If you were to open Instagram right now, you would see photos of our ideas of the good life – amazing vacations, obligatory crossfit selfies, and Starbucks cups filled with all the pumpkin spice one can legally consume in the United States. Even the targeted ads show us a branded version of the good life, which we can have with enough cash, or at least enough bad judgment to open their latest 0% APR for six months credit card.
So after conducting a very scientific analysis of the good life according to Instagram, we see that the good life includes three things:
The good life is a life where you have power: You do what you want.
The good life is a life where you have money: You buy what you want.
The good life is a life where you have pleasure. You make yourself happy.
When we think of it that way, it sounds like we live like that one Netflix show with a queen in it…not the one about her gambit, but the one about her hat – The Crown. It’s like we are royalty, building our own little kingdoms; securing power, money and pleasure for ourselves.
But is that really the good life?
Jesus ran into many people who were building their own little kingdoms of power, money, and pleasure. And He said it wasn’t really the good life they were living at all.
Jesus encountered a group of religious teachers, who had built little kingdoms of power. Not only could they do what they wanted, they could tell others what to do, too. But Jesus said they didn’t have the good life. In fact, they didn’t have real life at all. He called them “white washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27).
Jesus encountered a rich man, who said he wanted eternal life. He had enough money to buy everything else, why not eternal life? After all, the rules of his little kingdom said, “If I want it, I get it.” But Jesus revealed that the good life isn’t found in purchasing power. And the real tragedy is that, despite all his money, this little king will lose his soul (Matthew 19:16-22).
Jesus encountered a guy who wanted Him to settle a family dispute. Jesus responded with a story that must have applied to this guy’s little kingdom. He said there was a man who was really happy to reject generosity and instead do what made him happy – retire early. Jesus said this wasn’t really living the good life. It was the life of a fool (Luke 12:13-21).
So what does the good life look like?
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus responded with an incredible prayer. In that prayer, He revealed a secret to finding the good life: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The good life is found when we stop trying to build our own little kingdoms, and start building a kingdom that lasts – God’s Kingdom.
I hate to admit it, but my kingdom is extremely vulnerable:
My kingdom of power can be breached with unexpected health challenges, relational strife, or just bad weather.
My kingdom of money can crumble with an unforeseen bill in the mail.
My kingdom of pleasure is ruined when Netflix runs out of shows I want to watch.
If I’m brutally honest, my kingdom – my “good life” – is not worth my life.
The good news is that Jesus has set us free from the work of our little kingdoms, and invited us into the work of the good life – building His Kingdom.
So we need to ask ourselves, what does it look like to stop building my own kingdom and start building His Kingdom? Let’s re-examine the pillars of our kingdoms:
God has given us access to power NOT to inflate ourselves, but to lift others up. That’s the good life. That’s building THE Kingdom. How can we use our power to serve others like Jesus did?
God has given us access to money NOT solely to provide for ourselves, but to meet the needs of others. That’s the good life. That’s building THE Kingdom. How can we use the resources He’s given us to care for others?
God has given us access to time NOT simply for personal pleasure, but to serve others and advance His mission. That’s the good life. That’s building THE Kingdom. How can we use the time He’s given us to invest in Christ’s mission?
This upside-down Kingdom we’re building with Christ is not a normal life; it’s not an easy or Instagrammable life. But it is the good life.