We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Championing the very concept of a government created by and for its citizenry, or in the plain spoken but eloquent language of Thomas Jefferson, a government of “We the People”, was a noble and extraordinarily courageous venture into uncharted waters for our founding fathers. In reading our nation’s Declaration of Independence, the faith of the architects of our great Republic cannot be ignored. These men pledged their very lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to secure the opportunity for all men to receive God’s abundant blessings.
Caught up in the profound and powerful elegance of this historical document, it is easy to overlook one significant term in these opening lines. It’s a term we seldom hear or read in contemporary language, so pause a moment and reflect on its meaning. Unalienable: impossible to take away or give up. Unalienable rights are those which cannot be taken away. Mr. Jefferson made clear in the second paragraph of the Declaration’s preamble that, included among others, mankind’s rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are gifts of our Creator, our merciful and gracious God, and that those rights are therefore inherently unalienable. In other words, rights bestowed by God cannot be taken from us.
The right to Life: fundamental and implicit. The right to Liberty: essential and intrinsic. The right to pursue Happiness: natural and innate. Each is a right granted and made irrevocably absolute by God. This is, as Mr. Jefferson professed, a self-evident truth.
But pause yet again and consider the wisdom and the deep faith of the writer in his use of the word pursue. Does God endow man with the right to Life? To Liberty? To Happiness? The answer is yes, yes, and well….look a bit deeper. Mr. Jefferson, like many of our Christian founding fathers, was a scholarly man and one who read and carefully studied the Scriptures. No doubt his understanding of the nature of God’s love for man included his understanding of the truth that God desires for us to know happiness… joy. And no doubt, Mr. Jefferson had written these words on his heart:
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23.
“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:11
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Mr. Jefferson knew, just as you can know today, that no matter our lot in life, no matter the circumstances by which we are challenged, true and lasting joy can be obtained only by knowing God through His son, Jesus Christ, and through the relationship that we have with Him through the filling of the Holy Spirit. Mr. Jefferson expressed it accurately and truthfully: God endows us with the unalienable right to pursue happiness. The pursuit is a choice we must make. We must desire whether to pursue God’s presence, promises, and work in our lives. When we confess our sin to Him, seek His forgiveness, accept His gift of salvation unto eternity through the sacrifice by His Son, Jesus Christ, and turn our lives and our hearts over to Him, His Holy Spirit opens our eyes to God’s grace around us and fills us with joy. Earthly pleasures are momentary and fleeting. The joy that awaits us in our personal fellowship with God never, ever disappoints. Will you pursue it today?