I’ve been seeing a lot of t-shirts and signs lately that have the word “blessed” included and it has had me thinking. It is obvious, based on their context, that this definition is the one being highlighted…
“bringing pleasure, contentment, or good fortune”.
It’s the kind of definition that gives you the warm fuzzies and makes you feel like all is right in your world. Unfortunately, while many of the distributors of these items would consider themselves Christian and consider their items geared toward a Christian audience, I find a much different picture painted in scripture of what “blessed” actually means. Scripturally I find this definition to be a little more accurate…
“made holy; consecrated”.
It’s definitely not the same thing and looking at Matthew 5 will help us understand the difference. I like the way the Phillip’s translation puts it. You just have to substitute ”blessed” for “happy”.
‘Then he began his teaching by saying to them, “How happy are the humble-minded, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs! “How happy are those who know what sorrow means for they will be given courage and comfort! “Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them! “Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for goodness, for they will be fully satisfied! “Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them! “Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God! “Happy are those who make peace, for they will be sons of God! “Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs! “And what happiness will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake! Be glad then, yes, be tremendously glad—for your reward in Heaven is magnificent. They persecuted the prophets before your time in exactly the same way.’
Most people don’t associate sorrow, mourning, persecution and slander with being blessed and therein lies the problem…we have sanitized the word blessed and dressed it up pretty and tried to pass it off as t-shirt worthy!
Being blessed often implies a struggle or a seemingly undesirable event that causes us to press into God and focus on Him to meet our needs during that time. Scripture says that Mary was blessed and highly favored when she was chosen to carry Jesus and that would be pretty amazing to be chosen, out of all the women alive at the time, to do that. Let’s not forget what all that blessing entailed, though, because ultimately Mary had to watch her “baby” be scorned, persecuted, tortured and brutally murdered. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t imagine I’d be feeling very “blessed” during that time unless blessed means much more than what we have reduced it to these days.
I have been to the Dominican Republic and I have seen people who have much less than what even the poorest Americans have, and yet they had such an evident joy and excitement in their eyes that it made me realize that being blessed must be about much more than pleasure, contentment or good fortune. Jesus said in Luke 11;28, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it”, and James 1:12 may give us one of the ultimate indications of what a blessed life truly looks like…
“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
I don’t want to get confused and misconstrue what blessed should look like because I have a responsibility to accurately communicate God’s truth to my children and those we minister to on a daily basis.
Many years ago we visited a church for a few weeks and on our 5th or 6th visit (Rachel and I were the only ones there that day) I finally had to walk out. I called Tim on the way home and told him that I couldn’t attend any more services at that church. I believe the pastor and many of those in attendance really love Jesus, I just don’t feel they accurately represented what walking with Him looks like on most days. Walking with Jesus looks much less like a pep rally or cruise ship for Jesus and much more like a path with peaks and valleys, rocks and other obstacles that can trip us up and some days just sheer grit and determination to stay focused on Him and obeying what He has shown us to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel very fortunate to live the life I have and I will be the first to admit that we lead, by the world’s standards, a very comfortable life. I might even venture out and say on most days I feel blessed. It’s certainly not because life is without its struggles, but rather because I really do desire to hear from God, honor Him and obey what He shows me to do…and most days I think I get that right. My tassel is far from being turned, but I’m pressing in and headed in the right direction. I don’t think we should eliminate all the shirts and signs that use the word blessed, but when we see them let’s pause and ponder what that really looks like in our own lives.
Lord, let me not confuse pleasure or good fortune with true blessings in my life. Help me remember that blessings are often the intangibles in my life that are actually counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. May I ever keep before me the goal of spending eternity with You as the ultimate blessing that far surpasses anything this earth can offer!! Amen!!