29 Jul My favourite hashtag: #Blessed!
How different would the world look if we were all stewarding our gifts, and if we actually took seriously the command to bless and be a blessing?
Around the time that we established the Blessed To Give Foundation two years ago, a widely shared article was published in The Huffington Post, denouncing the use of the word ‘blessed’ by Christians. The article was actually called ‘The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying’. The author of the article, Scott Dannemiller, argued that ascribing fleshly gifts (especially material affluence) to God’s blessing, implies that those who are wealthy and healthy have done something to deserve it, and moreover, that those who are poor and afflicted merit their circumstances.
I wholeheartedly agree with the author, that such prosperity theology is deeply flawed and dangerous. We only have to look around us to see that the rich guys are definitely not always the good guys or even the most seemingly hard working or deserving. Biblically speaking, however, blessing does not imply worthiness or deserving. The biblical narrative is of a gracious God lavishing His undeserving people with unmerited gifts, namely that of redemption through His son Jesus. Indeed, the whole of mankind is undeserving. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), yet “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Blessings are not earned or merited, they are free and undeserved.
The article did not stop us from calling the foundation Blessed to Give, and if you are acquainted with me, my instagram account (ha ha), or my favourite hashtag #blessed, you may have noticed that I have not renounced this beloved exclamation of mine. When I share a picture of someone I love, a delicious meal or a beautiful landscape, it is because I am overwhelmed by how good God’s gifts are, and I want to share them. For me, the word ‘blessed’ is a way of acknowledging that every gift and circumstance in my life comes from God, and belongs to God. Nothing we have is truly ours, from our possessions to our children. We are given these various graces to steward; “to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10).
Eschewing the word ‘blessed’ would suggest that God bestows both gifts and circumstances randomly, or worse, accidentally. On the contrary, God is a purposeful giver. His purpose is for the blessings He bestows to overflow. When God blesses us, if we let Him, He makes us vessels for His blessing of others. That has been God’s plan all along, as we see from His covenantal promise to Abraham “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). The gift of all gifts is to be able to bless others as God has blessed us. This is what is means to be blessed to give. God has not chosen to bless certain people because they are especially deserving or loved. Instead, the Bible portrays a world through which all people experience blessing, and we have a role to play in this work… we are made in His image after all. Except that we fail to do our part.
An attitude of stewardship recognises that while our blessings may not be deserved, they are not unwitting, and their purpose is to overflow and bless others. All blessings can be approached with an attitude of stewardship, from our talents and education, to our fortune and health, to our authority, professions and reputation, to our relationships and even our children. While the command to bless is biblical, you do not have to be a Christian to steward your gifts. Unless you believe that you deserve your riches, health, and family, as much as others deserve extreme poverty, cancers and abandonment, it follows logically that all good gifts are for sharing.
This is beautifully illustrated by this passage from a mystical Islamic fable, recently shared by a Muslim friend-
On the street I saw a naked child, hungry and shivering in the cold. I became angry and said to God, “Why do you permit this? Why don’t you do something?” For a while God said nothing.
That night he replied, quite suddenly, “I certainly did something. I made you.”
Exactly. He made us. He made us and He blessed us. He did not bless us because we were worthy, but because He is good, generous, and purposeful. His goodness, generosity and purpose should move us to action. My precious father raised me on this verse “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). How different would the world look if we were all stewarding our gifts, and if we actually took seriously the command to bless and be a blessing?