Got happiness? What the Bible says about the good life

By Elaine Justice | Spirited Thinking | Dec. 13, 2012

Happiness may be a holiday staple—after all, "Happy Holidays" is part of the national lexicon, but the meaning of "happy" in the Bible is anything but well understood, says Emory's Brent Strawn, editor of a new volume, "The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness: What the Old and New Testaments Teach Us about the Good Life" (Oxford University Press, 2012).

"Culturally, there's a pollution or a missed definition of what happiness is," says Strawn. "When people say or think of the words ‘happy' or ‘happiness,' they often think of a syrupy sweet yellow smiley face. That's the icon of happiness."

People also summon up the so-called American dream, usually understood as having rather than being.

"When you really look to the Bible for things about human flourishing or the good life, you come away with something that is more variegated and complex than lots of money, lots of free time, and lots of pleasure," says Strawn.

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