What does it mean to be blessed anyway?
From the dawn of time (i.e. creation), God has “blessed” those who chose to follow Him into the great unknown, trusting that His ways are better than anything mere humans could concoct on their own.
What does it mean to be blessed?
My church – the Vine (here) – has been camped out in Matthew 5 for the better part of the last two months. We started out combing through what it means to be salt in a world that is decaying before our very eyes and needs and incredible amount of healing, but have since moved on to what we call The Beatitudes where the phrase, “Blessed are…” starts each statement.
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’” Matthew 5:1-12
What does it mean to be blessed?
In the coming weeks, I’ll be delving more into each one as I take part in the study of Jesus’ words with my church. Make note to check back.
But before I move on to that first statement, I’d like to point back to the account of Abraham in Genesis (12.1-3 to be precise), where God introduces us to this man and the promises God made to him. The verses that follow are not only key for the story of Abraham, but of the entire Bible. They establish God’s plan for his people:
“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
In those three verses, bless/blessing/blessed is used five times. It’s obviously an important word, but what does it truly mean? Sure, we utilize the word like crazy in our Christian circles, but that doesn’t mean we fully understand its meaning.
Upon further inspection of the verses above, we can see that blessing is the opposite of cursing (vs. 3). We also naturally assume that it is a good thing, and it is. It is a very good thing coming from a God who is ultimately good.
But, there is so much more to that one word.
To bless, or blessing, is about being in relationship; in a right relationship. It’s being able to truthfully say that you are friends with God, that you are one of his people; his child. Receiving good things is not the goal here. No. The more important thing is the relationship. The good things we receive in life (i.e. family, a job, home, etc.) are by-products of that relationship.
Note: anyone can receive these good things/gifts and this is not to be confused with “earning” God’s favor. We can do nothing apart from him to earn his grace/his favor. Nothing. It’s a free gift, received through faith and not by deeds so no one can boast (Ephesians 2.8-9).
And did you catch the last part of that verse from Genesis: “all peoples will be blessed through you…” All peoples.
Because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross (Jesus, a direct descendant in Abraham’s line and the fact that he is also fully God), we have been immensely blessed. When he died on that cross for us, he did the impossible and mended the relationship between us and God. We went from being enemies of God to being his adopted children. Because of that momentous act in Jesus, we know that God will look after us, both in this life and in the life to come.
And, it is because of this restored relationship that the characteristics of being a family member of God come into play: Pour in spirit. Those who mourn. The meek. The hungry and the thirsty. The merciful. The pure in heart. The peacemakers. Those who are persecuted because of righteousness. The insulted. The lied about/upon/to. You. Me.
Be blessed in that relationship. The rest is just details.