I've heard this said all my life as something polite you say when someone sneezes, but I've lately wondered if God appreciates a command being spoken in which a blessing is being given to someone who (for instance) may not believe in God which would then have the person saying the blessing taking the Lord's name in vain. Just wondering if this goes against God and the Bible.
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Jesus said... "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:44-45 NKJV) I believe Scripture clearly states that claiming a Blessing for/toward a believer or a non-believer is not only allowed, but we are instructed to do it even for those who 'curse' us. When someone sneezes, and we pray "God Bless You" in response, I believe God hears our petition and Blesses accordingly... no matter who it is. I make a conscience effort to pray for God to Bless the person who sneezes, coughs hard, looks sad or despondent, etc. I generally utter this prayer out loud even though very often the particular person is not within ear shot or even knows they have been prayed for. Once when this happened, someone sneezed, I prayed for God to Bless them, and a person close by to me gently stated to me, "I don't think they heard you!" To which I responded with a smile and gentle voice..."they didn't need to...God did!" I believe it is by our love for Jesus that we have the desire to pray for others, believers and non-believers alike; and I do not believe God in anyway would find this offensive unless when we utter, "God Bless You", it is no more than an offhandedly comment, without purpose, love, and thought of Him behind it. We are instructed to "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV) What better thing can we do than to pray for Blessings upon others....especially if those persons are lost?
Personally, I would not be too concerned with "wasting" God's blessings on a non-believer and thus taking God's name in vain. I would be more concerned with taking the Lord's name in vain period. The custom of blessing someone when sneezing, apparently started many centuries ago during the European bubonic plague. It was believed that sneezing was an early symptom of the plague and people were "blessing" each others in hope that they might remain healthy. Today, people sneeze all the time due to seasonal allergies, dust, sunlight, etc. Offering God's blessing for every trivial occasional sneeze might be inappropriate regardless if you are in the presence of a believer of non.
I really think that saying "God bless you" is perfectly acceptable if said with heartfelt intentions. I don't believe that this is taking the Lord's name in vain in any way. Most people seem to be thankful that you have blessed them. I have never had anyone rebuke me for blessing them or for saying "have a blessed day". We can all use a little more "blessings" in life.
Love. For God is love. He gave His only begotten son so all may have eternal life. Even in a simple "God bless you," you may have opened up a chance for another child to find the love of God. Please, please don't give up the chance of your calling to minister and spread the Good News no matter how trivial your "God bless you" seems. After all, he is a mighty God and spoke and everything was created. With much love to all. God bless you.
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