When I was raising my children, a daily dose of Sesame Street was our shared ritual. A particular segment that stayed with me is “One of These Things (Is Not Like the Others),” a delightful jingle that encouraged viewers to spot the unique item amongst a group of four. Reflecting on this, I see an interesting parallel with the Bible.
Consider these biblical verses, and notice the one that seems to diverge:
- “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me'” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).
- “He has told you, mortal one, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
- “The one who loves his life loses it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life” (John 12:25).
- “So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a person under the sun except to eat, drink, and be joyful, and this will stand by him in his labor throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 8:15).
While the fourth verse might initially appear at odds with the other three, I’ve come to see it as a harmonizing tone. It’s true that Ecclesiastes reminds us of the fleeting nature of life, but it also emphasizes that the enjoyment of life is a divine gift. This enjoyment doesn’t undermine the ephemeral nature of life but rather enriches our relationship with God, much like a beautiful harmony enhances a melody.
In my earlier years, I interpreted the ‘narrow path’ mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 as a call to a life of rigid discipline. My perspective did not leave much room for enjoying the beauty and goodness that surrounded me. I was thankful, of course, for joyful gatherings or delicious meals but viewed them as secondary to my main mission of serving God.
However, my outlook shifted upon immersing myself in Ecclesiastes and witnessing Jesus’s actions in the Gospels. I began to question whether embracing and enjoying the blessings in my life could be just as glorifying to God as acts of service, sharing the Gospel, or worshiping in a congregation. It seemed like a radical notion, considering I was supposed to be carrying my cross.
Nevertheless, it was evident that Jesus Himself was fully present and found joy in His life. He embraced community, attended feasts, celebrated weddings, and took time to connect with His Father. His life was not just about sermons and lessons; He was fully engaged with the simple, everyday moments, thus illuminating His divinity and humanity.
The idea of ‘being like Jesus’ therefore required me to be present in my everyday moments as well, to appreciate the feel of a flower’s petals, the smell of sea air, the warmth of a friend’s smile, the sound of shared laughter, or the taste of a well-cooked meal. I realized that in celebrating these blessings, my thankfulness to God was not an obligation, but a natural response. This way, I could freely glorify Him as the source of all good things (James 1:17).
So, if we pose the question, “Which verse is different from the other three?” we’d be missing the real point. The true question should be, “How can we glorify God with our lives?” Astonishingly, the answer is inclusive: it’s “all of the above.”