Not long ago I was in a meeting when someone sneezed. Three people said, “God bless you!”
Have you ever wondered why people say “God bless you” after someone sneezes? It’s even weirder when someone speaks the German word “Gesundheit.” We’ve learned to bless people who sneeze because we were taught growing up that it’s the polite thing to do.
So where did this idea come from? The custom of blessing people who sneezed goes back to the Dark Ages when people believed that sneezing was expelling a demon from one’s body. Speaking God’s blessing supposedly prevented the evil spirit from re-entering the person. Pope Gregory the Great popularized the “sneeze blessing” to ward off the bubonic plague, where sneezing was a symptom of the disease. Of course, blessing the sneezer is a superstition and the practice is not found in the Bible.
It just goes to show that we often do things out of tradition and never think, “WHY am I doing this?” Even in church we can follow the traditions of men instead of God’s Word. If you try to break the man-made tradition to follow a new way where God is leading, some people will protest, “We’ve never done it that way before!”
The Pharisees revered their traditions over God’s Word. Jesus rebuked them, “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matt. 15:3). Jesus never said to bless those who sneeze, but He did say, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28). That’s the command we need to obey, not the other.
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