Are You Blessed? Or Are You Grateful?

“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.

Read Scott Dannemiller’s [convicting] full story here. Then let me know what you think. What you perceive is a blessing may actually be the burden that you need to steward on behalf of others.

God is not for the underdog, he’s for the faithful.

ch:

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  • Nathan

    I don’t mind using the word blessed and I’m not a big fan of splitting hairs over it. I wish Scott had taken a different approach to get to the same point, but that may be splitting hairs myself so I’ll try to weave my way through his article and this comment with out getting tangled up.

    I really don’t care what word or phrase you use. I do think it’s important that we understand where our possession, both natural and spiritual, come from. If you want to be blessed that’s fine with me. If you want to be grateful, have at it. If you want to hoard your blessings (or things your grateful for) that’s where I have a bone to pick. I’m pretty sure it was the one who hid his talent that lost everything…just saying.

    A quick read* that offers some perspective on what we do with our blessings (or things we are grateful for if you prefer) and the impact it can have:
    http://www.ferventinspirit.com/books/MrContentment.pdf

    * not vouching for the quality of writing as I am no editor and tend to miss most grammatical errors, typos and misspellings (too caught up in the story)

    I do plan on using the wooden cups as an example for my kids and I hope that my kids can make the same sort of discover as those in the story do (trying not to giving anything away).

    • Christopher Hopper

      Good stuff in here (though, yes, it’s splitting hairs over splitting hairs. But what else are blogs for?).

      I find that the more I travel, the less Ameri-centric I become, and the more global my perspective matures. It’s something I hope to grow “out of” and this grow “into.”

      In addition to your link, here’s another one I love:

      http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2011/10/28/attention-protestors-youre-probably-part-of-the-1-.aspx

    • Joseph Gilchrist

      Hey Nate and CH, so I’m jumping in on this one as I’ve been working through some of the same thought process since I spoke on gratitude a few weeks ago. So here it goes:

      I am not one to like splitting hairs over similar concepts either. However, I think in this case it is important to examine the two words. We must realize that our every word has exquisite meaning. I find it very important what we say with those words; to the rest of the world around us, and to our fellow brothers in the kingdom.

      The word blessed means to be, “made holy; consecrated”, or even, “connected with God.” Now, when financial or situational gifts come my way, and I throw out, “well I am just so blessed.” What does that say to the person who just lost their wife, or the the Christian in Central America who has served God their whole life and still has next to nothing? What I’m saying in that moment is that I’ve been blessed and therefore made holy through finances and/or my situation in life. That I am further connected with God. Firstly, I don’t find that biblical. God loves and blesses the poor and rich alike. When we make our riches out to be a blessing from God we saw abandoning that thought process. Secondly, Where does that leave them? (No need to elaborate that point here on this comment)

      Gratitude (or grateful) means, “the quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” I don’t know about you, but when I read the story you posted about a week ago, I was convicted. At the end of the day, I do think it’s worth splitting hairs because at the end of the day I’d much rather say, “I’m so thankful for this gift God has given me, and in response I’m ready to make a return on this investment in the lives of others.” It becomes a burden in a way, and I believe that is the Christian response. What am I doing with my financial or situational giftings to advance the kingdom of God. The more you have the more God is looking for a return on that investment. It’s scriptural (story of the talents).

      Anyway, there’s some of my scattered thoughts. Sorry for turning that into a blog of my own here in your comment box. Love ya both, thanks for opening a platform to have free dialogue about the important issues, CH.

    • Christopher Hopper

      Well said, and tightly reasoned. I actually think you managed to illuminate this better than Dannemiller originally did! Defining what the word “blessed” actually means is the crux of it, as you said, because words do matter.

      Thanks for the valuable addition.

  • Scott McAllister

    This reminds me of two stories.

    The first is when Joshua is approaching Jericho …
    “When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him. The man was holding a sword. He was ready for battle. Joshua went up to him. He asked, “Are you on our side? Or are you on the side of our enemies?”
    “I am not on either side,” he replied. “I have come as the commander of the Lord’s army.” Joshua 5:13-14 (NIRV)
    “I am not on either side …” always got me thinking.
    Sometimes it’s not about us.

