Because you didn't serve the LORD your God with joy and a cheerful heart, even though you had an abundance of everything, you will serve your enemies the LORD will send against you, in famine, thirst, nakedness, and a lack of everything. He will place an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you. – Deuteronomy 28:47-48 HCSB

There once was an elderly tzaddik who went out of his way to greet everyone cheerfully, even complete strangers. He would walk through the streets, waving and smiling. He would wind his way through the market place shaking hands here, touching a shoulder there, all the while maintaining a beautiful smile and a quick wink on his face. Someone asked how he managed to do it when surely he did not always feel as cheerful. He responded, “I live with the notion that I am, as all humans are, created in the image of God. Therefore, nothing pleases me more than to encounter other images of God wherever I go.”

Adonai told us that it isn’t enough to obey Him. We need to obey with a cheerful heart.[1] “Why?” you may ask. It is because if we begin to consider His commands as drudgeries to perform, it will not be long before we set them aside and earn curses instead of blessings.

He reiterated this very point through the prophet Jeremiah. Hashem was angry with the people of Israel because they referred to the His teachings as “a burden” asking the prophet, “What is the burden of the Lord?”

He pointedly told them to no longer refer to God’s requirements as a burden and then warned, “Because you have said, ‘The burden of the LORD’, and I specifically told you not to say, ‘The burden of the LORD’, I will surely forget you and throw away from My presence both you and the city that I gave you and your fathers. I will bring on you everlasting shame and humiliation that will never be forgotten."[2]

Those who lead in God’s church have a particular responsibility to be gracious. They need to make it clear to those who are already struggling with sin and guilt that God’s emissaries are hospitable and approachable.[3]

Some may say, “What if I don’t feel cheerful? Wouldn’t it be hypocritical to act cheerful in that case?” It would no more be hypocritical than when we make sure that no one knows we are fasting as the Master instructed.[4]

The fact of the matter is that we are rarely gloomy for good reason. We allow minor emotional scratches to cripple us for days. Sometimes, it is not even glumness that causes us to frown but simple distraction.

Your heart is reshut ha yach’id (a private domain) and is rarely opened to others. However, your face is reshut ha rabbim (a public domain) and no one has the right to deface the temple of the Holy Spirit.[5] Glorify the Lord with your body. Smile!

[1] 2 Corinthians 9:7

[2] Jeremiah 23:33-40

[3] 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8

[4] Matthew 6:16-18

[5] 1 Corinthians 6:19-20