What exactly is “the good life”?
I watched enough television in the nineties to have a pretty clear understanding of what “the good life” is, at least by culture’s standards: a life rounded out by a holiday commercial for a luxury car brand, complete with a large, red bow on top.
You know the one I’m talking about, showcasing a hypothetical life we should all be aiming for. Beautiful home. Beautiful wife. Beautiful family. Enough income and financial security to gift a luxury car—specifically, a Lexus—to your spouse, with a gentle, perfect snow falling in the background just as you’re handing over the keys. We used to joke about the size of the bow and humorously wonder how much money someone has to earn in order to be able to give such a gift. Over time, making fun of commercials like this one became a ubiquitous part of the holiday season.
To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with driving a nice car like a Lexus. But still, Lexus knew what they were doing: tapping into a vision of “the good life,” offering millions of people a taste of what it could look like, which, of course, included a brand-new car. They knew we would buy into the idea of wealth and luxury. Now, I like to think I’m immune to such marketing ploys, but about ten years ago, I bought in to all the hype…and bought a Lexus. I’m actually ashamed to admit that, at some point, I looked at that beautiful (used) car and thought, I made it. I have arrived.
I’m not entirely sure where I’d arrived, but I’m pretty convinced God was not so pleased with my assessment of the situation, of what constitutes good and life-giving and truly worthy of my staking my security on it. Sure enough, within months of purchasing that car, it failed to even turn over. It wouldn’t start. My personal symbol of achievement and “arrival,” well, it’s what a mechanic might call “a lemon.”
Experiences like this made me question my views of success and achievement. Not long ago, I was confronted with a startling idea: What if the good life is a life lived in obedience to God? What if we had so much confidence in God and His wisdom and love for us that we when we hear His commands and instruction for living, we understand that they are a path to not just “the good life,” but the best life possible?
Just like the people of Judah who Jeremiah was prophesying to, I am prone to look to culture around me for examples of how I ought to live and what I ought to prioritize. However, God Himself has made it clear what can make life good and meaningful, though certainly not always easy:
“Obey me, and do everything that I command you,
and you will be my people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 11:4).
I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get this. Maybe I’ve been blinded by some kind of fool’s gold, the distractions of this world. But nothing makes more sense, really. While it is true we obey as a way of glorifying God, it is nonetheless true obedience that is the way forward into a life of blessedness with God. We hear it here with Jeremiah and with Jesus when He says, “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15).
What kind of life do we get when we are obedient to God? We get life in relationship with Him—the best life possible.
Written by Matt Redmond