How many times have you heard (or said), “I’m so blessed …”? Usually, the rest of the sentence is something along the lines of “…to have such a great family” or “…to have a great job” or “…to have such a nice house (or car or boat or cabin or…)” or “…to have my health”, or similar statements. It all falls into the mental category of “being blessed by God”, or at least that’s what we think. But are having those THINGS (for that’s what each is) really God’s blessings? If they are, then what does it mean when you don’t have those things? What if you lose your job? What if you lose your health? Your house? Does that imply that you are somehow outside of God’s blessings? What about people in third world countries who live in a hut with dirt floors and no electricity and have to walk a mile to get water? Are they not blessed by God? What exactly are God’s blessings?
First, let’s look at the definition of ‘blessed.’
- Dictionary.com –
- Divinely or supremely favored
- Having a sacred nature
- connected with God
- very welcome, pleasant or appreciated
- TheFreeDictionary.com –
- made holy by religious ceremony; consecrated
- worthy of deep reverence or respect
- characterized by happiness or good fortune
Notice that there are basically two different ways to view being blessed: fortunate (lucky) or somehow connected with God (sacred/divine). I would argue that most of the time when Christians say “I’m so blessed…” they think they are referring to the divine/sacred type of blessing, but in reality, they’re just lucky.
So, let’s see what the Bible says about being blessed. First, let’s look at some Old Testament verses:
Psalm 1:1 – Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers [NIV]
Psalm 32:1 – Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. [NIV]
Psalm 40:4 – Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. [NIV]
Psalm 127:4-5 – Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; [NIV]
Psalm 146:5 – Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. [NIV]
Jeremiah 17:7 – But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. [NIV]
The New Living Translation uses “how joyous” or “how joyful” instead of the word “blessed”, and other translations use “happy” or even “lucky”. Clearly, the meaning here is one of being in a positive emotional state, which arises from the actions each verse describes. And all these verses, except Psalm 127, describe a relationship with God – not hanging out with ungodly people; trusting God; having hope in God; being forgiven by God. Clearly, God’s blessings come from relationship with Him, and not from what we think He’s given us (good job, nice home, loving spouse). So, to be blessed means you are happy or joyous because you are in relationship with God– not that you have some tangible thing or things. Only Psalm 127 connects this state of well-being with having some thing – in this case, children. And in the context of the era, it was critical for a man to have many children, since many died before reaching adulthood, in those days. All of the other verses are clearly about being joyous because of our relationship with God, and describe this as ‘being blessed.’ Is this what we generally think of when we say we’re “blessed by God”? I don’t think so.
So, what does the New Testament say about being blessed? Probably the most famous scripture about blessings is The Sermon on the Mount, where we find the Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3-10. Here it is, in The Message version:
3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”
Wow! What a contrast to what we generally think of as being blessed! In fact, verse 10 is about being persecuted for God! How many of us pray for that, when we pray for God’s blessings? And verses 3 and 4 also don’t sound like ‘being blessed’ – being at the end of my rope or losing what’s most dear to me aren’t things I generally pray for!
Note that each verse actually describes the blessings that arise in each case. And all of these blessings are about our relationship with God. Not one of these verses is about THINGS. They are all about a state of mind or being. And this is a Kingdom principle – God is not concerned about our THINGS, he is concerned about who we ARE and how we relate to Him and to the people in the world He came to save. We are blessed when we are in relationship with God and with others. This is very different from our usual idea of being blessed!
Let’s look at some other verses from the New Testament:
James 1:12 – Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. [NIV]
1 Peter 3:14 – But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. [NIV]
Romans 4:7 – Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. [NIV]
The verses in James and Peter again talk about being blessed in the midst of hard times – during trials or suffering. When we ask God for His blessings, do we really want trials and suffering? But, if you think about it, if we do persevere through hard times, it’s only by the grace and strength of God, which are true blessings! And, of course, the verse in Romans is pretty straightforward – if your sins are forgiven, you are blessed. Well, since Christians have accepted Christ’s death as the payment for their sins, ALL Christians are forgiven. And because we are forgiven, we can have relationship with God and can rejoice in Him – and THAT is the blessing!
So, what the Bible says and what we normally think of as blessings are quite different. God’s blessings involve being in right relationship with Him and with others. And God’s blessings seem to show up when we are in times of trials or difficulties – at the end of our rope. We don’t see verses saying, “Blessed are the rich,” or “Blessed is the one with a good job,” or “Blessed are those who have no troubles.” But we do see verse after verse promising blessings when things are at their worst – because blessings are not about THINGS, but about our relationship with God.
Now, I’m not saying that God doesn’t provide for His people. There are many verses about how He is our loving father and has good gifts for us. (Of course, what really are God’s gifts? Are they things? What about the ‘gifts of the spirit’ – these sound more in line with what the abovementioned verses talk about: relationship with God and with people.) God surely is on our side, and God can certainly provide material things for us, but I’m afraid that Christians today are focusing too much on these material things, thinking those are the blessings of God. But the blessings that God really have for us are far beyond mere physical things. God has true blessings that do not rust and do not go away when times are hard. God’s blessings are more concerned with our spiritual growth, than the growth of our bank account.
So, I challenge us all to be more mindful of what it means to be blessed by God, and seek the true blessings of the spirit. Next time you say you are blessed, think about these verses. Yes, you ARE blessed, but not in the way you think! ;-)