BLESS, AND CURSE NOT
By Jonathan Mitchell
The title of this article comes from the King James rendering of the last clause of Rom. 12:14. The contrast expressed in this simple translation should make us pause and consider. The religious mind can think, "Well of course... we should not curse!" And yes, we so commonly say, "Bless you," or sign an email, "Blessings," and we mean it. Yet it can also be a thoughtless social response.
A childhood memory verse for me was Ps. 19:14 where David said, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord (Yahweh), my Strength (Rock) and my Redeemer." Paul, in our Romans verse above, has given a definition to acceptable words and thoughts, while pointing out their opposites.
An expanded translation of Paul's words is instructive:
14. You folks must constantly speak well of (or: bless) the people consistently pursuing (or: persecuting) you: be continuously blessing (speaking well of [them] or thinking goodness for [them]) and stop cursing (or: you must not continue praying thoughts down on, or wishing anything against, [things, situations or people])!
While we may not think that we participate in "cursing," we may be doing so without realizing it. The Greek word for curse here is "kataraomai," which comes from "ara," a prayer or a wish, and is prefixed by "kata," down on, or against – as given in the expansion above. Do we ever pray thoughts or words down on situations or people? Do we ever wish anything against things, situations or people? Do we "curse" the weather – something that comes from God? Do we "curse" people through our criticism of them – are we entertaining wishes against their behavior? Are we praying against practices or laws that we consider not right or immoral? Do we "curse" our leaders by praying against them?
I think that it was Socrates to whom the saying was attributed, "The unexamined life is not worth living." This article is a call to life examination. David, in Ps. 139:23-24 asks of God, "Search me out, O El, and know my heart; test me, and know my disquieting thoughts. See if a grievous way [is] in me, and guide me in [the] Way eonian" (CVOT). We can often tend to live "thoughtless" lives, and be in habits of speech or thought of which we are unaware. I have not thought that I curse people or things, yet I can see that I have had wishes against situations and people – and have felt just in doing so. In the past I am sure that I have prayed against the devil and evil spirits. I have practiced "kataraomai," in my ignorance. But the simple imperative is, "Curse not." "O Father, lead me in the Way eonian!"
But let us look at the positive injunction: "Be continuously speaking well of, blessing and thinking goodness for people, things and situations!" What a different mindset. What a contrasting attitude and way of being! The word "bless" comes from "eu," (which means goodness, ease, well-being), prefixed to "logeo," to speak or think (from which comes the noun, "logos"). The noun "eulogia" (from which we get the English "eulogy") can simply mean "good speaking," or "thinking goodness and well-being." So Paul's positive admonition is to think and speak goodness, well-being, and what today we would call "positive things" in regard to people, things and situations. "Bless, and curse not."
A parallel consideration is the examination of what many call our "prayer life." The Greek elements of the most common word for prayer are "pros," which means directed toward, with a view to, "eu," which is defined above, and "che," which means having. The noun prayer is "toward, or with a view to, having wellness, goodness, ease and well-being." The verb is "pros-eu-chomai," to direct our thoughts or words toward goodness, ease and well-being. There are other words for making requests to God, but we can see here that the most used word for "praying" in the NT is a word that is quite similar to "blessing."
Now it should be emphasized that "proseuchomai" is not a making of a request for God to do something. This is something that we do, just as blessing is something that we do. We do not need to bounce our "prayers" off of God, as though sending a radio beam to a satellite in the sky to be then directed down to the subject of our prayer! The person that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (or: one Spirit). The Father lives in His temple – in us! Praying is actually joining our thoughts and words with the Spirit of God and sending them directly to our desired end. Praying is actually impartation of goodness, ease and well-being.
Furthermore, this "praying" is not just in words or thoughts. The Greek element "chomai" is what makes this word a verb. It can also refer to action. Steve Dohse pointed out that when Peter told the lame man "such as I have give I thee" (Acts 3:6) he was "proseuchomai-ing" him – he way praying/imparting into him. May our "prayers" be blessings and not curses.
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