How should the Greek word makarios be translated in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3ff)? It is tempting to use the more contemporary word ‘happy’. But (writes Scott McKnight), this is problematic:-
1. Primarily happiness is understood as a subjective “feeling good about oneself and one’s life and one’s situation.”
2. Happiness has become both a right and achievable now.
3. The pursuit of happiness never ends; it is instead a “hedonic treadmill.” Once the center is pleasure or feeling good, that center becomes a source of unending demand for more and more.
4. Happiness research shows that it is largely the comparative that satisfies the subjective: that is, one becomes happy by comparing herself or himself with others who have less, and as long as one has more, one is happy. But those studies also show that diminishment in happiness enters once one has more than the necessities of life.
5. We also have learned that happiness is rooted in genetics: certain temperaments and dispositions are more capable of achieving this subjective sense of feeling good than are others: those who are sociable, active, stable, and conscientious tend to be more “happy.” Not only is happiness genetic, but it is connected to our life span: we reach the nadir of happiness at age 44 and after that it’s a gentle stroll of increasing happiness all the way home.
6. Happiness can be generated falsely by the imagination. Our capacity to dream and to put things in the context of what we think our reality eventually will be creates greater chances of happiness, whether that imagined future ever occurs or not.
Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Commentary Series)
While recognising the measure of truth found in the thoughts noted above, we should note that the quest for happiness is both good and inevitable. The question then becomes, ‘In what (on in whom) do I find my happiness?’; and, ‘How shall I find it?’ Shall we seek it in the created things, or in the Creator?
And Jonathan Edwards said, concerning happiness:-
This being so, we choose ‘blessed’ over ‘happy’ for the beatitudes, not because the pursuit of happiness is wrong, but because it is too often pursued with the wrong goal, and by the wrong means. ‘Blessed’ describes the condition of those who live under God’s favour. And they are happy indeed.