    The second story is from Max Lucado …
    “Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor,
    he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the
    king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen
    before—such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.
    People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always
    refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a
    person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession.
    How could you sell a friend?” The man was poor and the temptation was
    great. But he never sold the horse.
    One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the
    village came to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that
    someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed.
    You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable
    animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have
    gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high.
    Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”
    The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the
    horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment.
    If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?”
    The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be
    philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that
    your horse is gone is a curse.”
    The old man spoke again. “All I know is that the stable is empty, and
    the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a
    blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what
    will come next?”
    The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was
    crazy. They had always thought he was fool; if he wasn’t, he would have
    sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor
    woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the
    forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty.
    Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.
    After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had
    run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a
    dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered
    around the woodcutter and spoke. “Old man, you were right and we were
    wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”
    The man responded, “Once again, you go too far. Say only that the
    horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but
    don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a
    fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read
    only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one
    word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?
    “Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one
    word. All you have is a fragment! Don’t say that this is a blessing. No
    one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I
    don’t.”
    “Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they said
    little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a
    blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little
    bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much
    money.
    The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the
    wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke
    both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast
    their judgments.
    “You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right. The dozen
    horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken
    his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you
    are poorer than ever.”
    The old man spoke again. “You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t
    go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a
    blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes
    in fragments.”
    It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war
    against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were
    required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded,
    because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old
    man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was
    little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war
    would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.
    “You were right, old man,” they wept. “God knows you were right. This
    proves it. Yours son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken,
    but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”
    The old man spoke again. “It is impossible to talk with you. You
    always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to
    go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a
    curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”
    Only God knows.
    Maybe we should leave it at that..

    - your Canadian friend

    • Christopher Hopper

      Great stories, Scott. Enjoyed the read. (You get the record for longest comment of 2014 so far).

      I’m tending to agree with Joseph (commenter) about the definition of “blessing,” and being careful of its usage (I think, the overwhelming point of all this conjecture. Still, your point is deeply valid, in that we see but through a looking glass darkly—be careful not to pass judgement until the whole book has been read.

  • http://www.crmooney.com CRMooney

    I’m a tad late to the party, but thought I would add my five cents.

    Regarding the linked article, I think that God is touching something particular in Scott’s life. Maybe the emphasis in his life has been on the material world as a blessing and God is trying to bring balance by showing him the importance of spiritual blessing, I don’t know. He had the opportunity to center a swinging pendulum, but unfortunately seems instead to want to correct what he believes is bad theology:

    God’s blessings are not material.

    I disagree with his premise. He proposed that having his best business year ever, and better prospects for next year are somehow not a blessing; that a new car, house closing, etc are not blessings. Somehow he thinks that giving God credit for these somehow diminishes who He is. (“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.”)

    Wow. Just wow. This is incredibly ludicrous and unfounded.

    And I guess that puts me at odds with Joe’s breakdown of “blessed” as well.

    The author uses Matthew 5 as his premise for the perceived “misuse” of the verb “blessed.” This however is a list of spiritual blessings. I don’t discount any of them as being from the very hand of God, but neither can Scott discount my car, house, salary, etc as being blessings from the hand of God either. Matthew 5 lists only some of the blessings mentioned in the Bible, not all of them,

    The account of God’s blessing Abraham in Gen 24:1
    Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things…34 The LORD has
    greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him
    flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants,
    camels and donkeys.

    Deut 2:7
    For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands.

    Deut. 28, blessings of obedience to God:
    Blessed shall you be in the city… in the field… the
    fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your
    cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

    And let’s not forget about how God blessed Job:
    ch42:
    And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before…
    And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.

    13
    He had also seven sons and three daughters.

    And what of Malachi 3? Clearly speaking of a physical, material blessing:
    And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer[b] for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.

    I do recognize that there are spiritual blessings, as in Matthew 5, but am truly repulsed at the idea that just because something is material, it is not a blessing from God.

    I am reminded of James 1: Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

    Obviously there needs to be balance, but I feel it is nowhere to be found in the article. We are all individuals, and God’s blesses us as He sees fit, regardless of our thinking it could “be offensive to the hundreds of millions of Christians in the world who live on less than $10 per day.”

    • Christopher Hopper

      Thanks for the feedback, Chris. The scriptures are powerful and well reasoned. I think another valuable aspect of what you wrote is the perception of what God’s doing in Scott’s lifer personally (which only he could reason), and that a pendulum effect is in play.

      One scripture that also comes to mind is Genesis 12:3, paraphrasing, “You’ve been blessed to be a blessing.”

      In that same light, I think the big take away for me, and what the essence of the point I was trying to make, is placing ourselves in the shoes of those 99% of the rest of the world who do not live like we do. The question must be asked how we respond to their standpoint of never even touching what we’ve been “blessed” with. And if this is what we have, what’s God’s attitude toward them?

      If the blessing is monetary, which I agree—it is—then perhaps it’s we who should be doing more of the blessing, and stop giving God such a bad rap.

      Crazy that He entrusted us with such a responsibility.

  • AnneMarie Lachance-Sureau

    I’ll take issue with the title. Why is it blessed OR grateful? This insinuates we cannot be both. I realize that’s not really the point of the discussion at hand but that’s what jumped out to me. However I will not dissect the semantics. In every-day common language as most understand it I would like to say I am blessed and I try to be grateful. :)

    • Christopher Hopper

      Ha – I like that! :)