What Is the Good Life?
Having written nearly 60 books, I rarely get super-excited about a new one coming out. But I’m very enthusiastic about two books that have just been released. Does God Want Us to Be Happy? isn’t merely a condensation of my big Happiness book—it is specifically designed to correct the myths and misconceptions about happiness many evangelicals have believed and taught.
And Giving Is the Good Life, which was released just yesterday, is unique in addressing the biblical good life and telling many short giving stories to broaden readers’ horizons about the joy and adventure of giving. I’m praying both books have a significant kingdom impact.
Why a book on the “good life”? While reading 1 Timothy 6 I was intrigued by a phrase in verse 19 that talks about “the life that is truly life.” In studying that chapter, I found that Paul actually lays out clear instructions for how we can experience and take hold of that kind of life. This isn’t the “good life” as the world defines it, but something far better, more satisfying, and eternally longer lasting. In fact, it’s connected to the abundant life Jesus came to offer us (John 10:10).
I hope you enjoy the following excerpt from the book’s introduction. —Randy
Are you living the good life? If not, I know you wish you were.
People define the good life in different ways, but everybody wants to live it. After all, what’s the alternative? Living a bad life? A pointless, guilt-ridden, or miserable life?
We’d all choose the good life any day, and yet we often don’t understand how to make it happen.
A quick online search reveals that most people’s idea of the good life includes happiness. That makes sense—nobody wants to be unhappy. Most of us also want to make other people happy and help them if we can. But when it comes down to it, even Christ-followers suspect that spending our lives serving God and others might cost us our happiness.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could do what pleases God and what’s best for others, while at the same time enjoying happiness and deep satisfaction?
But that’s not possible, you may think.
Or is it?
What if we really can live the good life without being selfish? What if God not only wants us to live life more abundantly, as Jesus put it (John 10:10), but also provides clear instructions for how to actually experience it? What if it’s possible to discover what to embrace and what to avoid so we can live a meaningful and fulfilling life—the good life—even in this broken world?
Does that sound too good to be true?
Actually, it’s both “too good” and true.
That’s what my book Giving Is the Good Life is about.
The Good Life Is Countercultural
We live in a world that screams, “Make lots of money and spend it on yourself, and you’ll be happy. That’s the good life!”
There’s just one problem. It’s a lie.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus repeatedly turned our definition of the good life on its head. For instance, He said, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35, GNT).
Jesus told us that parting with money to help others will bring us more joy than hanging on to that money. Counterintuitive as it may seem, our greatest good, and the happiness that accompanies it, is found in giving, not receiving.
In other words, generosity is the good life.
This idea that giving away money and possessions equals happiness is a paradox. Human reasoning says that spending money on ourselves is in our best interest—and to a degree, that’s true. We all need food to eat, a place to live, clothes to wear. But once our basic needs are met, money can easily stop helping us and start hurting us.
According to CreditCards.com, the average American has nearly $16,000 in credit card debt. The average college student graduates with $40,000 in student loans, and some with far more. Almost 40 percent of Americans carry credit card debt month to month, continuing to spend more than they have and remaining in financial bondage. Debt is routinely incurred in pursuing the good life, yet psychologists attest that the debt-funded lifestyle leads to depression, anxiety, resentment, stress, denial, anger, frustration, regret, shame, embarrassment, and fear. This is the very opposite of the good life. It’s the terrible life!
Here’s a truth that can set us free: “living large” actually makes us smaller. Living “the good life” (as our culture defines it) results in missing the best life.
Deep down, we all know it’s true: you can spend every last cent you own on yourself—and, through credit, far more—and still end up miserable. In fact, if you want to be miserable, greed and stinginess are the perfect recipe. Those who hoard their money, like those who spend it all on themselves, are the unhappiest people on the planet. Jesus calls us to do something radical: love others by giving away our money and time. That sounds like loss, not gain. Yet in God’s economy, that’s exactly how we can expand and enhance our own lives.
Generosity Pays Off
Giving Is the Good Life really is about living the good life. I say this because you may wonder if I’m trying to make the generous Christian life sound easier and happier than it really is.
First, I’m not suggesting that giving always comes easily or without sacrifice. What I am saying is that in God’s providence, the payoff far outweighs the sacrifice. Generosity is God’s best, designed just for us. This is always true in the long run, and usually it’s true in the short run too.
Suppose I give up some vanilla lattes and two lunches out each month in order to support a child in Haiti. There’s nothing wrong with lattes or meals out, and I may miss them, but thoughts of how the money helps a needy child flood me with happiness greater and far more enduring than twenty minutes of pleasure from a drink or eating out. My life has a purpose beyond myself, and as I say no to that small thing, my day is put in perspective. That gladness and perspective don’t disappear when I finish the meal or toss the coffee cup in the recycle bin.
Giving Is the Good Life is about that kind of joy-filled, openhanded adventure of following Jesus, which brings us lasting pleasure and reaches far beyond this life to the next.
In part 1 of the book, I explore the good life as God defines it and discover what Jesus meant when he said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, NKJV). The first step to finding life is clear: we need to place our trust in Christ. That’s where eternal life—the ultimate good life—begins. Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).
Once we believe in Christ, what can we do to experience the abundant life—a life overflowing with vibrancy, satisfaction, and contentment?
Though we’ve been granted eternal life, many Christians don’t fully experience what Jesus came to give us. The stresses and pressures of life weigh us down and leave us feeling like we’re missing something. We lose both joy and purpose. Life becomes a drudgery, not an adventure. It’s a shrunken life, not a flourishing one.
If that’s where you find yourself, take heart. True, it’s not possible to eliminate difficulties and challenges until we’re living at last in the world we were made for (the New Earth, not this one). But we certainly don’t have to wait until we die to experience the abundant life Jesus promised.
Part 2 of the book delivers the bad news and the very good news about money, as described in 1 Timothy 6. The bad news is that loving and serving money will destroy us and rob us of life and happiness. The good news is that if we recognize God’s ownership of everything, we’ll steward our resources to help meet physical and spiritual needs. Our reward will be both future rewards and present contentment, purpose, and what Scripture calls “the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19, NIV).
In other words, giving really is the good life.
Giving Is the Good Life: The Unexpected Path to Purpose and Joy
In Giving Is the Good Life, bestselling author Randy Alcorn teaches life-changing biblical principles of generosity and tells stories of people who have put those radical principles into practice. Each story is a practical application that can help stimulate your imagination and expand your dreams of serving Jesus in fresh ways. These real-life models give you not just words to remember but footprints to follow.
Giving Is the Good Life reveals a grander view of God and generosity―one that stretches far beyond our imagination and teaches us what the good life is really all about.