Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
ONE OF THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS THAT WE FACE IS THE QUESTION OF THE “GOOD LIFE.” What sort of life would most truly be “good” for a human being to pursue? And more practically, what are the things that a person would need to do in order to experience such a life? The above text from Psalm 34, quoted by Peter in the New Testament in 1 Peter 3:10,11, is in many people’s minds one of the most beloved texts in the Psalms. In it, David said that if we desire life and if we love many days that we may “see good,” then we should tell the truth, depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it. We should, in short, properly orient our thoughts and deeds toward God.
What kind of advice is this? What path to peace is being recommended? It is interesting that in speaking of the good life, David says nothing about health, wealth, social status, or civil rights, and he does not allude to any sort of human achievement or accomplishment. He says nothing, in fact, about any of the prizes that most of us spend most of our time trying to obtain (apparently in pursuit of the good life). Can we fail to get the point? David’s concept of the good life was that it had to do with human character. His primary concern was with what a person is, and not with what that person might have or accomplish.
David was a man who, despite a very hard life, knew as much about real joy as anyone who has ever lived except Jesus Christ. And he understood a principle we would do well to recover: if we do not carry our joy within us, we will not be able to find it anywhere else, no matter where we look. “Joy is not in things; it is in us” (Richard Wagner). And even within our own characters, real joy is not possible — and the good life will not be ours — if our characters are not in the process of being conformed to our Creator’s character. And this is what life in Jesus Christ is primarily about. It is about becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). Whatever other circumstances we may enjoy or endure, to be on this path of inward growth is to live the good life.
“Joy is the echo of God’s life within us” (Joseph Columba Marmion).