Recently I read an article that questioned the way we traditionally talk about blessings. He said (and I summarize), We shouldn’t say we’re blessed when we receive money or a job promotion or something like that. We should say we’re grateful. He said saying we’re blessed suggests others who haven’t received what we’ve received aren’t blessed.
I struggled to accept his premise—especially as material wealth is explicitly called out as a blessing by Paul (For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings).
While I can’t agree with the bottom line, I understand the tension out of which it grew.
Are poor people not blessed by God?
The question is bigger than that though. Because blessing inequality is everywhere.
My husband is a blessing. He loves me. He takes care of me. He’s a terrific father, great at his job. He makes me dinner and partners with me in my work. I can’t deny that I daily experience the grace and love of God through him.
But I have friends without Godly husbands—friends who love God just as much as (or more than) I do.
Are they not blessed?
My kids are a blessing. They fill me with joy. They push and challenge me to be more like Christ. They’re funny and smart and kind. They draw the most beautiful pictures of our family and lay in bed beside me in the morning, smiling, sunshine in their eyes.
But I have friends who can’t have children, friends who would be wonderful mothers, friends who sincerely and desperately want to be mothers.
Are they not blessed?
And what about little things, the things we take pictures of and post on Instagram. Meals with friends, a hike on a 70 degree day, sunsets, an extra order of fries in your bag at Chick-fil-a.
I tend to think all those things are blessings.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”
The other day I picked up my daughter London from school. As soon as she buckled her seat belt her sister Eve said, “I had a cookie for snack today before we picked you up.”
London cried. Why do you always get treats without me?
The next day London got in the car and said, “Friday is field day and I won a bracelet and I get to go down the big slide.”
And Eve cried. I wish I could go to London’s school. I hate my school. Her school is so much better.
This sort of thing happens all the time. My girls can’t bear uneven blessing. And it’s more than that. They need the blessings to be identical in every way. If one sister gets something, the other should get exactly the same thing in exactly the same amount.
I do not approve.
In fact, it is my least favorite of their bad behaviors. Because it grows out of the worst parts of our humanity—our compulsion to compare everything, our inability to celebrate another person’s plenty without looking at our lack, our instinctual ingratitude.
Why is it that one person’s joy must result in another’s sadness?
I don’t think that’s what God intended for humanity.
God says to the church in Rome, the Jews’ spiritual blessings have spilled onto you. Share your material blessings with them.
Repeatedly in the Old Testament He tells the Israelites, I’ve blessed you so you might be a blessing.
In the kingdom of God, everyone’s blessing is a blessing for everyone.
To those of us who’re experiencing blessing (of whatever kind) that’s an invitation to share.
God intends that money, that new truck, that child to be a gift for the world—not just for you.
To those of us observing the blessing of others it’s an invitation to celebrate.
Your friend’s promotion has the potential to bless every person around her.
Those baby pictures on Facebook represent a joy that will inevitably overflow onto you.
When London gets to slide down the big slide on field day, she comes home happy and her happiness blesses her sister.
When Eve gets a cookie, London benefits from Eve’s good mood.
But more than that, Eve’s enjoyment of the cookie stirs her to bless her sister the same way. Just yesterday she suggested on the way to pick up London, “Mom, we should go to McDonald’s and get London a cookie. She’d like that.”
I have a friend who struggled for years with the question, “Why would a good God let people in developing countries suffer like they do?” He looked at his own life, overflowing with material wealth and health, and felt intensely guilty.
And then he spent a summer with the Ugandan people.
He doesn’t ask that question anymore.
What he encountered there were people who didn’t feel less because others had more (of a certain type of blessing). He met people full of peace and joy and love, people gratefully receiving the blessings of generous Christians across an ocean and actively sharing that generosity with others—blessed and blessing.
They didn’t have much, but what they had they celebrated and shared.
Y’all. God is blessing His people—people all over this globe.
He doesn’t bless us all in the same ways or in the same amounts. But that’s a part of the plan. He blesses each of us to bless all of us.