by K.W. Leslie, 21 November 2023

I have certain people whom I follow on social media, who love love love the hashtag #blessed. They have a nice meal, or get a nice view of the sunset, so they post photos of it on Instagram, tagged #blessed. They find a sweet parking spot in front of their building, so they xeet about it and tag it #blessed. The kids achieve something at school, or make ’em a craft, or otherwise give ’em a fun day instead of screaming their head off because Dad won’t give ’em Froot Loops for dinner; it’s on Facebook, tagged #blessed.

Every time they feel blessed, they gotta post and tag it. Even for little minor stupid stuff. “Drove to work; nothing but green lights all the way! #blessed

I know what brought this on for one of ’em… ’cause she said so. A few months ago her pastor challenged the people of her church to notice all the blessings God sent their way. He blesses us a lot, y’know. And a lot of us first-worlders are mighty big ingrates about it. We presume a smooth and easy life is the way things naturally oughta go. As if our ancestors didn’t struggle mighty hard (and take advantage of lot of other, weaker people) so we descendants could enjoy peace and prosperity and comfort. Anyway, the pastor told ’em to be mindful of their blessings. So she’s trying. She looks for them. No surprise, they’re everywhere. And she’s trying to be grateful to God for them.

Thing is, some months ago she took her husband to this really fancy restaurant for his birthday. She posted a photo on Instagram wearing a nice dress, with a nice plate of shrimp in front of her, nice wine, nice view of the ocean behind her, and the tag #blessed. (I’ll just point out her husband, whose day and life they were celebrating, isn’t even in the photo. Likely he took it.)

Okay: God didn’t grant her this experience. Her husband didn’t surprise her with it. She planned it; she paid for it. I hope she could afford it, and doesn’t have to pay off credit cards for the next several months, but even so: Is this a blessing?

Some would say yes, others no. One could argue the blessing comes from being able to have such experiences: She has a job which can fund these activities, grant the free time, and a kind husband whose life she’d like to celebrate. Although one doesn’t have to celebrate it in that particular way. Nor post a selfie on Instagram.

I can speculate about her motives, but for pagans it’s way more obvious: They’re totally showing off. “Lookit how #blessed I am.” They get to eat the fanciest food, hang out with the coolest people, smoke the finest weed, enjoy the priciest hotels. They’ll even take selfies and tag ’em #blessed even though there’s nothing in them but themselves—because they’re showing off their “blessing” of being attractive. It’s not about gratitude; it’s about ostentatious wealth.

Since pagans have a deficient relationship with God (as even Christians will when we get irreligious, or take God and our salvation for granted, but mostly I’m talking about their distorted beliefs about God), when they tag themselves #blessed, it’s not any acknowledgement of the Father of lights who grants us every good and perfect gift. Jm 1.17 Most of the time they’re thanking the universe—the impersonal cosmos, which they imagine is granting ’em good karma in exchange for… what, all the good vibes they put out there? Assuming they even put any good vibes out there other than happy Instagram photos.

Are these people blessed? Did God grant ’em these blessings? Or did they really just bless themselves?

Good Christian vibes.

Every once in a while I get rebuked by a fellow Christian for talking about vibes. They think vibes—which comes from the word “vibrations,” and refers to the positive or negative feelings one has when they encounter a person, object, or place—and they think it’s a “New Age” thing. True, the word is really popular with New Agers.

But I catch Christians talking about the very same idea all the time. They get away with it by swapping out the Christianese word “spirit,” and talk about the spirit of a person, spirit of this place, spirit of an object. Not that they’re claiming there’s a literal spiritual being manipulating us into feeling happy or sad, excited or meh. Usually I find they don’t mean an angel or devil at all. They mean vibe. But they don’t wanna use a pagan word, so they’ll use a Christian one. “Spirit” will do.

And the usual expectation they have of good Christians is we oughta have a positive spirit. We should be joyful, not bummed. Inspiring, not depressing. Optimistic, not cynical. Grateful, not entitled. If we give off a good vibe spirit, it’ll get our fellow Christians to feel the same way, and maybe give off that vibe spirit themselves.

And if we give off that good vibe spirit, God’ll reward us! With blessings.

It’s a variation of the dark Christian idea that if our Christian behavior is in any way deficient whatsoever, God’ll pull his blessings and let us suffer. He only grants blessings as a reward to the best Christians. To those who give him lots and lots of praise; if he feels he’s not getting praised enough, he’ll figure we’re too proud and let us get humbled. He’ll take all our blessings away, and bestow them to someone who will praise him like he likes. So the reason we tag everything as #blessed is to keep our petty God appeased. Keep the good karma flowing.

No, God does not work that way. You do realize plenty of “blessed” wealthy people have no relationship with God at all, right? Wealth isn’t a sign of God’s favor, and claiming it is, is pure Mammonism. But a lot of Mammonism and karmic thinking has wormed its way into Christendom, and warped even the appropriate ways we Christians try to identify and recognize God’s blessings.

We might be trying to practice more gratitude, like my friend’s pastor challenged her to do. But we’ll get tempted to go out of our way, and create “blessings.” We’ll eat fancier food than we ordinarily would, and thank God for this “blessing”—even though he didn’t grant it; our credit cards did. We might never notice we blessed ourselves. We might likewise grant ourselves better vacations, more prestigious social functions, and other “blessings” which are the products of our wallets instead of our Father.

We’ll never even notice the slide from gratitude to ostentation. Probably in the very same way the Pharisees never noticed their own gradual slides into hypocrisy.

Maybe it’s best we keep some of this to ourselves.

Okay yes, we should absolutely be grateful for what God gives us. When we’re comfortable (and not because these are inappropriate comforts, nor that we came by those comforts by inappropriate means), we should appreciate how God makes our comforts possible. He’s the source of all our blessings—and most definitely not just material blessings. In fact he specializes in spiritual blessings, and has granted us all of them. Ep 1.3

As for publicly thanking God for our blessings… well talking to God, in any form, is prayer. And you remember Jesus doesn’t care for most of our public prayers. There’s too much of a tendency for such prayers to turn into hypocrisy.

Matthew 6.5-6 NLT
5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Those people who regularly tag themselves #blessed are pretty much doing the same thing: They’re thanking God publicly on the street corners and gathering places, where everyone can see them. They’re not so much thanking God as showing off their displays of wealth or good fortune, and receiving their ward that way.

Sound like a smart idea? Not to me. Maybe that stuff should be done with the door shut tight behind us.