Don’t Mistake Accidents of Birth for Blessings

My friend at Apostate Catholic has set my wheels to turning about a lot of things we are taught in the Christian church which are, no matter how you slice them, heretical. There are things we erroneously categorize as evidence of God’s blessing when they are in fact, simply a by product of being alive in the West in 2016.

For example, I had the occasion to hear a woman testify that the fact of all her bills being paid is evidence of God’s blessing on her life. Well, I feel fairly certain that this woman’s bills are also paid, even though she has made millions producing things like this (warning: some seriously screwed up spiritual stuff in this clip):

She looks pretty healthy too, while we’re at it, for those who buy into the health and wealth version of the gospel.

I know Scripture teaches we are to give thanks in everything, and to the extent that we are able to eat to satisfaction, sleep in safety, and travel in peace, we are to be grateful for those things. Yes, be thankful to God for the reprieve we are experiencing from some of the worst physical  destruction and deprivation this world has to offer:

I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives,  and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:13

But Jesus also blessed the poor in spirit, the mourner, the one who hunger and thirsts for right, the persecuted, and the meek. He called blessed everything that the post modern church condemns as a sign of lacking joy or gratitude.

Have you ever read Paul’s prayers? Really took a good hard look at his life and travails? The one prayer we read where he asked for anything for himself, God denies him: “My grace is sufficient for you.” After all the time and effort and suffering and toil Paul put in to the spreading of God’s message, God couldn’t do this one thing for him?

God decreed, according to His own unsearchable wisdom, that the greater good was served by Paul suffering through whatever that thorn happened to be. How many modern Christians would have condemned Paul as lacking in faith or harboring some kind of sin in his life?

When the early apostles were imprisoned and beaten for preaching the message of Jesus, they found this an occasion to rejoice:

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His[a] name.  And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts 5

I have a lot of thoughts which I am currently working out in my own mind, but one thing is certain. We have been sold a bill of goods in the modern western church. That we count our cushiness and lack of suffering as blessing and teach others the same is no small part of the reason why people tend to lose heart.

Jesus said the the kingdom of God “is within you” but we teach people that their outer life is a direct result of the closeness of their walk with God. That if we pray hard enough, keep closely enough to the current iteration of “this is how to be a good conservative Christian”, and have enough people in our corner agreeing with our assessment of how good we are, then we are “blessed”.

I don’t think that’s what Scripture means when it says a life sowing to the flesh reaps corruption but a walk in the Spirit brings life and peace. It’s a classic case of:

blessed-meaning

Excuse The Princess Bride reference. I like that cheesy movie.

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12 thoughts on “Don’t Mistake Accidents of Birth for Blessings

  1. I think it’s a war of flesh vs. Spirit, and since I’ve been on the front lines lately, here’s what I can offer you:

    We, in the Western Church, have conflated the natural results of good sense and industry with holiness. Especially in the last fifty years, few enough people are reaping the results of following the rules that we hold those people up as heroes. If you open Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, you can see that God recommends that you live your life with sense and industry. These are *good* things to do.

    But the Spiritual life, Spiritual blessings, they don’t even touch the flesh. You can’t necessarily see Spirit blessings in someone’s life unless you get to know them. And who do we really KNOW, in this day and age? The Spirit is entirely separate from the flesh. I don’t think you can make the Spirit stronger by afflicting the flesh (sometimes you can make the flesh weaker, which is helpful), you have to make the Spirit stronger by making more room for it in your life.

    So we stick to looking at the outsides. And we look at the outsides of our own lives. We feel the things we want in the flesh all the time, and feel the things that we want in our souls only occasionally, even those of us who make a practice of prayer and meditation and introspection.

    Example 1: A cloistered nun is signalling virtue. She has chosen a life of self-sacrifice, but that is putting a high polish on the external life. What is her spiritual life like? I don’t know, nor do you. We haven’t met her.

    Example 2: My idol of living in the country all crunchy like. Is that a good thing, in the flesh? Yes. Does that have *anything* to do with the Spirit? Nope.

    How do we get more in tune with the Spirit?
    1) Ignore the “tells”, as hard and countercultural as that is. A Spirit-filled life will have evidence, but it’s not generally observable from orbit. Eyes of flesh see the flesh, yes?
    2) Die to the flesh daily – which doesn’t mean fasting or standing on our heads, but does mean turning our days over to God, whether that be to sit on the phone with someone for three hours or hang out with our husbands or scrub a floor, it’s whatever God schedules for our days, not what we, in our “wisdom” think we ought to be doing.
    3) Actively seek the gifts of the Spirit and let them operate in our lives.

    I don’t have this down. I did, eventually, have a proper kiddy cry about the puppy thing the other day, which was good – I got it out. It still *hurts* my childself-fleshself that I don’t get to live the life I want, so badly, to live. But my grownup self knows that it’s better that I’m not in charge, and my heart-self, soul-self? She wants to glorify God.

    Full transparency, I still fight for my flesh every day, and have to slam it down with a shovel on its head, every day. When I hit Spirit, the joy I feel is sometimes so much that it freaks me out. But chasing that joy is just as fleshly, it’s chasing a sensation. I think. Maybe I’m wrong, and chasing that incandescent joy is okay.

    I dunno, I just work here. But I’m workin! 😀 Did any of this make sense?

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  2. You make perfect sense, Hearth.

    You’re right that hard work and industry are held u as spiritual virtues rather than basic wisdom. “Protestant Work Ethic” anyone?

    We have a hard time distinguishing between the universal wisdom found in Scripture (which will work for anyone) and the promises to those who commit to the spirit led life in Christ (which not anyone can just *pick up* and enjoy, and which might come with some real suffering in the flesh.

    But we don’t want none of that!

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  3. LOL. I know what euphoria means. I am just not familiar with the term being combined with Christian spirituality in any way.

    For example, how would you know for certain that the euphoria is directly related to any type of encounter with the Holy Spirit?

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  4. I was hoping for some input/perspective. I can argue both ends towards the middle fairly well… I need some weight on one end of this teetertotter. Or something to argue against to cement my arguments and thus figure out what they might be.

    The business with “praying for the scent of heaven” left me euphoric – absolutely obnoxiously happy (though totally aware of my surroundings and capable of interacting with others, it was euphoria, not ecstasy) for the duration of the evening. And I’ve noticed that the incidences of euphoria have been increasing, definitely as I spend more time in surrendered prayer (and less time whining in prayer). Sometimes I’m just driving or whatever and I’ll be filled with so much joy it almost hurts, like it’s physically difficult to contain. (This occasionally occurred prior to that, but I was up for a solid eight hours after that blog, grinning ear-to-ear. Probably a little odd at BBC, just sayin’).

    And sometimes it freaks me out. Of course I’ve done the ‘test the spirits’ and asked God to take it if it’s not from Him, but I ask – is this the right reward of a Christian life, is this the fruit of the Spirit that we refer to as “joy”, or is it a sneaky substitute coming in to distract me from pursuing God rather than experience?

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  5. I didn’t know if this was the right place to discuss. Just … I want to discuss this. Stuff like this. Not always cultural insanity. I’m bored of cultural insanity. BTDT, have the tshirt.

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  6. Pingback: Old habits die hard, so be careful what you make a habit of. | Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner

  7. Pingback: Don’t take credit for things you had little to do with. | Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner

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