The Bible in a Word – an essay on ‘Flourishing’

Yesterday, on the final day of my Biblical Thought class for the semester, I read this brief essay and then gave it to them along with suggestions for further study. I said,  “Here’s another way to describe what I long for all of you and myself as we’ve explored the drama of Scripture. It centers around the word, Flourish. I’ve become convinced that flourishing is the best modern equivalent for the beautifully comprehensive Hebrew word, Shalom (Peace, wholeness, the way God designed his world and his people to live to the fullest.”) I found myself getting a bit choked up as I read it to them. It was more than a summary; it was pouring out my heart.

Flourishing Our Place in the Biblical Story

There is a universal longing, a desire transcending tribe, tongue, and nation that sits at the core of every human heart. It’s a desire for thriving. For fullness of life. For a life worth living. For flourishing. 

Creation as God intended it, was in a state of flourishing (Shalom). The picture of the Garden was where the man and the woman walked in right relationship with God. Everything was as it was supposed to be.

When evil entered into God’s good creation, humanity experienced the cancerous effect of sin and brokenness. We are cracked images (Eikons), made to look like God, but desperately in need of restoration.

Flourishing begins with the work of redemption that God undertakes in the history of Israel and fulfills in Jesus. God defeats death and evil through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. God makes the way for lost and broken people to be restored to right relationship with God, one another, and the cosmos. Repent and believe the Good News!

We are all in need of restoration. When we receive God’s grace, understand what God made us for, and how we fit into his big picture of restoration, that is when we begin to truly flourish. But it doesn’t end there.

Flourishing goes beyond our personal redemption and includes finding our calling. Knowing that God is glorified when his creation flourishes, we work for the flourishing of others out of gratitude and a desire to extend God’s glory. When we serve other people with our God-given gifts, talents, time and resources, we help them flourish.

What does flourishing look like, then? It’s when the wilderness becomes fruitful. It’s when justice reigns. It’s when righteousness dwells. It’s when people live peacefully. Flourishing is true happiness in God. It’s joy. It’s a fullness of life. It’s wholeness. It’s abundance. It’s Shalom!

Flourishing promotes the common good. It radiates God’s Kingdom on earth. Flourishing is a thriving farm. It’s a booming city. It’s a cure for disease. It’s a new technology for good. It’s a beautiful song. It’s a vibrant street mural. It’s a loving family. It’s a fun friendship. It’s a deep relationship with God. It’s living as an image bearer of our Creator. Flourishing means becoming everything we were created to be.

Finally, although we are called to bring about ever higher levels of flourishing, we know in the end we are giving only a foretaste of the restoration that is to come when God fully ushers in the New Creation. Flourishing in this life is inevitably incomplete because of God’s ongoing mission in the world.

This is what we hope for, what each of us longs for deep in our hearts. In the meantime, we’ve got work to do. God keeps calling us to live our part in bringing about flourishing for our communities and the world. Proclaim and live the Good News!

Lyle Mook – adapted and expanded from an article by Dr. Anne Bradley, The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, 2015

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