Monday, October 13, 2014

Bothered By ‘Blessings’

There’s an old saying concerning communication: “It’s not what you say – it’s exactly what you say.” So it’s implicit that before words easily slip off our tongues, there’s no harm in pausing to consider the impact of what we say upon our hearers.

This came to mind as I read an online article by Scott Dannemiller, a former missionary. The article was entitled, “The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying.” What is that one thing, according to Dannemiller? “Feeling blessed.”

Even in the midst of storm clouds, a
rainbow can reveal God's blessings.
(Photo by Joe Ehrmann)
As he explains, “I’ve noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the ‘amen’ at the end of a prayer.”

I’ve often observed this, too – and been guilty of it. Successfully recovering from health setbacks, we declare how “blessed” we are. We acquire a new (or newer) car, complete with high-tech gizmos, and tell others it’s a “blessing.” A businesswoman reports how God continues to “bless” her business with growth and profits. Or we attend a gathering at someone’s gorgeous, expansive home, compliment them on it, and they reply, “Yes, God’s really blessed us with it.”

Sounds good, right? Giving credit to the Lord, where it’s due. Readily acknowledging good things that come into our lives and work, expressing gratitude to God for His provision. In one sense, that’s as it should be.

But what about those who suffer from chronic, even terminal illnesses – with no prospect of experiencing good health again? Are they not blessed? And if not, why? What about the folks stuck with clunkers for vehicles, who can’t afford anything better? Is God mad at them? The businessman who strives to honor God in all he does, yet sees his company continue to flounder. Why hasn’t the Lord “blessed” him? A struggling couple who love Jesus admire the splendid home but can’t help but wonder, “Why hasn’t God blessed us like this?”

As Dannemiller pointed out, in our American culture we tend to equate God’s blessings with material prosperity and physical well-being. But taking a close look at the Scriptures, that’s not necessarily the biblical view.

Jesus told His followers,In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Trouble? Where’s the blessing in that, right?

Writing to believers in the city of Corinth, the apostle Paul declared, “as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance, in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5). Could it be God didn’t like Paul as much as we thought?

Paul and another apostle, James, exhorted followers of Jesus to “rejoice in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3) and “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). What kind of “showers of blessings” are these?

When the Bible speaks about blessings, much of the time it offers a perspective that doesn’t take into account materialistic rewards.

In Matthew 5, His so-called “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus talked about those blessed that are “poor in spirit,” “those who mourn,” “the meek,” “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” and “those who are persecuted.” Hardly the kinds of things we would feel blessed about, but as He explained, each of these conditions cause people to draw closer to God, perhaps the greatest blessing of all.

The very first psalm also offers a non-materialistic view of blessings. It states, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers” (Psalm 1:1). He’s blessed by not associating with disreputable people that can have a negative, ungodly influence on him.

This isn’t to say God can’t or doesn’t bless us in tangible ways, because many times He does. But trials and adversities that move us closer to God often can prove to be great blessings, while material possessions that become idols, objects of our affections, can prove instead to be a curse by distracting us from God.

When Jesus was approached by a woman in a crowd, He told her, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28). Do you want to be blessed? Simply do what the Lord tells you to do in the Scriptures. Then, regardless of your circumstances – good or bad – you can truthfully declare, “I’m greatly blessed.”


Dave Roney said...

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). The material blessings will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God ("...all these things will be added unto you"). The spiritual blessings are those of the heart, from His great Heart to our lowly ones...

Bob Tamasy said...

So true, Dave. Thanks for your comments.