Last week, I posted an article on the Facebook page written by former Christian missionary Scott Dannemiller for the Huffington Post. (Click here to read the article.)
Scott raises a good point and encouraged much discussion on Facebook: Christians need to stop saying they are “blessed” by a new car. Or a new house. Or an increase in business that, in turn, provides you with more income.
As soon as I read his words, I thought, “Yes.”
To be honest, I’ve always felt a catch in my spirit about this whole “blessed” thing.
In fact, what really got me thinking about how I use this word resulted from a conversation I had with my children soon after I returned from Ghana a few years ago.
“God has blessed us with a comfortable home so we need to be sure we are being good stewards of our blessing and take good care of it,” I said to the three sets of ears around the kitchen table.
Soon after, Sarah, my oldest and deep, C.S. Lewis-style thinker, sidled up to me and asked this hard and convicting question:
“What about people who live in Ghana, Mom? Are they not blessed because they don’t have a home like ours?”
Ouch. Definitely not the message I want to send my children.
And yet, James 1:17 tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
It’s true that we have a comfortable home, two reliable cars and a steady income from a husband whose dental practice continues to grow. Aren’t these good and perfect gifts and if so, aren’t they blessings from God?
Well . . . it depends. A nice home may not be a good and perfect gift if you become stingy with your belongings and always want more, more, more. It really depends on the state of your heart and how you use the gifts you’ve been given.
Remember that as a follower of Jesus, I am continually moving and growing in my faith. So what I say now is what I believe right now, just for today. This doesn’t mean I’m not open to changing my heart if God convicts me otherwise – it means I’m still learning and as I learn, I will have a renewal of the mind.
Dannemiller uses the Sermon on the Mount to illustrate who is blessed. In case you need a refresher, here’s what Jesus said:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
When I read this, I think it’s pretty clear who is considered blessed.
However, there are many kinds of poor. You can be insanely wealthy monetarily and insanely poor in spirit. And, of course, the opposite is true as well – you can be very poor monetarily but very rich in spirit.
So when Sarah asked that oh-so-hard-and-convicting question, my answer was “God blesses us all differently.” I then explained how many of the people I met in Ghana were poor by our standards but richer than us in spirit and joy.
To whom much has been given, much is expected.
If you have the resources to purchase a comfortable home, reliable vehicles and food for your family, then wouldn’t these be considered “good and perfect gifts from above” mentioned in James?
It depends on how you use them. God doesn’t give us “things.” He gives us resources. We choose how we use those resources.
If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, then you understand that your home, your cars, your whatever could be taken from you in an instant.
They’re to be held very loosely in the open palms of your hands.
If you have a comfortable home, do you invite others in and love-on hurting hearts?
If you have a reliable vehicle, do you use it to help others?
If you are food secure, do you do anything to help those who aren’t?
God is not a magical fairy granting wishes to all the good girls and boys. I think we can debunk that myth pretty quickly because we’ve probably all met a few unkind people who are very comfortable financially.
So I guess I would say I believe these things right now, today:
2. If they become idols, we’re in deep stuff.
3. To whom much has been given, much is expected.
4. It depends on what you DO with those “blessings.” Do you horde it all for yourself or do you hold them with open palms?
5. The poor are not poor because they’re not pleasing God. They’re poor because God has blessed them differently. I’m certain someone who is dying of cancer would say that someone who is poor is blessed with health. I’m certain someone who is considered wealthy but lost a child would say that someone living in a third world country with all of their children alive is blessed with family. And I’m certain that someone who is financially comfortable and going through a divorce would say that a newlywed, just starting out couple with limited resources is blessed with marriage.
Lastly, in the end . . . There are some things we aren’t going to ever know on this side of heaven. There are some things we won’t agree on as Christians and that’s OK. We don’t all need to agree. And there are some things we’ll debate for years.
But in the end, what really matters is this:
Love God above all else and love your neighbor as yourself.
It’s easy to get caught-up in semantics and arguments over who’s right – I think we like to complicate things. So sometimes, we need to go back to the simple, embrace it and live it.
Now that’s blessed.
What do you think? Head over to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let’s talk!