The Platitudes

“Go in peace, be warmed and filled, and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” James 2: 16

One of the prevailing platitudes of cultural, Southern Christianity is the phrase, “Bless their heart.” It is offered up as a response to a wide range of encounters with human frailty. Sometimes it can be used as the equivalent of “You can’t fix stupid.” At other times it simply fills the gap between a person in need, and my lack of interest in meeting that need. “Bless their heart” may be said with a crocodile tear, and a catch in the throat, but it rarely leads to my hands reaching for a checkbook.

“Bless their heart” has a parallel platitude offered up north of the Mason-Dixon line. When I lived in New York I discovered that it is usually offered up as a response to a sneeze. “Bless you” doesn’t mean a person is genuinely concerned. It doesn’t even mean you are going to be handed a tissue.

The Book of James excludes platitudes from having any place in the life of the church, or becoming the accepted expression of genuine Christianity. The healthy church guards against any temptation to offer up imitation fruit as a substitute for the real thing. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control are the industry standard for the church, not platitudes.  (See Galatians 5:22-23)

Perhaps the most pathetic platitude unleashed in the church is, “Our prayers are with you.” My greatest failure in personal prayer has been my willingness to respond immediately, and positively to a person’s request, “Will you pray for me?” It is not my agreeing to pray, but my forgetting to pray that is my failure. Can I get a witness?

The Father meets the needs of His children, but He often uses His children as His hands to deliver the blessing. Praying about a person’s need usually leads to some kind of sense of direction from The Father about how to meet that need. Failing to pray for a person in need usually leads to a failure to meet their need.

Praying is not daydreaming or delayed obedience. Prayer places you in the right position to hear from The Father and to obey His voice. Prayer is the means by which The Father gives you instruction, not the means by which you give Him information. The Father expects you to respond to the cries of His children. So, expect to hear from Him when you pray.

“But when our inclination is to spend time daydreaming over what we have already been told to do, it is unacceptable and God’s blessing is never on it. God will take the initiative against this kind of daydreaming by prodding us to action. His instructions to us will be along the lines of this: “Don’t sit or stand there, just go!” Oswald Chambers

Note to self: Avoid using “Bless their heart” as a platitude. Make it your prayer. Ask The Father to show you how you can be His hands in delivering a blessing to someone in need. The most immediate way to meet their need is to take them to The Father in the name of Jesus. If someone asks you to pray for them, never delay. Just do it. In a crowded room or a noisy restaurant, over the phone or in a moving car, start praying. You can keep your eyes open, and the line to Heaven will still open to you. Avoid The Platitudes. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!