Rethinking Blessing

This Thanksgiving I’ve been thinking about what it means to be blessed. On Thursday, so many of us expressed our thankfulness for the things we’ve been blessed with in our lives. Then on Friday, the Christmas shopping season began with the biggest day in retail sales. When we think about blessing, we often think about material possessions or physical things. “God has blessed me with this house.” “I’m so blessed with this awesome car.” These things certainly are blessings and they should be celebrated but our culture sometimes twists our perspective. When we don’t have the awesome vacation or the latest device, we feel like we haven’t been blessed or that God has forsaken us. American materialism and entitlement has seeped its way into the language of blessing. This line of thinking, if it’s allowed to run its course, leads us dangerously close to the prosperity gospel. Blessing should never be confused with physical wealth.

When I think about blessing in a biblical context, I often think about Jesus’ sermon on the mount and the Beatitudes (Matt 6:3-12):

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Those who are called blessed by Jesus aren’t blessed with material things or possessions, they are empowered to complete God’s work on Earth. After God’s blessing comes an action or verb, not a thing or a noun. This tells me when I feel blessed, I should feel like I have been given the ability to do something for the Kingdom of God. There is a dissonance between what true blessing looks like and what our culture tells us blessing should look like. The core message of the gospel isn’t, “Jesus came to save us from our brokenness by giving us awesome stuff.” That just sounds silly.

Instead, the gospel message that blessing conveys should be one of action. “God has blessed me with this stuff so that I can further the Kingdom of God.” “I’ve been blessed with this wealth so that I can further the Kingdom of God.” We should never feel like we haven’t been blessed because of a lack of possessions or wealth. We have been given the things of this world as tools, equipping us for the work we’ve been called to by God. Kingdom people are people of action.

This Thanksgiving, I’m blessed with an amazing job where I’m able to use my skills to help people study the Word of God better. I’m blessed with a house so that I’m able to show the love of Christ through hospitality and generously volunteering our house for visitors and guests. I’m blessed in so many ways I cannot count them. I do know that I’ve been blessed for the benefit of Christ and those around me. And I want to make sure the language I’m using points towards these actions, not the stuff of this world.

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