What is the going rate for a blessing from God? I ask because a man at the Ashmont T station is selling them for 50 cents apiece. “You got fifty cents or a dollar to spare?” was the question I overheard him ask two women as they crossed the street. Obliging his request, he responded with “God bless you!” Curious about this transaction, I lingered. I heard another request, but no exchange of money and no blessing. Before I wandered off to attend my affairs, I heard the request a third time and witnessed the positive reply with some coinage changing hands, and I heard the pronouncement of God resting favor upon the man’s benefactor. So now I wonder: is that really all it takes to receive God’s blessing?
There are three answers to this question that immediately come to my mind: 1) that we are blessed by God whenever we do good; 2) that we are blessed by God so that we have the resources to do good; or 3) that we have been blessed by God irrespective of our behavior and we do good because it is the only suitable response. The first answer espouses the principle of ‘karma’ – good comes to you because you do good. The second espouses the principle of ‘obligation’ – good comes to you and therefore you need to do good for others. The last espouses the principle of ‘love’ – God who has already given you His greatest good and everything you could ever need so do good for others as a reflection of what you’ve received..
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26
It seems fair to say that the quid pro quo understanding of blessing is, at best, an inexact process. I’d like to think that I am benevolent to those in need, my right hand not knowing what my left hand is doing. However generous I may be, I rarely (though not never) see a reciprocating act of generosity toward me. It also seems fair to say that the “pay it forward” understanding of blessing is a challenge. There is always more to do in alleviating suffering and extending compassion, which makes understanding blessing as responsibility difficult to quantify. It leaves us asking when we’ve satisfied our giving and can move forward free of any and all guilt.
The only solution to the question of earning God’s blessing is to state that we cannot earn God’s blessing. Whatever we do that might be considered good is merely a reflection of Him and all the goodness and blessing He has lavished upon us. We do good – we act compassionately, we walk peaceably and we offer forgiveness – because God has been good to us even though we are undeserving and were unappreciative. We do not do good so that we might be blessed; because we have been blessed we do good.
So, if I see that man at the T station again, and he should say to me, “God bless you,” my response will be, “He already has!”