I’ve never sung this song, but I love its words and the sentiment behind it:

“There is a sea which day by day
Receives the rippling rills,
And streams that spring from wells of God,
Or fall from cedared hills;
But what it thus receives it gives
With glad unsparing hand;
A stream more wide with deeper tide,
Flows on to lower land.

There is a sea which day by day
Receives a fuller tide;
But all its store it keeps, nor gives
To shore nor sea beside
Its Jordan stream, now turned to brine,
Lies heavy as molten lead;
Its dreadful name doth e’er proclaim
That sea is waste and dead.

Which shall it be for you and me,
Who God’s good gifts obtain?
Shall we accept for self alone,
Or take to give again?
For He who once was rich indeed
Laid all His glory down;
That by his grace, our ransomed race
Should share His wealth and crown.”

Lula Klingman Zahn, 1921

The song describes the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, and personifies both: one alive and boisterous, passing on what it has received; the other, listless and dead, storing up all it receives and never passing it along. 

A few years ago when studying Abraham and God’s appearance and promises to him in Genesis 12, I was struck by the purpose God gives for blessing him:

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

(Genesis 12.1-3)

God tells Abraham that he will be blessed, not for his own sake, but so that he could be a blessing to others. We ultimately see this in Jesus coming from Abraham’s descendants, but more than this, Israel was always meant to be a blessing. They were supposed to be a light to the nations around them that pointed those nations to the one true God.

I was struck by this notion of being blessed in order to be a blessing. At my last congregation, we actually used the phrase “blessed to bless” one fall for a fundraising initiative where we send school supplies and money to a Christian school in Malawi. Later, we used the same slogan for our yearly theme for the entire congregation, and viewed that year’s events through the lens of seeking to bless others because we have been so richly blessed by God.

We live in a world beset by all sorts of problems. I think the answer to those problems is Jesus, but it is easy to say that in a way that is becomes just a cliche that doesn’t lead to anything tangible. So here is something a little more tangible, that is also clearly tied to the way of Jesus and love of neighbor: we are blessed in order to be a blessing.

All of our blessings come from God. To echo the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4.7, “What do you have that God hasn’t given you?” Your opportunities, your career, your influence, your wealth, your platform, whatever—what do you have that God hasn’t given you?

Are you sharing those gifts with others? Are you blessing others with what God has blessed you?

Or, in the words of Lula Klingman Zahn,

Which shall it be for you and me,
Who God’s good gifts obtain?
Shall we accept for self alone,
Or take to give again?