God's blessings, numbers, and money

How do you know if God has blessed you, and the direction you have taken in your life?

For many people, this involves telling a success story.  You had a dream, you set some goals, you worked hard, and you accomplished what you set out to do.  Inevitably, you point to trophies on the wall, awards received, the endowment of titles, increased positions of influence, a new car, a nice house, and perhaps even a modest to large stash of cash sitting in your bank account.

At the end of the day, many of us attempt to assure ourselves and convince others we are blessed because we can quantify our blessings in some numerical way.  So much so, that our blessings can often be summed up and easily displayed by a pie chart on a short PowerPoint presentation.

Churches often do this.

"We had 13,000 show up last week!  We brought in over $400,000!  We are thinking about expanding our facilities just so we can make room for the numbers we are seeing!  We are blessed!"

When phrased like this, I could be talking about the mega-church I go to.

But, when phrased like this, I could just as easily be talking about a local movie theater, a concert venue, a theme park, or some other business operation.  Perhaps I am talking about a local political rally.  Or, maybe I know of a con-artist that is ripping senior citizens off left and right through some sort of illegal operation.

Either way, you can't distinguish God's blessings simply by looking at numbers.

Individuals or churches that point to their numbers or cash flow to prove God's blessing on them often forget that bars and strip clubs can do the same.  Dare we look at the numbers that flow to pornography websites every hour?  Or, how about the speed and numbers at which Islam is spreading across the world?

Jesus once said that "God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust alike." (Matthew 5:45)

Or if you wanted to make it a little more contemporary and in modern vernacular, Jesus is saying "God sends boatloads of cash to the people I love, but he also sends boatloads of cash to the people I hate.  Deal with it!"  (King Jimmy Version- 1982 edition)

Knowing these things, perhaps we should be more reserved in pointing out the quantifiable and numerical data that we often invoke to show God's blessings in our lives.  We need to stop thinking that way.  For truth be told, both good and bad men find measures of success in this world.  I know both good and evil men in this world, some who are swimming in rivers of money, others somewhere in-between, and others who are destitute.

God has not distinguished men and His approval of them by the degree to which their actions are successful or unsuccessful in this world.  Only the "prosperity Gospel" does that.  Indeed, the measures of success and blessing you enjoy might actually be the very thing that becomes a curse to you and results in your very undoing.

According to ancient Greek mythology, there was once a king named Midas, who requested that one of the gods bless him with the gift to turn everything he touched into gold.  His request was granted.  Initially he touched a twig, and it turned to gold.  What an awesome gift!  But when it came time to eat dinner at home, he found he couldn't eat anything.  For every time he picked up something to eat, what he touched turned into gold.  As a result, Midas starved to death.

Recent history has seen this play out numerous times in the church.  Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker were arguably the two greatest "televangelists" in history.  Their preaching was so influential and popular, that their sermons were broadcast all around the world.  Millions upon millions of dollars came pouring in.  By every measure of success, God's blessing seemed to be on them.  But the "blessings" they enjoyed eventually became a stumbling block for them, and when temptation set in, both had their ministries ruined overnight by scandal.

In light of these things, perhaps there is something else we need to be looking for when it comes to God's blessing on our lives, and in the lives of others.  Perhaps God has blessed us in such a way that we can't easily quantify that blessing by looking at a pie-chart on a PowerPoint presentation.

Perhaps God's blessings cannot always be quantified because they are so much immeasurably more than we could even think or ask.  

Maybe that is why Jesus told the poor that they should count themselves blessed, even though as poor individuals, they didn't have much to count to begin with.  He didn't tell them they were blessed because they tithed and could now expect a large windfall of cash to come their way.  He told them they are blessed because theirs was the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is not something you can quantify.  It's not something you can toss up on a PowerPoint presentation.  Rather, the kingdom of heaven is something you can only see by interacting with the people God has blessed, by His giving to them a small portion of that kingdom through the Holy Spirit.

In such individual people you see light and you taste salt.  Gathered in the greater assembly of such a people, whether it be 2, 3, or 10,000, you experience something supernatural and other worldly.  And such people, no matter if they are rich or poor, many or few, carry with them something glorious and powerful.  While they may celebrate any quantifiable measures of success they experience as a community, they are a people who ultimately know that they are all a part of something greater than what can be measured or numbered.

Avoid comparing the "blessings" others seem to enjoy that you do not.  Doing such will only serve to rob you of what God has already given you in Christ.  Don't look at the size of your church, or whether or not your business is thriving.  In doing so, the blessings you already enjoy may turn to rot, and the apple tree that you eat from may no longer be so edible.

Ultimately, no metric system can quantify or measure the work that God has done, and the many blessings He has blessed you with.  If you believe that Jesus loves you, died for your sins on the cross, was raised from the grave, and gave you new life in the process, then count yourself among the blessed.

Don't count yourself blessed because of the success of whatever work you attempt to accomplish.  Count yourself blessed because of the work that God has already done on the cross for you in the person of Jesus Christ.  

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