The Good Life | Tomorrow’s World — March/April 2024

The Good Life

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You should never “take it easy” when it comes to the word of God.

It is natural to desire a comfortable life lacking pain and sorrow. Who does not want an easy life? But is a life of nonstop comfort, ease, and entertainment the best life? What way of life brings the greatest rewards?

In his memoir Walden, American essayist Henry David Thoreau observed that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He rejected the common emphasis on material wealth and status, discovering that he could meet his basic physical needs with six weeks of labor each year. Extolling the value of introspection and leisure, Thoreau saw these as a cure for misplaced values and avarice.

The twenty-sixth President of the United States saw life’s value much differently. Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt had been a sickly youth, afflicted with severe asthma, but he pursued a challenging life marked by vigorous physical activity. He was an able politician, a writer, a rancher, and “a brave and well-publicized military leader. The charge of the Rough Riders (on foot) up Kettle Hill during the Battle of Santiago made him the biggest national hero to come out of the Spanish-American War.” “In 1884, overcome by grief by the deaths of both his mother and his wife on the same day, he left politics to spend two years on his cattle ranch in the badlands of the Dakota Territory” (“Theodore Roosevelt,”, December 27, 2023).

Roosevelt recognized that we will find no true success without effort, courage, and risk. Speaking to university students in Paris, he famously said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly” (“Citizenship in a Republic,” April 23, 1910).

Thoreau and Roosevelt espoused different paths to a meaningful life. Thoreau rightfully recognized the futility of the deceptive values by which most people live, but he badly missed the mark regarding the solution. He lived by a belief known as transcendentalism, “an idealistic system of thought based on a belief in the essential unity of all creation, the innate goodness of humanity, and the supremacy of insight over logic and experience for the revelation of the deepest truths” (“Transcendentalism,”, November 14, 2023).

The belief that humanity is innately good hardly holds up to scrutiny, considering mankind’s history of war and inhumanity. Nor are Thoreau’s ideas aligned with the Bible, which tells us that man’s heart is far from good (Matthew 15:18–20; Jeremiah 17:9). Thoreau’s inward search for truth was a vain one, looking in the wrong places.

Roosevelt’s admirable advocacy for hard work and being “in the arena” is in line with King Solomon’s advice: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Yes, it is most often the difficult things we do that bring the greatest rewards—but a truly meaningful life must go beyond the here and now. Solomon’s refrain, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” reflects this reality (Ecclesiastes 1:2). And we must ask, When the last breath is drawn, what is the difference between a life of hard work and a life of leisure if this life is all there is? Ultimately, there can be no lasting meaning if life is only temporary.

The Bigger Picture

Philosophers and statesmen often give good advice. Thoreau rightly observed that many lives are empty, lived out in “quiet desperation.” Roosevelt, like Thoreau, loved the natural world, but dared us by word and example to set aside Thoreau’s life of leisure in exchange for what he considered a more rewarding life forged in vigorous effort. But what is missing from both perspectives is the big picture of why we are here on earth. What is the meaning of life? That is the big picture Tomorrow’s World gives to those willing to accept it.

The answer is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ—a message few professing Christians understand. The almost universally misunderstood message of the Kingdom of God is embedded in the New Testament scriptures. This good news of a coming world-ruling kingdom that we can be part of marked the beginning of His ministry: “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14–15).

This was the good news that Jesus said He was sent to proclaim. Rather than stay in one place, “He said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent’” (Luke 4:43). How many Sunday-morning preachers tell their audiences this clearly stated truth? How many regular churchgoers understand this?

The message of the Kingdom of God is not about going to heaven. Matthew presents many parables using the phrase “kingdom of heaven,” but there is a difference between a kingdom of and a kingdom in. Mark and Luke record Jesus’ same parables using the expression “kingdom of God.” The “kingdom of heaven” is the same as the “kingdom of God.” Both indicate possession, not location—that kingdom is not “in heaven” any more than it is “in God.” Heaven’s kingdom is God’s kingdom, and Matthew uses the two expressions interchangeably, as seen in Matthew 19:23–24.

The Kingdom of God, at the heart of Jesus’ parables, is about more than vigorous effort or a life of leisure. The parable of the mustard seed gives us an example: “Then He said, ‘To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade’” (Mark 4:30–32).

But what is that kingdom? What does it encompass beyond what Thoreau and Roosevelt envisioned? And how does it relate to your life?

Many scriptures make plain that the kingdom Jesus proclaimed is a world-ruling kingdom that you can be a part of. We read that Jesus will be King over all the earth, ruling from Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:8–9). We learn that David will be king over all Israel (Jeremiah 30:9), and that each of the Twelve Apostles will rule over one of the tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:27–29).

God’s Reward for Faithfulness

Jesus spoke the “Parable of the Minas” because His followers misunderstood, thinking He would set up a literal kingdom in their day. “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come’” (Luke 19:12–13).

When the nobleman returned after many days, he gathered his servants to see what each had done. “Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities’” (Luke 19:16–19).

Yes, there is an amazing reward for the few who respond to God’s calling today. Whether one lives a life of leisure or vigorous physical activity, there is only one arena that counts at the end: As Jesus told the rich young man, “if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).


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