Monday, March 16, 2015

Be a Blessing. Speak a Blessing

But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
James 3:8-10

As I grow older I am beginning to understand that there is more to bringing blessings to this unhappy world than a search for wisdom that can be shared with others and acts of charity. I am learning that it is better to speak words of blessing than it is to speak words that curse my fellow men, who just like me, are made in the image of God.

As in so many areas that are eternally important, I am too soon old and too late smart.

We live in a world that is growing dangerously angry and intolerant. Christians hurl ugly insults at one another over questions of doctrine, calling one another a heretic or worse. The American political consensus is at a historic low, the lowest I have seen since the Vietnam/Civil Rights era of the late sixties and early seventies. In other parts of the world, people of different faiths are slaughtering one another in the name of God. It starts with the words we speak. Then come clubs and the steel toed boot; then come knives and guns; then come cluster bombs and fuel air munitions; then the specter of nuclear annihilation.

There is another dimension to this problem, critical negative people who fail to give their blessings to their own children, those who will follow in their footsteps. To understand the importance of the blessing, consider the story of Jacob and Esau from Genesis 27. As he was dying, Isaac told his eldest son Esau, bring me some food so that I might eat and bless you before I die. Hearing this Rebecca, Isaac’s wife, gave Jacob, the son she loved, a heads up. She encouraged him to disguise himself to fool his blind father so that he might receive the blessing. Jacob was fearful, asking, “What if my father curses me?”

Rebecca said, “If there is a curse let it fall on me.” She prepared a meal for Jacob to bring to her husband Isaac. The fraud was successful. Jacob received the blessing.

Genesis 27:

28 “From the dew of heaven
and the richness of the earth,
may God always give you abundant harvests of grain
and bountiful new wine.
29 May many nations become your servants,
and may they bow down to you.
May you be the master over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
All who curse you will be cursed,
and all who bless you will be blessed.”

Those who are younger than you need your blessings. It is important that they feel loved, accepted, and appreciated. It is important that you don’t die having failed to be a blessing and to have spoken words of blessing over others.

For some time I have tried to encourage civility in political discussions. Really there are very few evil people in the world. There are a larger number of people who consistently engage in behavior that is ultimately self sabotaging. However, the vast majority of humanity is just like you and me, ordinary sinners trying to find their way home. Instead of assuming that you know the evil that dwells in your opponent’s heart, assume the best; that like you he is trying to make the world a better place. He may be woefully ignorant, or horribly deluded, but instead of critical negative words, extend compassion and loving kindness as you attempt to make your point.

Can you imagine a world where I could write a thank you letter to a political enemy who did something that I considered of value?

That is just a beginning.

Can you imagine a world where I could be polite to a foreign phone bank operator telling me what she can’t do to correct her company’s mistake with my father’s insurance coverage after I have been on hold for fifteen minutes?

What does any of this have to do with the management of money and the creation of wealth? Ultimately, wealth is created by all the financial transactions occurring throughout the world. If you want to improve your financial condition in a manner that is pleasing to God and in keeping with his spiritual laws, give your customer or your employer more than is required by the letter of your contractual relationship. Ultimately, you are not working for man. You are working for God.

Consider controlling your tongue a subset of the Golden Rule. Speak unto and about others as you would want them to speak unto and about you. Let it begin with loving kindness. We have the power to extend that gift to our loved ones, our acquaintances, and yes, even to our enemies or business competitors.

Where others suffer, extend compassion, not pity. If you ever pity another in your life, there is something wrong in the relationship. The goal is compassion. Pity is something that we extend to that poor person over there. Compassion is born of a sharing of hearts, an understanding that we are both in this together. Since pity is normally felt at a distance, if you are feeling pity for a person you are trying to help, they are probably not hearing what you have to say.

Finally, rejoice with those who are being rewarded for their goodness or the value of their contribution to society with success, in any part of their life. In all your interactions try to improve your words.

Don’t only try to be a blessing, make the effort to speak words of blessing.

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