The Pursuit of Happyness

At the weekend we watched The Pursuit of Happyness which stars Will Smith as a bone-density scanner salesman called Chris Gardner in the early ‘80s. Yes it’s been out for ages, but we do LoveFilm so we see films a fair bit after they’ve come out. I’ll therefore assume a lot of people have seen it and spoilers are less of an issue! All of my comments below are based on the film, not the book or real life true story as we know that Hollywood distorts all true stories.

It was quite an easy film to watch and Will Smith’s son is in it, aged about 5/6 and is so cute! You started to really feel for Smith’s character after his wife left him and he was evicted firstly from his home, then from a motel with his son resulting in being homeless. However, the pursuit of happiness in the film is the pursuit of money, power, status.

It was heart breaking watching Chris’ wife walk out on him and move to New York and Chris do nothing about it, except want his son to stay with him. In the film he doesn’t seem to try to get his wife back which strikes me as odd. If my husband walked out on me I would try to get him back! He also makes a huge decision once his wife has left him to do a 6 month internship at a stockbrokers where he isn’t paid and his wife isn’t there to support him financially so he also has to continue as a salesman. This is when they become homeless. He can’t sell the bone-density scanners he’s supposed to sell, he can’t pay the rent, he gets chucked out.

Now I don’t want to make big assumptions about this guy. I understand the situation would have been hard: he needed money for rent and for his son to have a normal childhood, so he chose the internship which, if he succeeded as being the best intern, would result in a very well paid job. I admire his dedication to his internship, working as hard as possible until 4pm when he had to collect his son, whilst the others worked until 9pm. Remarkably he does outdo his colleagues and is given the job.

However, Chris sets all his hopes on this internship. When he first sees people flooding out of the stockbroker building early in the film, he notices that they have flash cars and are smiling. He thinks they are happy because they are well paid. But we know that being well paid does not equal happiness! Think of all the mega rich mega stars who have all the money they could ever need, all the gadgets they could ever use, all the houses they could ever live in, and yet overdose or complain they don’t have it all or are alcoholics. Obviously there are other motives for these things but I think it shows that money isn’t everything. Yes, money is useful, I’m not denying that, but it’s not the be all and end all.

Admittedly, at the end of the film Chris is overjoyed to be offered the job and gladly accepts it. He goes on to bigger and greater things according to the text that appears at the end of the film. But would that make him totally happy?

The Bible talks about happiness in a different way. Ecclesiastes 2:26 says, ‘To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness.’ So pleasing God brings happiness. ‘But to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.’ Storing up treasures on earth is pointless, as the well-known parable in Luke 12 tells us. But Ecclesiastes says the money the sinner gathers is given to the one who pleases God. The sinner spends his time pursuing money and possessions thinking it will bring him joy, but as Matthew Henry says, ‘To seek a lasting portion in the love of Christ and the blessings it bestows, is the only way to true and satisfying enjoyment even of this present world.’

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