I am Blessed

Several folks on Facebook have shared this page:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-dannemiller/christians-should-stop-saying_b_4868963.html
It’s a link to an article by Scott Dannemiller expressing his belief that Christians should stop saying they are blessed. He says that it’s just semantics. But he’d prefer we say “I am grateful” rather than blessed. I’ve been mulling the whole thing over for almost a month, and while that’s not a terrible trade off, I’m afraid that I can’t give up the word quite that easily. Mr. Dannemiller says that the Bible doesn’t give us any reason to think of ourselves as blessed when we receive material gain. I understand his reasoning, but I don’t completely agree with it.

In Genesis 17:16, Sarah is said to be blessed because she’s going to have a child. Just three verses later, Ishmael is blessed because he’s going to have a lot of descendants, so obviously my children are blessings. That doesn’t make me better than those who have no children, and doesn’t make those who are barren less blessed, but Mr. Dannemiller prefers I just say I’m grateful rather than blessed.

In Genesis 24:35, Abraham’s servant says that God has blessed his master abundantly and he has become wealthy. In Genesis 26:3 God tells Abraham he will bless his descendants by giving them what we now call the land of Israel. In Genesis 30:30 Jacob tells Laban that he has been blessed because God has increased the little Laban had. In Genesis 39:5 Joseph’s presence in Potiphar’s house brought a blessing “in his house and in his field.” All of those sound like material blessings to me, and I haven’t even left the book of Genesis yet.

Throughout scripture God blessed the food and the water; He promised to bless the crops. God blessed the work of their hands, the fruit of the womb and the herds. He told the people of God they would be richly blessed, so blessed that they would never borrow from anyone. He said he would bless all their work and everything they did. They were commanded to bring gifts in proportion to their blessing. If, as Mr. Dannemiller says, they aren’t blessings, then how am I to know what gifts to bring to my Creator?

God promised to set His people high above all other peoples. He blessed their baskets and kneading troughs. Jabez asked for a blessing of an enlarged territory, and it was granted. After all his suffering Job was blessed by God with twice as many sheep and cattle as before.

Nearly 400 times some form of the word “blessed” is used in the New International Version of scripture. Many of those verse include material and personal blessing. As Mr. Dannemiller points out, those blessings are often in the form of peace, comfort, mercy and a place in heaven. But just as often the blessings mentioned in scripture are tangible things, creature comforts that make life better. Mr. Dannemiller would have us believe that God doesn’t bless to provide “positive reinforcement.” But scripture says He does! In fact, I’ve told people that while salvation is a gift freely given, blessings are promised to those who obey, serve, follow, humble themselves. This does not mean that those who struggle financially are not obedient.

When my husband and I struggled for the first 25 years of our marriage we never considered ourselves, “not blessed.” We believed we were tremendously blessed. At that time God chose to bless us in ways other than materially, but our lack of abundant finances did not negate the financial blessings he was pouring out on others. I would never have wanted someone to not say they were blessed just to make me feel better. On the other hand, I do agree with Mr. Dannemiller, than any attempt by prosperity preachers to convince you that your lack of material possessions has anything to do with God’s favor or your level of obedience is bad theology. Just like not every person who is wealthy has received the blessing of God, some folks just work hard and don’t care what God thinks; not every person who is living paycheck to paycheck or worse is out of God’s will. (Although I will say that some of the shortfall in our lives did come from not seeking God’s counsel before we made financial decisions, so although a meager income is not a definite sign of God holding back His blessing, I always counsel people to examine their lives and make sure they are following God before they count or discount their blessings.)

I feel bad for those in Guatemala who Mr. Dannemiller and his wife ministered to who’d been fed the prosperity gospel, the message of “you must not be doing enough for God.” But just because someone is out there spewing bad theology doesn’t mean that I am willing to stop giving God the glory for what He’s doing in my life. I recently met a Christian author whose very first book was picked up by a publishing company without even really trying. Mr. Dannemiller might say that he worked for it, but I’ve seen others work just as hard for a book or music contract with no success. I’d say that gentleman was blessed! Those other Christian authors and musicians I know wouldn’t consider themselves any less blessed, but just because they didn’t receive that particular blessing, doesn’t negate the blessing of a book deal with a major publishing house without jumping through all the hoops.

Like Mr. Dannemiller, I don’t want material wealth and prosperity or even the number of children you have to be the measuring line for blessing. Those aren’t the only way God blesses! More than a dozen times God told the patriarchs that all nations would be blessed through them. He was talking about Jesus! The biggest blessing every person on the face of the earth has is salvation through Jesus Christ. It’s a blessing that’s just laying there waiting for us to pick it up, but many won’t, and then they’ll wonder why they never feel blessed, even if they become millionaires.

Mr. Dannemiller thinks that blessings mean you were “chosen above others because of the veracity of [your] prayers or the depth of [your] faith.” I don’t think that blessings mean anything of the sort. Perhaps that’s why I don’t mind using the word. When I see someone who has been blessed with material possessions, I don’t think they were chosen above me. I know several Christians who seem to have the Midas touch. They have been given, blessed with, the ability to earn a very generous living. They take really cool vacations, and live more comfortably than some, but they give over and above the “proportion” that God has asked the general population. I rejoice in their blessing, and I will not deny them the opportunity to praise God that they are blessed simply because God has chosen to bless me in a different way.

I am blessed. I am not “chosen above others.” My prayers aren’t more voracious, and my faith is not any deeper than most others I worship with, but I am blessed. Most recently some of the blessings I’ve received have been material and financial. I’m still in awe and humbled because of these blessings. But no more than when I have had the blessing of a smile or a kind word. I have been blessed with children and grandchildren, and even in the midst of our third grandchild’s struggle to live, I knew that I was blessed. I believe that saying I am blessed is acknowledging the goodness of God in spite of the circumstances. When I say I am blessed, I mean that I have received things I don’t deserve, gifts from my heavenly Father.

I have at times had an overwhelming sense of blessedness. They weren’t on the days when my husband’s paycheck was big or when we got some really cool “toy.” Those “blessed” feeling days were when I spent time with people I care about. For instance on the afternoon of the last of our three daughter’s weddings, we had an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment. It was a small celebration by worldly standards, but it was beautiful because our friends and family had gathered to celebrate with us.

I appreciate Mr. Dannemiller’s attempt to help us truly appreciate the word “blessing” and not use it flippantly or lightly. That’s a tremendously important lesson that the Christian community needs to learn. If you are using the word to simply downplay your hard work and effort, then stop. If your use of the word blessing makes you feel better because you spent more money than God asked you to on your house or your car, then stop. If you use it because you think it makes you sound holier or makes God look good, cease and desist.

However, if you feel completely humbled and undeserving of the beautiful life God has given you, whether you make $500 a year or $500,000, then tell the world you are blessed. If you understand that everything you have comes from the Father of Heavenly lights, every good and perfect gift comes from above, and you’re not concerned that someone has more than you do, then freely use the word blessed. And if you have received God’s gift of salvation and you live in the John 10:10 abundance of Jesus Christ and His Spirit, recognize and share the Good News, you are blessed!

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