The One Thing That Christians Should Stop Saying: A Guest Post by Scott Dannemiller

I ran across this post by Scott Dannemiller during my daily reading! It’s a message we all need to hear:

I was on the phone with a good friend the other day. After covering important topics, like disparaging each other’s mothers and retelling semi-factual tales from our college days, our conversation turned to the mundane. “So, how’s work going?” he asked. For those of you who don’t know, I make money by teaching leadership skills and helping people learn to get along in corporate America. My wife says it’s all a clever disguise so I can get up in front of large groups and tell stories. I plead the fifth. I answered my buddy’s question with, “Definitely feeling blessed. Last year was the best year yet for my business. And it looks like this year will be just as busy.” The words rolled off my tongue without a second thought. Like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or placing my usual lunch order at McDonald’s. But it was a lie.

Now, before you start taking up a collection for the “Feed the Dannemillers” fund, allow me to explain. Based on last year’s quest to go twelve months without buying anything, you may have the impression that our family is subsisting on Ramen noodles and free chips and salsa at the local Mexican restaurant. Not to worry, we are not in dire straits. Last year was the best year yet for my business. Things are looking busy in 2014. But that is not a blessing.

I’ve noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the “amen” at the end of a prayer.

“This new car is such a blessing.”

“Finally closed on the house. Feeling blessed.”

“Just got back from a mission trip. Realizing how blessed we are here in this country.”

On the surface, the phrase seems harmless. Faithful even. Why wouldn’t I want to give God the glory for everything I have? Isn’t that the right thing to do? No. As I reflected on my “feeling blessed” comment, two thoughts came to mind. I realize I’m splitting hairs here, creating an argument over semantics. But bear with me, because I believe it is critically important. It’s one of those things we can’t see because it’s so culturally engrained that it has become normal. But it has to stop. And here’s why.

First, when I say that my material fortune is the result of God’s blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers. I can’t help but draw parallels to how I handed out M&M’s to my own kids when they followed my directions and chose to poop in the toilet rather than in their pants. Sure, God wants us to continually seek His will, and it’s for our own good. But positive reinforcement? God is not a behavioral psychologist.

Second, and more importantly, calling myself blessed because of material good fortune is just plain wrong. For starters, it can be offensive to the hundreds of millions of Christians in the world who live on less than $10 per day. You read that right. Hundreds of millions who receive a single-digit dollar “blessing” per day. During our year in Guatemala, Gabby and I witnessed first-hand the damage done by the theology of prosperity, where faithful people scraping by to feed their families were simply told they must not be faithful enough. If they were, God would pull them out of their nightmare. Just try harder, and God will show favor. The problem? Nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. In fact, the most devout saints from the Bible usually died penniless, receiving a one-way ticket to prison or death by torture.

I’ll take door number three, please.

If we’re looking for the definition of blessing, Jesus spells it out clearly (Matthew 5: 1-12).

1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him,

2 And He began to teach them, saying:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I have a sneaking suspicion verses 12a 12b and 12c were omitted from the text. That’s where the disciples responded by saying:

12a Waitest thou for one second, Lord. What about “blessed art thou comfortable,” or 12b “blessed art thou which havest good jobs, a modest house in the suburbs, and a yearly vacation to the Florida Gulf Coast?”

12c And Jesus said unto them, “Apologies, my brothers, but those did not maketh the cut.”

So there it is. Written in red. Plain as day. Even still, we ignore it all when we hijack the word “blessed” to make it fit neatly into our modern American ideals, creating a cosmic lottery where every sincere prayer buys us another scratch-off ticket. In the process, we stand the risk of alienating those we are hoping to bring to the faith. And we have to stop playing that game.

The truth is, I have no idea why I was born where I was or why I have the opportunity I have. It’s beyond comprehension. But I certainly don’t believe God has chosen me above others because of the veracity of my prayers or the depth of my faith. Still, if I take advantage of the opportunities set before me, a comfortable life may come my way. It’s not guaranteed. But if it does happen, I don’t believe Jesus will call me blessed. He will call me “burdened.” He will ask,

“What will you do with it?”

“Will you use it for yourself?”

“Will you use it to help?”

“Will you hold it close for comfort?”

“Will you share it?”

So many hard choices. So few easy answers. So my prayer today is that I understand my true blessing. It’s not my house. Or my job. Or my standard of living. No. My blessing is this. I know a God who gives hope to the hopeless. I know a God who loves the unlovable. I know a God who comforts the sorrowful. And I know a God who has planted this same power within me. Within all of us. And for this blessing, may our response always be, “Use me.”

Since I had this conversation, my new response is simply, “I’m grateful.”

Scott Dannemiller

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The “Crazy” Things We Say In Church!

You can ask any of the members of the church I serve and they will tell you that one of my pet peeves is the ridiculous things people say in church! I am really disturbed by many the sayings and clichés that people put forth as “gospel truth” but in reality, are not the “gospel” and neither are they the “truth!” Let me show you what I am talking about: How many times have you heard someone say at a funeral in reference to the person who died, that God just picked a flower for His garden? Or how about the case in which a young person is murdered and somebody says, in a vain attempt to comfort the family: “God don’t make mistakes, the Lord just took him!” I mean, seriously! Think about it! I know it is an attempt to make the family feel better, but such sayings are really on the verge (if they are not already) of blasphemy! For one thing: God doesn’t cause people to die, just to beautify his “garden” in Heaven! (The Bible talks about Heaven as a city with pearly gates and streets paved with gold, but I have yet to find scriptural references for the heavenly gardens! Perhaps it may be a veiled reference to the ultimate Garden of Eden, but even then, I can’t see God “killing” people to beautify it!). And how can someone’s murder be an act of God? It is the enemy that wants us to die early! The Lord wants us to stay here as long as possible so that we might be witnesses for Him and cause others to be saved! We really are more useful to God, doing His will on earth than being “up there” sitting around the throne or singing in the Heavenly Choir!

But I am really annoyed by some of the songs that are being sung by choirs and quartet singers with their lyrics constantly repeated by preachers, deacons, and other church people as the “God-ordained” truth who should know better! Try to count how many times you have been in a worship experience and heard the words: “When (the) praises go up; (the) blessings come down!” I’ve even heard preachers and deacons say: “Everybody Praise the Lord! You ought to praise Him because when praises go up, the blessings come down!” I mean, seriously? Where is that idea found in the Bible? Not only is that idea not found; it is not even remotely implied! If you were to do a search on all of the Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible that are translated as “praise” and are associated with the concept of praising the Lord and/or God, you would not find one single occurrence where anybody in the Bible praised the Lord in an attempt to get a blessing! In fact, you would discover that in the Bible, people didn’t praise God to get Him to do something; they praised God for what He had already done! People didn’t praise God to get something from him; they praised him for what he had already given them! In the Bible, praise was always the response to the goodness of the Lord! People in the Bible didn’t praise God to get a blessing; they praised Him because of the blessings he had already given! We can’t “bribe” God with our praise! He is not some “cosmic slot-machine” in which we pull the “praise-lever” and He sends down the “blessing-coins!” NO!!! If the Lord doesn’t do anything else for us, He’s already done more than enough for us to praise Him throughout all eternity! PRAISE THE LORD EVERYBODY! PRAISE THE LORD EVERYBODY!  CAUSE. . . .HE’S BEEN, AND HE IS. . .  MIGHTY GOOD!!!!