President Obama and Common Grace

For one of my seminary classes, I was assigned to read Robert Clinton’s book The Making of a Leader.  In short, the book is about the way God forms leaders through out the different stages of life.

The first stage is called “Sovereign Foundations” and this is all about the realities and choices made for us which we had no control of ourselves.  For instance, not one of us had the choice about where we were born, the family we were born into and what sort of educational and economical status they had, etc…  In my own story, I was born in the United States to a white blue collar family.  Can you imagine what my life would have been like had I been born into a family of migrant workers in China or into a wealthy family in England.  I’m not saying one would be better than the other, just that my life would be very different.  The point is that I am who I am in part because of circumstances that I had nothing to do with.

There is a concept called “Common Grace” within some strands of Christian theology that speaks to the various blessings we have received in life that has nothing to do with faith in Christ.  We all, to one degree or another, have received a certain amount of common grace.  While we can make choices that help or hinder the quality of our life, our fortunes and blessings in life, from birth to education to vocation, is not the result of our own doing.  We have received much help along the way, more than we often realize.

For example, another blessing or “common grace” I received in my life was the ability to attend college and seminary.  While I had to do the hard work of study to graduate with my degrees, the fact that I was able to borrow money (student loans) and receive scholarships was a blessing…a common grace extended to me that I neither deserved nor earned.  Even the fact that my college and seminary of choice existed and was able to bless me with a quality education is a blessing that I neither deserved nor earned.  My point i

Well, here is why I wanted to remind us about the common grace we all have received.  President Obama has been getting a lot of flack by his detractors for these remarks he made during a recent speech in Roanoke, Virginia:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

I am seeing a lot of remarks on Facebook that laugh at the notion of the successful business owner receiving help from someone else.  Some of these remarks appear to be more interested in reading between the lines to speculate about an ulterior motive behind these remarks.  Whether there is an ulterior motive or not is not my concern here.

I just want people to realize that whether you generally agree or disagree with the political vision of the President, there still is a lot of truth to what he said.  Rather than being so quick to dispute the President’s remarks, we should instead take some time to reflect on the many blessings we have received in life to help us become who we are…and then give thanks to God in heaven.


Feel free to comment if you wish but please remain civil and stay on topic.  I am not interested in discussing the merits of President Obama and American politics.  Any comments with vulgar language or that our accusatory will be deleted.  Thank you very much for your cooperation.

4 responses to “President Obama and Common Grace

  1. Great thoughts as always!

  2. Thanks for your fine thoughts and for the chance to repsond. I am very grateful for the many blessings we have received in life to help make us what we are and I am thankful to God in heaven. I also dispute the tone, purpose and implications of the President’s comment. First, I am just as opposed to government greed as I am to greed in the private sector. Second, the President’s statement is terrible overstatement (“you didn’t build that”) which makes it inaccurate and unfair-minded. Third, successful honest business owners often work extremely hard and deserve respect for that work since her/his success is directly related to the fact that their work is benefitting the community that needs and uses it. So businesses are already paying back to the community by their very effective function as a need-meeting entity that so many people would not have access to if it did not exist. Fourth, they already pay high taxes, in many cases at the highest rate. And I support that to a modest extent. Fifth, roads and bridges are paid for mostly by gasoline taxes and they should not be referenced as resources that still need more and more and more tax support from businesses in particular. Sixth, I have had great teachers but I have also had and seen horrible teachers who are pulling our culture down. Finally, I appreciate Rex’s points about common grace and the need for more gratitude. But politicians should not exploit the good already being done by some to seek more power and money for others, which is what I think the President’s comment amounts to. It is okay for you to think otherwise. God bless!

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