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What If Every Success Isn’t a Blessing!?

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Photo: Cláudia F.

I went on Twitter and looked up the hashtag #blessed to see what people were thankful about. Here are some of the ways God’s been blessing people:

  • He won someone a rugby game.
  • He enabled some lady to get her picture taken with a celebrity.
  • He helped someone get a dresser that was accidentally marked down by a sales associate.
  • He made it Friday.
  • He helped a girl get asked to the prom by the sweetest boy ever.
  • He made a parking spot available by the mall’s entrance.

I get it—God does incredible things. But there are some red flags that get raised for me in the way we throw around the idea of blessings. Here are some sincere questions I have about the way people tend to think about blessings.

1. Do blessings come at the expense of others?

When someone tells me that God blessed them with a parking space near the front door at the mall, I always think, “Is it a curse not to get that spot? If I don’t get to park near JCPenney, do I need to repent of some unknown sin?”

2. Does everything ultimately come down to blessings?

If my team wins the Super Bowl, was it because of some kind act of intervention on God’s part? When it comes down to brass tacks, is who prays most more important than who practices harder?

Does God like the collective Christianity on one team more than the collective Christianity on the other?

3. Does God really care about many of the things we consider blessings?

You saw Liam Neeson at a restaurant and disturbed his meal to get a photo with him (an indignity that celebrities have to experience all the time). Did God orchestrate that experience to bless you? Does God care about our celebrity culture?

Does he care about who wins Super Bowls, or that you like Friday better than Monday?

What if I want sun for a picnic and the farmer down the street is praying for rain for his thirsty crops? Am I blessed when the sun comes out?

4. What do the poorest of the world think about the blessings of the wealthiest?

This is one of the questions that always gets me. When I consider the things we call blessings through the eyes of those who struggle daily to survive, it changes my perspective.

I’m not talking about the fact that we might have things that they don’t. It’s more about the triviality of the things we consider blessings. What does the blessing of my 20% off Frappuccino coupon look like when compared to the blessing of stretching your food stamps one more week?

5. What if the good things we think are blessing are actually contributing to our undoing?

I have an acquaintance who’s an extremely well-known internet personality. He regularly borrows the content of others, spits out the shallowest of blog posts in 20 minute intervals, but really knows how generate attention on social media. He’s quick to call this attention blessings, but they contribute to his growing narcissism and self-aggrandizement.

Are these things blessings? Tests? Opportunities? Or just the natural outcome of anyone who works really hard and takes advantage of opportunities?

6. What if your blessing is really an opportunity to do the right thing?

Once during a worship service, a woman stood up to offer praise for an incredible blessing. She had needed some money, and at a garage sale she had purchased a book that had two $100 bills in it. Was that a blessing or an opportunity to go back to the people who owned the book and say, “Hey, I’m pretty sure you didn’t know this was in here when you sold it to me for $.50.” (And if she needed money, what was she doing at a garage sale anyway!?)

Am I being blessed if someone at a store mistakenly marks an item down or it gets put in the wrong section? Am I being blessed if I figure out how to take advantage of coupons to get stuff from a store much cheaper than they intended?

7. What if I should be paying more attention to how I can be a blessing than how I am being blessed?

Let’s go back to the providential parking spot at the mall again. What if I passed up the opportunity for a great spot for someone else who might be older, have kids, or might just need the “blessing” more than me? Isn’t being a blessing the greatest blessing?

Sometimes it seems that we’re given opportunities to pass good things on that we absorb as personal blessings. Maybe we’re only meant to steward them on to others.

I honestly don’t mean to be facetious here. These are just some of the questions that come to mind as I listen to people casually discuss God’s blessings.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo: Cláudia F.

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. A very good point, Jayson. Actually several of them.
    “Sometimes it seems that we’re given opportunities to pass good things on that we absorb as personal blessings. Maybe we’re only meant to steward them on to others.”
    So true. You’ve challenged me to take my prayer life to a higher level.

    February 9, 2014
  2. I once heard someone tell her child to be thankful for the blessing of the cookie I had just given him.
    This post really hits on some truths. Nicely done. I’m challenged once again to BE the blessing. Thanks.

    February 9, 2014
  3. Cindee #

    Maybe calling something a blessing is just a way of saying “I’m thankful.” As we are instructed to be thankful for everything (Eph 5:20), I don’t really see a problem here.

    February 9, 2014
    • Thanks for the comment Cindee, and fair enough.

      I think there’s an implied providential aspect, in the word “blessing.” As opposed to just being thankful I got a good parking space.

      February 9, 2014
  4. Rev #

    Immaturity abounds. Rabbi friends tell me there are ‘unethical’ prayers.
    Traveler prays for good weather, farmer wants rain.
    Man approaches village and sees smoke from house on fire and prays, “O G-d, I hope that is not my house.” But it is someone’s house……..
    Many people need to grow up in their faith.

    February 9, 2014
  5. Justin Ryan Boyer #

    Nice work.
    From a ministry standpoint, this reminds me of Isaiah 6 and what it (might) mean to have a “blessed” ministry. Isaiah’s success in being faithful to God’s call actually meant people wouldn’t listen to him. Would he tweet: “Bashing my head against a brick wall. #blessed”?

    February 13, 2014
  6. I love the example from the lady at the garage sale. I do think it’s we need to overhaul our understanding of blessing. For me there are two sections of Scripture that really help define it. Psalm one and Matthew 5. The thing that really stands out to me is that we are called to be blessed and that means, making right choices by not standing, sitting or walking in the way of the evil people (Prov 1) it also means meditating day and night on God’s Word. In Mat. 5 Jesus also shocked his listeners when he said that those who are blessed are those who “hunger and thirst, “the poor” and “those who weep” and “those who are persecuted” not exactly the things we associate with blessings!

    February 13, 2014
  7. Damon #

    I love this. Well said.

    February 18, 2014
  8. Robert #

    The Lord blesses only with the eternal. What kind of blessing is a $100 bill, or even a $500M Lottery, or a new car, or a good job from the one that created all things?!? When your rich uncle gives you a piece of bubble gum for your birthday, you’re offended. If God’s blessing was going to be monetary, I’d better be making loans to Bill Gates when He’s done! He turned water into wine, how about my car into a space ship …

    The God of the universe blesses with things that will never be destroyed; Grace, Mercy, the Kingdom of Heaven, Comfort, Righteousness, etc. and it all points back to His work on Earth. (Matt 5) He never blesses us because of our actions… Thank God He doesn’t!!

    Fortune (or perceived fortune) may befall us, and God Himself may even orchestrate it, but its not a “blessing” until we have put it to use for His kingdom. He doesn’t care if you have a big screen TV, He cares if you are being obedient. Opportunities to serve and worship Him are the blessings this side of eternity!

    February 20, 2014
  9. Linda #

    I think you’ve hit on something here. Over the past decade, I’ve done a lot of thinking about true blessings. Many come at a great price. My oldest son died in 2003, but it resulted in the salvation of his fiance and the opportunity to share the good news at his funeral service, which was attended by quite a few non-believers. My 4th son was born as a late-in-life baby in 2004, and only lived 6 hours. His death led us to adopt a little girl in China who was born just months before him. This would not have occurred without losing Baby Ben. Abby has been a tremendous blessing. My point is that blessings often come out of great tragedy and pain. I don’t think we have been raised in a culture that easily accepts that reality.

    June 4, 2014

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