Editor’s Note: Throughout the month of June our writers explored the way that God, grace, and the gospel show up in pop culture. Here is one final post on the topic.
All of last semester, there was a poster in my shared classroom at school: “When praises go up, blessings come down.”
I’d look at it and roll my eyes. After all, that wasn’t great theology, was it? It seemed a bit too much like the God-wants-to-give-you-stuff of the prosperity gospel. There’s not just a simple one-to-one correlation, and aren’t we called to praise regardless of felt blessings? Of course, then I’d ignore it and get back to teaching my class.
A few weeks ago, I began listening to Chance the Rapper’s new album, Coloring Book. I had read several reviews, all of which noted the gospel influences found all over the album. The more I’ve listened, the more I’ve come to a deeper appreciation of “Blessings,” the song quoted in my classroom.
Sandwiched between songs about the monotony of everyday life, “Blessings” has a stubbornness to it.
“I’m gonna praise Him, praise Him til I’m gone,” repeats over and over. This is a statement, a mode of being. It’s a promise of posture. Come what may, you will find Chance praising.
Strongly reminiscent of David, this posture of praise is the solid force behind the album, whether a song is about going out on a Saturday night or is proclaiming freedom over Chicago.
Throughout the book of Psalms, we see David lament and mourn brokenness, and yet — he, too, continually returns to a posture of praise. In fact, in times of deepest trial, he calls on God to show up and rescue as only He can.
Psalm 146 announces that David, like Chance, will praise Him ‘til he’s gone: “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”
This posture of praise — a stubborn willingness to announce the faithfulness and worth of the Lord — attunes us. As we take this posture against a world that shouts of brokenness and sadness, we are given eyes to see God already at work in the world.
“When the praises go up, the blessings come down. It seems like blessings keep falling in my lap,” Chance sings. See, it’s not a one-for-one trade. Instead, as he has a heart turned toward praise, already-existent blessings make themselves obvious.
In Psalm 146, David reminds us just how foolish it is to trust anything but God: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation … Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.” He goes on to list the many good works of the Lord: setting prisoners free, opening the eyes of the blind, protecting the vulnerable.
It would be easy to see those things happening and attribute them to the triumph of systems or our own strength, but because David’s eyes have a lens of praise, he knows who is to blame and who has earned thanks. As his praises go up, he is given eyes to see and a voice to proclaim the many blessings of the Lord.
Chance, too, has been given eyes and a voice. He notes the difference between the false notion of prosperity and the true grace of the gospel:
I know the difference in blessings and worldly possessions
Like my ex-girl getting pregnant and her becoming my everything
I’m at war with my wrongs, I’m writing four different songs
I never forged it or forfeited, I’m a force to be reconciled
They want four minute songs
You need a four hour praise dance performed every morn
He praises God and finds that God has been at work: he has redeemed and restored relationships and broken pasts. And while the rest of the world asks for something short and pithy, Chance defiantly proclaims a posture of praise as a necessity to function throughout the day.
Take it with you: Is there somewhere in your life you’ve noticed God at work lately? List things you are grateful for. List praiseworthy attributes of God and then look for them in the world.