We all want to be blessed, right? What normal person says to God, “That’s enough blessing for now, thank you.” Of course we want to be blessed, but the popular understanding of being blessed and the Scriptural understanding have drifted apart.
Conventional wisdom assumes God specially favors people who have good health, extravagant wealth, and a position of power. I do not deny that God places His children into positions of wealth or authority, but the presence or absence of wealth and authority do not necessarily correlate with a state of blessedness. Scripture often cautions us against pursuing them.
And, yet, not a day goes by where I do not see some pithy statement or empty prayer on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter that promises wealth and blessings “in Jesus’ name.” I do not deny that Scripture promises abundant life, nor do I deny that we have a fabulous inheritance in Christ. I believe that God will do miraculous things in the lives of the faithful… but for His name’s sake and glory alone.
Blessedness and Kingdom Priorities
From a human point of view, it seems that comfort and provision would indicate God’s favor. However, pious saints live in abject poverty and vile sinners control the welfare of nations. Suffering does not necessarily indicate God’s displeasure anymore than comfort indicate of His favor.
Moreover, we must remember an important detail about the kingdom of God: God’s ways are not like our ways. He doesn’t look on the outside, but searches the heart. To put it another way, kingdom priorities are often paradoxical and what we expect least.* For example:
- The first shall be last.
- The greatest in the kingdom will be the least.
- Christ came to serve, not be served.
- He who would lose his life for Christ’s sake will gain it.
- Take up your cross daily.
- Though we are crucified with Christ, yet we live (not us, but Christ who lives in us).
- The kingdom was revealed to “babes” instead of the wise.
These are paradoxical because they turn our conventional, human wisdom on its head. Blessing and blessedness, too, aren’t what we expect.
So, What Does Blessed Mean Anyways?
In the Scriptures listed below, blessed means the happiness that comes from being in an enviable position. This is a good starting point. We all want that enviable state of happiness. Where we become confused is understanding what is truly enviable. As you read through these, take note of what God says about riches, poverty, and happiness.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.
So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
-1 Peter 4:12-16
Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
– Revelation 14:13
Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
What Blessed Doesn’t Mean
In all of the passages above, blessed come from the same word in Greek (makarios). This form of blessed occurs 50 times in the New Testament (I have included a link below if you want to see the rest of them). All of these passages speak of those in enviable positions. Interestingly, none of those passages implicitly or explicitly state that earthly wealth or good health is the measure of our “blessedness.” In fact, several passages throughout the Bible speak to the deceitfulness of riches and a comfortable life (to name a few: Ecclesiastes 4:4-8, 5:8-20; Luke 12:13-21; 1 Timothy 6; James 2, 5:1-6; Revelation 3:14-22). So, while God sees fit to enlarge our provisions or to allow us to enlarge our provisions, they are not the measure of kingdom success. How we use them to serve God and love our neighbor as ourselves — that is the measure of kingdom success.
Would We Rather Have Riches or Jesus?
Look again to that passage from 1 Peter 4. Peter drops a massive spoiler on what it really means to be blessed: to have the Spirit of God rest upon you. To put it another way:
Happy is the man who is persecuted for the sake of the Gospel,
Whose provision is literally the LORD resting upon him and sustaining his life.
You can’t buy that.
So, does God want you to be rich. Yes, He does. But not for the trinkets of this world. He has something much better in mind than the heaven’s asphalt.**
* from Google:
a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.“a potentially serious conflict between quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity known as the information paradox”
a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.“in a paradox, he has discovered that stepping back from his job has increased the rewards he gleans from it”
a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.“the mingling of deciduous trees with elements of desert flora forms a fascinating ecological paradox”
** Gold. The streets are paved with pure gold.