Category Archives: Should we say “God bless you” after someone sneezes?

Should we say “God bless you” after someone sneezes?

SHOULD WE SAY “GOD BLESS YOU” AFTER SOMEONE SNEEZES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

This author ceased the habit once he discovered its superstitious origin. Such words are uttered to implore God to prevent illness from entering our open mouths, to stop evil spirits from coming to live inside our bodies, and/or to keep us alive when our heart “stops” beating when we sneeze. Years ago, this author knew a lady who would exclaim, “God bless you!,” and if the person continued sneezing, she would shout, “God save you!” (It sounded quite weird… not the constant sneezing but the mindless repetition of the words that followed it.) Although these words sound “Christian,” and professing Christians are often those saying them, there is no Scriptural basis for either custom.

We would do well to drop from our vocabulary any and all superstitious phrases (as they can and will jeopardize our testimony—Acts 17:22 speaks of pagans being “too superstitious,” or “fearing more devils than anyone else”). A more appropriate term may be “Excuse you,” which can be stated so as not to appear to be unconcerned (particularly if the person repeatedly sneezes, and is being greatly afflicted by it).

The practice of declaring “God bless you” (or “God save you”) certainly does not ward off evil spirits. First Timothy chapter 4 reminds us how devils operate today: “[1] Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; [2] Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; [3] Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. [4] For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: [5] For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”

Satan is not attempting to enter our bodies through our open mouths—that is just plain ignorance. Rather, he strives to influence us by using evil doctrine, religious tradition, philosophy—anything and everything but sound Bible doctrine. We must remember to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), understanding that Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon are God’s Word to and about us. If we do not use the Bible dispensationally, then we will wind up “in the snare of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

SUPPLEMENTAL: WHAT ABOUT “GESUNDHEIT?”

It appears that this term is somewhat superstitious as well. The lexicographers at Merriam-Webster claim the word was first used in 1914. They also say this: “When English speakers hear achoo, they usually respond with either gesundheit or God bless you. Gesundheit was borrowed from German, where it literally means ‘health’; it was formed by a combination of gerund (‘healthy’) and -heit (‘-hood’). Wishing a person good health when they sneezed was traditionally believed to forestall the illness that a sneeze often portends. God bless you had a similar purpose, albeit with more divine weight to the well-wishing. It was once believed that the soul could exit the body during a sneeze, causing ill health, so folks said ‘God bless you’ to ward off this danger. Gesundheit, at one time, also served as a toast when drinking (much like its English counterpart, ‘to your health’), but this usage is now mostly obsolete.”

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Also see:
» How does Satan operate today?
» Should we “plead the blood of Jesus?”
» Do we have guardian angels?