste can be cultivated for a drug and the habit is hard to break, but it can be broken and the addict freed. Cultivate materialism and wants expand beyond our power to meet them. “Do not toil to gain riches. Cease from your own understanding.” Cultivate simple tastes that do not enslave us. Paul trained himself to be content in whatever material circumstances he found himself: “I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to be low on provisions, I know indeed how to have an abundance. In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to be in a shortage.” A lack did not turn him bitter, an abundance did not drop him into the pitfall of materialism. He followed his own advice: “Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things.” Paul was content, whether little or much was present. His material needs were simple, his spiritual riches were great.—Prov. 23:4; Phil. 4:11, 12; Heb. 13:5.
24. In what plentiful things can we find pleasure, and what are the more vital things that it takes to make us happy?
24 To be happy, remember how God made you, of the earth, for the earth. The true pleasures are in the things God made: the black dome from which myriads of stars twinkle and shine, the warmth of the sun, the cooling of breezes, the fragrance of flowers, the song of birds, the grace of animals, the hills that roll and the crags that tower, the rushing rivers and lazy streams, lush meadows and dense forests, the glisten of snow in the sun and the patter of rain on a roof, the chirping of a cricket in the cellar, the croak of a frog in the pond and the splash of a fish that sends ripples circling out under the moonlight. Even more pleasure is found in companionable persons, for man was made a social creature. A kind thought, a sympathetic touch, a soft gesture or expression, a warm smile and a loving act, the laughter of a child at play and the gurglings of a baby in its crib, the dignity and wisdom of an old person rich in life’s experiences—these are things that satisfy. It is what we are that counts, not what we appear to be. It is the love we have, not the social position. It is what we can give, not what we can get. It is the treasure in heaven we have, not the hoard of gold on earth. It is contentment with little rather than anxiety with much that matters. It is getting God’s thoughts to make us wise, using this wisdom to channel our power, following his principles to insure justice and copying him in the showing of love that will meet the needs and fill the hungers he put within us. And all this is what it takes to make us happy.