A Seinfeld episode once centered around, or at least focused on the expression, “God bless you.” George said, “God bless you” to a sneezing women without giving the proper time for her husband to say it. With the relationship severely strained, the discussion then turned to the expression itself and whether or not it was necessary at all. In fact Jerry argued we should replace it with, “You’re sooooo good looking!”
In all seriousness though, is this expression important for today? Should we replace it with something else like ‘you’re so good-looking?’
In regards to the “God bless you” of sneezing, there are several different legends as to how it originated. But the consensus seems to be that this expression served to protect the sneezer against a surprise soul attack from Satan and his goons.
I don’t believe a sneeze is anything more than a sneeze, and I just say “God bless you,” because it shows a little bit of love to the sneezer. It shows that I acknowledge their sneeze, and I guess it could serve as a prayer to get better (though I’ve given this less thought).
But I have begun to give some more thought of my prevalent use of the phrase “God bless you” when concluding a phone conversation or finishing up with a cashier at Walmart. If someone asks me what I mean by that, I ought to know what I mean, or else I probably should stop saying it.
So while I can answer for no one other than myself, here is what I mean (at least what I think I mean) when I say the expression “God bless you.”
To non-Christians: I pray briefly in that moment that God would grant or bless them with a good day. I want it to “rain on his/her crops” (remember while rain is a curse today, it was the quintessential blessing in the O.T.) But ultimately, whether a good day or bad day (often God uses bad days), I’m hoping that God would reveal Himself as Savior and Lord for the first time. That they would see past the blessing to the Bless-or.
To Christians: I basically am praying for the same thing. A good and enjoyable day, and a deeper knowledge/fear/love of God than yesterday.
So why do it? I’m not advocating you do it, but want to explain why I do it. In the book of Ruth, particularly in chapter 2, we see several very short “God bless you” type prayers.
4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”
12 The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
Do these little prayers “make a difference?” In the book of Ruth, each time a blessing is experienced, it is experienced in direct connection with these short spoken prayers. The blessing is a result of the prayer or a derivative of the prayer “God bless you.” Now we should also realize that in the book of Ruth, often times the one praying “God bless you,” actually becomes the answer to his/her own prayer.
In another words, when Boaz says “the Lord repay you,” he becomes the repayment: he marries and takes care of Ruth. So if we’re saying, “God bless you,” we need to be mindful and willing to enter into someone’s story of redemption. We may be the bringer of God’s blessing to them.