Rationing Our Blessings
My wife almost always sneezes in groups of three. Occasionally she’ll stop after one or two, but rarely. I can usually count on one sneeze being followed by another…and another. When I hear the first sneeze I don’t say “Bless you!” right away. I wait until I know she’s through, then I say one “Bless you!” to cover all her sneezes. I’ve joked that I do this so I won’t waste my blessings. After all, I may only have so many blessings to give. If I use them up, I won’t have any for later.
I believe we too often ration our blessings. Whether spoken blessings or “action” blessings we behave as if our supply is finite. We hold on to them tightly and dole them out sparingly.
Paul saw things differently. He had experienced God’s free flow of blessings from his Damascus road experience onward. He knew his life was blessed. From a tightly-wound apprentice Pharisee, who was taught to share blessings only with his “own kind,” Paul had morphed into a Christian missionary who lavished blessings as widely and as freely as he had been blessed by God.
Near the end of his life, imprisoned in Rome, he wanted to make sure none of his blessings were left unbestowed. He wanted everyone to know how much God could bless them. He tells the church at Ephesus—a church he founded—that God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (italics mine).
And what are these blessings we have received from God?
We have been chosen for adoption into God’s family through Jesus Christ.
We have been blessed with grace through Jesus Christ.
Our sins have been forgiven through the riches of God’s grace.
God has made known to us the mystery of God’s redemption.
As sons and daughters of God, and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, we have received an inheritance—the gift of eternal life.
We know this is only a partial list. The whole list includes Christian fellowship, friends and family with whom we share loving relationships, worship experiences that move and uplift us, and so many, many more.
In the movie Holiday Inn, Bing Crosby sings that he has a solution for sleepless nights. When worries and concerns keep him awake, he counts his blessings instead of counting sheep, “and I fall asleep counting my blessings.” Some of you, like me, may have had the experience of taking a long time settling down at bedtime. We have discovered we can keep counting our blessings far into the night and never run out.
In spite of the beatings, the imprisonment, the shipwreck, the enmity of those religious leaders who had once been his friends and teachers, Paul knew he had led a blessed life. The good things that God had done for him far outweighed the difficulties he had experienced. his outlook remained positive to the end. He had received so much from God that his trials were only blips on the radar of his life.
We’ve been in worship services where the minister or officiant calls for the offering with the words, “Freely you have received; freely give.” Sounds like a great philosophy by which to distribute our blessings.