I receive a lot of forwarded “Christian” emails. To be honest, most of them I simply delete after a quick glance because far too often it’s just the same old thing. I’ve found that these emails typically fall into two categories: 1) a “righteous” call to arms for Christians to stand up and fight against the latest left-wing atrocity or 2) an email supposedly meant to uplift, encourage or bless the recipient.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are certainly Christian issues today that are well-deserving and in great need of a rallying cry. But 9 times out of 10 the issues in these emails, to which in fervent response I’m to immediately go contact my Senator, are complete bunk. A prime example: an email I receive every few months warning how that “they” (whoever “they” might be) are attempting to phase God out of America by removing the phrase “In God We Trust” from the new $1 U.S. coins, and we have to act now if we want to keep this freedom from going down the tube with the rest of our liberties. Together, it urges, we can boycott these evil coins and force them out of circulation. The email even comes complete with a picture of the godless $1 coin!
I find myself truly irritated that people blindly forward these emails on to their entire contact list without once stopping to research or verify the information. One quick stop to Snopes.com (the first place I always go whenever I want to verify or discredit an internet rumor) explains that while the phrase is not in fact on the face of the new coins, it is instead stamped around the edges. But I think what irritates me more than people who don’t check their sources (yikes, that’s the English teacher coming out in me!) is such a blatant misappropriation of Christian effort and zeal. Of all of the things in this world that I, as a Christian, need to be concerned about, whether or not the phrase “In God We Trust” is on a stupid coin has to rank almost dead last. I’ve received this same email once every few months, but what I want to know is where are my emails calling me care and seek justice for the poor? I should be getting an email every single day that says, “Hey, Believer, every day thousands of children are orphaned due to HIV and AIDS…what are we going to do about it!?! Call your congressmen and senators!” Let me tell you, I’ve never once been forwarded an email like that.
And as I mentioned there’s a second kind of email, one “supposedly” meant to inspire and rain blessings down upon whoever receives it. I use “supposedly” pretty sarcastically since it’s my belief that most of the time these emails do everything but inspire. Now to be fair some of these emails are fine, cutesy pictures of angels and babies in flowery hats, not my thing, but hey – I’m sure it brightens someone’s day. What I’m more so talking about are the ones that seek to “bless” the recipient in some fashion. Here’s an example - I received this particular one just the other day:
You are my 8 in 8 seconds! I’m not breaking this chain! No way! I’m told this works!!! Here’s the 8 second prayer! Just repeat this prayer and watch God bless you!
“Lord, I love you and need you,
Come into my heart and bless me,
My family, my home, my finances,
And all my friends,
In Jesus’ name. Amen”
I don’t have the time or the desire to get into everything that bothers me about this, so here are the two biggies. First, I absolutely cannot stand these chain-blessing emails. As if receiving a blessing from God is in any way dependent upon how many people I forward an email to! The concept is ridiculous! And sometimes they’re even more blatantly unbiblical – “Forward this to 10 people right now to receive God’s blessings showered upon you!” The power or prayer is an awesome thing, but all this manages to do is cheapen it, commercialize it – just one more thing we can “buy” in our quest of greedy consumerism. And to top it all off, most of the time they try to make you feel bad if you don’t forward it – “If you love the Lord and you’re not a coward and not afraid to proclaim Jesus as your savior then forward this to five people to receive your blessings!”
Secondly, and again perhaps more importantly, I have a problem with the prayer itself. At first glance it may seem pretty benign. “Lord, I love you and need you…come into my heart” – so far so good. But look at the rest of the prayer – have you ever heard a more self-centered, narcissistic prayer? Bless me! Bless my home! Bless my finances! Bless my friends! Me, Me, Me, Me! If you look at it that way, it’s quite appalling, isn’t it? But how often is this what our prayers consist of? But does any of that really have anything to do with what truly matters to God?
I believe that it’s very easy for Christians in America today to confuse “blessings” with “prosperity.” Just because a person is blessed by God doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with finances (and I think it’s certainly harder when we are financially blessed). The Apostle Paul was certainly blessed by God, but as he himself points out, he was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, homeless and hungry because of it too! Can you even imagine Paul asking God to bless his personal finances or home!?! But too often that is the trap that we fall into, asking God to bless us personally when in fact this might be a more fitting prayer:
Lord I love you and need you,
Because You have given me so much I know I have a great and sacred responsibility,
Lord, open my eyes and let my heart break for what breaks yours,
Lord, help me be the hands and feet of Jesus to the poor and the least of these,
In Jesus’ name. Amen.