Don’t worry, be happy

Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry. Be happy.

-Bobby McFerrin

A couple weeks ago at the beginning of my Sunday talk at our church, I showed the music video to the classic Grammy-winning song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. The video features Bobby McFerrin and two other guys doing silly-happy antics.

When I previewed the video, I did a double-take, as one of the two other happy guys looked familiar. It was the late Robin Williams, dancing around and doing the crazy kind of stuff that made him one of the most beloved comedians in the world.

It amazed me that Robin Williams had co-starred in the music video for Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Watching it made me feel sad.

I had chosen Don’t Worry, Be Happy because it fit my topic of the day. I was speaking about one of the most famous sermons ever given, the Sermon on the Mount, which was first given by Jesus almost 2,000 years ago.

It opens with nine statements that all start the same way: “Blessed are…,” describing what it takes for a person to be blessed. The word normally translated “blessed” simply means a more familiar word – “happy.” So Jesus starts his famous sermon by telling us what it takes to be happy.

Yes, Jesus wants you to be happy, and he tells you what it takes. That shouldn’t be all that surprising, but for many people who attended church growing up, it does surprise them. Maybe it surprises you.

Far too often in the past (and sometimes still in the present!), church seemed to be a very serious place with a lot of rules that were supposed to make you holy, but not necessarily happy. It was as if God was saying, “Holy or happy, pick one.”

Jesus turned things upside down when he tied holiness and happiness together. But the people he said would be happy were not the people we would expect.

He said that the people who were humble in spirit would be happy.

He said that the people who mourned would be happy.

He said that people who hungered and thirsted for righteousness would be happy.

He even said that the people who were reviled and persecuted for righteousness’ sake would be happy.

So Jesus said it would be the humble, crying, and persecuted do-gooders who would be the happy ones. But how can that be right? I don’t think that is the prescription for happiness that you and I would have written.

We might have said that the happy ones are the rich, famous and powerful people who are well-fed, well-dressed, praised by everyone, and who seem to have it all together. That’s what many of us are seeking in our pursuit of happiness, despite knowing how often the people who attain them remain unhappy.

Jesus knew that those things would not bring lasting happiness. He knew we needed something deeper and spiritual that only God can give.

He went on to say, “Do not worry about your life, about what you will eat or drink … or wear … Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Or, in other words, Don’t worry, be happy.

Tim Strickland is lead pastor at Waverley Road Baptist Church in the Beach. Waverley offers worship services, study groups and friendship for everyone, and will help you connect with God.

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