A Facebook friend linked this article this week, The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying. I get the gist of what he is saying but I also have reservations. He is a businessperson and tells of how a friend asked how his business was going. He answered with his usual response:
"Definitely feeling blessed. Last year was the best year yet for my business. And it looks like this year will be just as busy."
But on further reflection he has concluded that it is wrong for him to say that. Two reasons:
... 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. ...
He goes on to talk about the beatitudes and talks about how it is the poor and the marginalized who are described as blessed. He concludes noting:
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,
Since I had this conversation, my new response is simply, "I'm grateful." Would love to hear your thoughts.
There is a lot of truth in this. I find myself strongly identifying with his observations ... and yet ...
What about passages like Deut 8:17-19:
“17 Do not say to yourself, "My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth." 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.” NRSV
I have been in small groups with countless businesspeople and entrepreneurs. What I hear from so many of them is a deep gratefulness for the opportunity to express what they understand as a God-given gift for creativity. They feel gratefulness because they can benefit their customers, their workers, their families, and, yes, themselves. When I hear them talk about being blessed, I don’t hear them saying, “I did all the right stuff, now see how God rewarded me.” Most are intensely aware of their shortcomings, they make endless mistakes, and yet they are still here in their businesses. They sense God’s presence with them in their work but I don’t get the sense that they think that those whose businesses fail do so because of a lack of God’s presence. They know people who have done everything seemingly right and don’t make it. They feel blessed in the sense that in God’s grand scheme of things, they are where they are.
What I worry about is the compartmentalization of our faith and the business world. If the businessperson claims all credit for achieving success in creating a sustainable profitable business, then we chastise her for attributing success to herself alone. But if she talks about being blessed in her work (i.e., God had a hand in her success), then that also is taboo because she is saying God withheld blessing from someone else who didn’t do well. In short, if you are in business, then you are only entitled to have vague feelings of gratefulness but not to see God as present in your daily life.
I’m not saying that the way "blessing" is used is without abuse. Someone in the comments section of the article talked about "blessed to be a blessing" as a corrective and I think that has merit. But I worry that the thinking in this article just drives a deeper wedge between faith and daily life. Maybe I read too much between the lines but it seems to me that the thinking here is evidence of a deep ambivalence so much of the church has about business and the people who make their living there.