Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Feeling "blessed"?

I wanted to share this exchange (as well as the article within it -- be sure to read that!) and solicit feedback from anyone willing.

This is an email from my brother, sent to my whole family:
I had a discussion with a friend on our way to Twin Falls on Saturday and he was saying, essentially, that with paying tithing and other such commandments you are bribed with blessings in order to fulfill it. The idea is that God reinforces positive behavior with temporal wealth. “Oh well if you just are obedient and do what you're supposed to you'll be rich, successful, and happy.” This is further perpetuated with the “Book of Mormon” cycle thats taught in primary and sunday school.

Im curious what you guys think about this:

My dad's response:
That is a very difficult subject that is wrapped in all kinds of truths and lies. Unfortunately, statements commonly made, cliches spoken, phrases used do not always convey the reality of the truth. Trying to sort through them all can be an exercise in futility. What is a person meaning? What are they trying to say? Am I interpreting it correctly? Difficult. 
I am not sure we can know how God blesses us. As Christians, it seems to me that we must acknowledge several things;(1) we are nothing, (2) God blesses us in many ways, all of which we are unworthy of, (4) as we are "blessed" we are obligated to help one another, (5) God's blessings come to ALL, righteous and unrighteous, (6) anything that is good comes from God,(7) we must not expect God to bless us as we believe he should,(7) God offers no guarantees in this life, his are all in the next, (8) God does bless us in his own way and in his own due time.

My response:

I agree with what Dad says! But I also want to respond to your points more specifically. 
As far as what you and your friend talked about, it is something that has arisen out of the shift in how/why we teach obedience. Old School christianity was all about “hellfire and damnation” and you were obedient in order to avoid that. Now-a-days we’ve shifted from obedience to avoid damnation or punishment to obedience in order to receive blessings. Neither is BAD but neither are particularly good/helpful either — and each carries a lot of baggage in the form of setbacks and misunderstandings. I think it’s milk before meat kind of obedience. Like when you’re a kid and you obey your parents to avoid punishment or to get rewards, because you don’t understand the reasons for the rules yet or why you parents set them. 
Ultimately the best reason to obey is love. Our love for God changes the desires of our hearts and inspires us to actions in accordance with His will i.e. obedience. 
The attitude of everything that is considered “good” being a “blessing” (including material wealth as indicated in the article) I think just arises out of the Christian culture of obedience for rewards. It’s not the best way to teach obedience… but we have a tendency to do this with EVERY topic (i.e. guilt you into doing it or encourage you w/rewards: think about your last lesson on service or modesty for example). To truly "teach obedience" what we SHOULD be teaching is the Atonement. The more anyone understands who Christ is and what he did the more these other things tend to fall into place.

Anyone have anything to add?


  1. amen and amen lady. i am often disappointed with statements made in sunday school about the blessings of obedience. We should all constantly be in complete awe of everything God has done for us and be willing and ready to do anything and everything he asks us to do out of reverence, gratitude, and love for our Father. I think you are dead on with the kids and treats analogy. I think a big part of the job of the holy ghost is to supply the candy type feeling for doing good things. Our good behavior is reinforced by peace and joy from the spirit. But why does God need our obedience? He doesn't. But he knows that in order for us to receive even more amazing blessings we need to be clean through the atonement. Everything he asks of us is for our benefit.

  2. Amen! Everything He gives and everything He asks is part of His Grace.

  3. I think about the common interpretation of Malachi 3:10, that the "blessing" poured out unto us is often recited as "blessings" in plural and that it is conjoined with stories of temporal additions in consequence of keeping the law of tithing. Matthew Richardson, a scholar at BYU, says in a book he wrote that we miss out on what this means. First off, it's singular. We don't know what form the blessing comes-and it's not always temporal. This is a small example of I think the bigger thing you are getting at. We limit ourselves when we recognize tangible goods as blessings from God. I think the context of feeling "blessed" is a trite overused... and said too candidly and removes us from thinking a little harder as to exactly how we are blessed. I agree with Kaity...God doesn't need our obedience. I've thought about this topic before and I'm glad you touched on it-I feel like "settling" on this concept of basic human instincts (working for a reward, do this and get this, etc.) in Christian teachings misses the mark. Hhopefully what I said made sense.