Recently, a study was made comparing American mothers with mothers in Japan. Among the many questions that were asked, the one that proved most intriguing was this one: “What do you want for your children when they grow up?” Just about every Japanese mother answered this question with the same word, “Successful!”
The answer was not surprising, because there is no society on the face of the earth that drives their children to be successful as do the people of Japan. I am not advising that we imitate them. Any acquaintance with the children of Japan will reveal them to be some of the most depressed children of the world. Their parents so constantly drive them to be successful that Japanese children, especially in their teenage years, often seem burdened and devoid of joy.
In contrast, when American mothers were asked what they wanted for their children when they grew up, the answer, not surprisingly was one word, “Happy!”
What concerned me as I read the study was that neither the typical Japanese mother nor the typical American mother gave the answer that you would have gotten from my mother. If you had asked her what she wanted me to be when I grew up, she would have answered, “Good!”
Isn’t that an interesting word? My mother would have wanted me to be successful and she certainly would have wanted me to be happy. But transcending both success and happiness in her value system would have been goodness. Her prayer for me was that “goodness and mercy would follow me all the days of my life, and that I might dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
No wonder our society is in trouble. Our society is imbued with the theme articulated in the Declaration of Independence, and we have become a people preoccupied with “the pursuit of happiness. With happiness as our goal, we give up on our marriages at the first sign of unhappiness. We are a people who embrace any new form of entertainment, whether moral or immoral, as long as we think it will make us happy. And we are ready to hold down two jobs and neglect the really important relationships of our lives in order to earn the money to buy the things that somebody on a T.V. ad promised us would make us happy.
When I mentioned all of this to a friend, he quickly turned on me and said, “First you question the basic theme of the Declaration of Independence. I suppose the next thing you’ll do is raise questions about the values set forth in the Constitution.”
After some thought, I had to say, “Yes, I do! I do question the values laid out in the Constitution. While I think it lays down the principles that make for the best political system ever devised by men and women, the Constitution has one basic flaw. It clearly delineates the Bill of Rights, but it nowhere states a Bill of Responsibilities.”
I went on to make the case that a government that insures people of their rights, but fails to clearly spell out their responsibilities fails to call them to be the kind of people God wants them to be. Americans are quick to scream if their rights are violated in any way, but all too few of us sense the deep responsibilities we have to each other as fellow citizens. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are among the greatest documents ever devised by the human race, but they do not measure up to the divinely inspired Scriptures. The Bible calls us to the goodness that exalteth a nation, and to the mutual responsibilities that we have if we are to truly be a people of God. When all is said and done, we must yield to the Word of God, because next to it even the best words of people seem inadequate.