Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Revisitation of 'Being Blessed'

If you are anything like me (perish that thought!), you have probably had this experience: you go to a friend's house and they show you a new car, gadget, interior or the ilk and when you ask them about it they give the polite responses of, "Well, we are very blessed" or "God has been good to us." What I want to do in this post is re-imagine what 'blessing' looks like. How should the wealthy among us act? What about the 'less privileged?' What does it look like when God blesses us? If any of these questions sound interesting, keep reading.

"Tim", a random person will say, "how stupid do you think we are? This is already obvious stuff. All you will say in this blog post is that God loves all of us and we need to treat others like that." Why yes, random person, God does love all of us, but that is not the main point of the post. The overarching theme here is to have all of us re-examine our view of how we view others and how we- even subconsciously- act around people from every economic level.

Before I begin, let me categorically say this: I am not against wealth. I believe compound interest is the greatest invention in human history. I firmly believe that capitalism is a great economic system. I am currently working in an Advancement Department, which has the sole duty of raising money and build relationships for Rehoboth Christian School. Seriously, money is a good thing. Keep that in mind.

Philosophical thought experiment-- what is your initial reaction when you see, say, a suit? I think of success, money, and power. What about seeing a homeless man or woman? Again, I think of poverty, grime, and sadness. I'm guessing your thoughts weren't far off from that? Why is that?

My opinion is that in this capitalistic culture, we have lost sight of God's image. Put another way: we have gotten so into individual rights and 'humanness' that we have forgotten what it means to be blessed equally. Please, stop reading for a second and let that last phrase sink in. Can you, with a clear conscience, say you agree not just that humans are equal, but that we have been given the same level of blessings? I cannot.

I grew up in a loving family. Plenty of fun vacations. Plenty of great food to eat. Plenty of nice clothes and educational opportunities. Coming to Rehoboth, New Mexico, I knew people around me had a fraction of those things. I knew that they were still people and I knew that I could not be arrogant and assume I was there to fix their lives, but I still subconsciously believed (and still believe) that I'm more blessed then them. I have a Wake Forest education. I can dress in shirts with little horses on them. I've been to Europe and all over the USA.

And what do 'they' have? Well, the Navajo reservation has an unemployment rate of 48.54% of possible working adults. Gallup, the town outside a main reservation, is still considered one of the worst places for drunk driving. McKinley County ranks a solid 20th in lowest-income counties in the USA. Yep. Not a lot of success and hope around these parts.

When contrasted like that, the absurd level of what I'm trying to prove is staggering. Quantitatively, you and I have had more opportunities, met more people, and generally led happier lives. So... case closed? I still say no. Trip Lee, perhaps you could weigh in?

"Ain't tryna say you shouldn't get paper, I ain't tryna say that we should stay broke, but money don't mean you got favor, bein' broke don't mean that you don't." This is, to me, the crux of the issue. We have confused gifts with blessings. You aren't blessed because you have a certain gift given to you; you are blessed because the Giver of All gave you life, grace, and love. Any gift beyond that is comparatively immaterial. Period. Level playing field. 

The reason I feel so passionately about this is that this should re-define how we view charity. It is NOT that we are there to help, but to give back what we do not deserve in the first place. You are not blessed because you have a new car or whatnot; you are blessed because you have the image of God placed in you, despite your (and my) sinful nature. 

To say you are more blessed than another implies you have more grace than another, which is simply, laughably wrong. Would you still say you were the same level of blessed if you had given that money away instead of the car? Because if not, the family with six children who live in a small trailer on a Navjo reservation would like a word. 

Quick sidenote-- those who intentionally remain poor to serve in non-profits, charities, and other helping organizations, I commend your effort and calling but also warn you. Are you prejudiced to the wealthy? Do you see them as means to an end (ie fundraising) or do you see the insecurities and problems below the surface? Do you write them off as greedy and selfish or love them the same as your friends? Trust me, this is just as much an issue to the poor as it is to the rich.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, asking for them to help. He says this "I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." (2 Corinth. 8:8-9). A verse earlier, he mentions the "grace of giving", implying that being in a community requires giving of yourself, but in turn, blesses everyone, yourself included. This passage show how important it is to understand where blessings come from, and how we are made for equal community.

Speaking of scripture and blessing, what does the Bible call a blessing?
-- Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
--Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8
Not exactly a list of material blessings, is it?

Am I saying that having material possessions is bad? Not at all. Some people will be called into jobs that pay more. They will be able to afford more 'things' than others, but again, blessings can and should be found in every area of life. What about the Navajo population who are blessed with tight-knit families, incredible traditions, delicious food, and breathtaking scenery? What about the teachers among us who get paid wildly below their abilities, but enjoy the blessing of knowing they are shaping the next generation? Do you still feel more blessed than others? Yeah... me neither.

So where do we go from here? I propose we go where God calls us. If He calls us to wealth, then let us share it and enjoy the 'grace of giving'. If we are called to low-paying careers, then let us not look to the wealthy as either saviors or devils. And let us all return to Scripture and understand that we are all blessed way beyond what we can begin to deserve. We are equally broken, but also equally loved and saved by One who was supremely blessed by His Father. Let us enter into that Family, as a people united in love.

1 comment:

  1. Very thorough and thoroughly thought-provoking! I was blessed by reading this....My only addition would be with a view toward the Sermon on the Mount, where the Beatitudes of Jesus make no mention of "blessedness" (often translated as "happiness" or "joyfulness") being associated with material gain or sufficiency. It's the "Upside-Down Kingdom" thing, and it dovetails nicely with your thoughts.

    Thanks for sharing your time, talent, and treasures, Tim! May you be equally and abundantly blessed!