Contend Earnestly: Phrase Abuse: Part II

Monday, January 12, 2009

Phrase Abuse: Part II

My first post focused on a couple of the phrases that I abuse most often, and now I turn the table on a couple phrases that I hear all the time that have seemed to lose some of their meaning. I would ask people what they mean by these two phrases, or if they truly mean it when they use them, but then I would be seen as more of a jerk than I already am. So, I just stay silent and hope that they "mean it" when they say it. The two phrases that I hear most often that make me wonder on their meaning are "God is good" and "Thank God". One has a lopsided use and the other I just don't know if its use is really appropriate.

The first one that we'll look at is "God is Good"

We know that this is definitely true. Literally, God IS good. He gives meaning to what is good and what is evil. He is not merely an abstraction to the term, He is the term. Without Him there would be no case for what is good and what is evil. They end in their definitions with Him. So, the term is not in itself a bad one or a false one, I just believe it is lopsided in its use.

Being that God is eternal, knows what we need, what we do not need, He desires for our joy to be full and knows how to and will determine the means for our greatest good on this earth, we need to accept, that although some bad things happen to us, God is ALWAYS good.

What I find most often within this term is someone saying that God is good, because God has made something good happen within their lives. So, you get a raise, "God is good." You find a job, "God is good". Your wife washed your underwear, "God is good". But, what about when we get pay decreases, we lose our jobs or our underwear wasn't washed by the underwear fairy? What then? When we do not exclaim, and truly believe that God is good during these times , we are practically refuting Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Although a situation or trial may come and look truly evil to us, and actually could be in of itself evil, we should still exclaim that our God is good and that in turn he will transform this evil into good, because we love him. These are the times that make the world turn their heads. When evil happens and we stand firm that our God is good. What good is it to only make claims of God's goodness when we find favor in our lives? How are we different than those caught up in the health and wealth gospel that treat God as a holy ATM worthy of our praise if he keeps spitting out Benjamins?

We must be steadfast in our understanding that our God is good at all times. Struggles and trials come daily but our God is immutable in His goodness. When we exclaim this to the world, that is when they see the glory of our God.

The second phrase that is abused is the term, "Thank God."

I wonder if this is a phrase that is used in reverence or blasphemy? When people use it, it seems to be more in the way of slang instead of reverence and thankfulness to the Creator who made their mouths. Although, saying "thank goodness" is not a great substitution either, which seems to suggest thanking some kind of pantheistic being or karma for our good fortunes.

What bothers me about the phrase, "Thank God" is when the Christian uses it without really thinking about what they are saying. Are they truly thanking God for what he has done in their lives, or are they using an empty phrase because it is habit?

I would find another way to use this phrase or truly emphasize the thankfulness one has to God when using this phrase. It seems like it is used like "God bless you" after one sneezes. Which I like Jerry Seinfeld's suggestion on that one, let's start using the term "You're sooooo good looking." At least we aren't making God seem like a small figure in our lives and language.

I might be getting nitpicky with these things, but it just seems like the name of our God has become small, when in history His name has been used primarily for reverence. His name was the only thing that was used of the term "awesome". His name was determined to be unpronounceable by the Jews, hence YHWH. Scribes would use different quills reserved only for His name when transcribing the Torah and New Testament. When Scribes were doing their, errr, scribing, they would not look up when the king walked in the room because reverence for merely writing the name of God was far more important than showing respect for a king. Which would normally carry a sentence of death.

Where is this reverence now? If Starbucks still has my favorite Christmas coffee when I go in I say, "thank God". When someone is saved I say, "thank God". When I find the new release at Blockbuster, "thank God". When the Seahawks actually win, "thank God."

Does this not seem a little off? Does this not seem as though God's own name has lost its luster? Take a look at this found in Isaiah when God speaks:

For when he sees his children,
the work of my hands, in his midst,
they will sanctify my name;
they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
Isaiah 29:23

Maybe we don't understand the work of God's hands, because if we did, we would sanctify his name and stand in awe of the God of Israel. Just a thought.


Anonymous said...

Yes - God is good if you pray for travelling mercies and end up at your destination in one piece. But what do people pray or say to each other if along the way they end up in hospital or one of their loved one's ends up in the mortuary following some horrific motor accident. (I'm sure we could all testify to these events - good and bad. I've made thousands of safe trips in my life. God's 'travelling mercies' were surely extended to me. But what of my friend's 17yo daughter who took off for work in her small car but was wiped out before she got there by a speeding driver. Have the 'travelling mercies' dried out? Has God somehow maliciously called home one of His elect? Is that how He shows His mercy? What happens at the funeral? Does someone get up and say that for 99.999% of X's trips we prayed as a family before she left for travelling mercies, but on this occasion well either we forgot to pray or God just didn't want to answer with His blessings...??)

Another real life event: A Christian School praises God for the blessing of fine weather for its annual sports carnival. What does it pray when the event is washed out and all the children go whom disappointed? Or the beautiful sunshine turns to rain and cold at a swimming carnival. Has God somehow removed His blessing? Does the principal get up and say - well last year God blessed us with beautiful weather children, but this year..... (he mumbles) - well it just wasn't 'to be' - sorry that's just how it is with God. (Not daring to mention the word 'blessing' or 'answer to prayer').

Anonymous said...

Seth, I think you are too hard on the "God is good" folks and too easy on the "Thank God" folks.

I would say that 99% of the time people use "God is good" correctly. They are giving God the glory for something in their life or they are saying that God will provide if life isn't going so good. Maybe we don't use the phrase enough in the bad times, but that doesn't negate the fact that it is true in the good times.

I would say that 99% of the time people use "Thank God" incorrectly. And you can hear it in the emphasis of the words if what they are saying is genuine or if it is using God's name inappropriately. I never use the phrase "Thank God" because if I get in the habit of saying it right, I'm afraid I'll also get in the habit of saying it too casually with the wrong tone. I say "Thank the Lord" instead. It's much harder to make that one come out as an afterthought.

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