I sometimes feel guilty enjoying life’s pleasures - a weekend at a friend’s cabin being the most recent example. There is so much inequality in our world, in our countries, and in our neighborhoods, that it can be difficult to enjoy modern luxuries “guilt-free.” I have so much in comparison to others with little or nothing.
And so I feel guilty.
I’m not sure I’ll ever remove this guilt, and maybe I shouldn’t. Yes, sometimes it’s unhealthy and narrowly focused in addressing the complexity of 21st Century life. Other times, however, it’s entirely appropriate as I blindly consume in the face of others. Either way, I think it’s healthy to process how and why I experience such guilt and act accordingly.
The Bible talks a lot about the “blessed” life - a concept that has been used WAY TOO OFTEN to justify exorbitant wealth, often at the expense of others. God’s blessing is measurable, preferably in dollars. Most readers of this blog will agree this is a problematic view of God’s blessing. Enough said.
|yes, that's me :-)|
But what kind of blessed?
And in a moment of reflecting on this question over the weekend, I realized guilt is the wrong response.
It’s too easy to think of being “blessed” as circumstantial - a concept of comparison. But it isn’t. Am I really more blessed because I got to spend the weekend at a lake? Or happened to grow up in one of the wealthiest parts of the world? No way!
Instead, “blessed” is relational. The Hebrew word shalom sums it up well: to be blessed is to experience complete wholeness in all the world; unity between all things - God, humanity, and the universe. The blessed life is a shalom-filled life.
The good life, then, can happen anywhere, regardless the circumstances.
But there’s more: the good life has a purpose beyond me.
Instead of guilt crippling my enjoyment of the good life, we need to remember this: being blessed means being a blessing. Living the good life means sharing the good life. Shalom is for everyone! As humans, we don’t need to downplay or stop living the good life - we need to share the good life.
Blessing was always intended to be passed along anyway...
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.” Gen. 12:2
**Note: By no means do I intend to post this reflection to justify inequality in common pursuits of the “good life.” There is MUCH ROOM to consider how we all contribute to injustice, myself included. But we need to proactively get beyond guilt, practicing hospitality, generosity and the life of love in all we do.**