Who are the people who you’d say are blessed?
We tend to assume that the wealthy, the famous, the popular people are the ones that are “blessed.”
Even when we use the hashtag “blessed” it’s usually in the context of holding a nice glass of wine in a nice backyard, watching the sunset with the caption like “such a wonderful dinner with the people I love. Now just enjoying the sunset with the love of my life and a glass of wine #blessed.”
Or, it’s at a fancy vacation spot with something like, “Can’t believe this is our vacation spot #blessed.”
Or some great opportunity our work provided us like, “Can’t believe I get to hang out with all these successful entrepreneurs as a job! #blessed.”
But Jesus — as is his MO — flips that script on us.
Who really is blessed?
Jesus opens his first sermon recorded in the Book of Matthew with a list of blessings.
But they differ from who we think are the blessed.
The hopeless; those who grieve; the humble; the hungry and thirsty for righteousness; the merciful; the pure-hearted; the peacemakers; the harassed and insulted.
Could you imagine those things as hashtags?
“I feel so hopeless! #Blessed
“I’ve been insulted and harassed! #blessed
“I’m crying and I don’t really know why! #blessed”
While we might look at the powerful, famous, and rich as blessed, Jesus looks at the people who haven’t gotten their lives together, the poor; the meek, the mourning, the people who are often overlooked and ignored by society, the “least of these”. He calls them blessed.
Also, if you read Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus doesn’t use the word “if” as in, if you are a peacemaker, you will be blessed. He doesn’t even say, one day you’ll be blessed.
He simply blesses those around him and is “generous” with his blessing.
He blesses the very people who probably felt they didn’t deserve a blessing. Maybe they were even told they weren’t deserving of a blessing.
I kind of relate to that. I grew up in a context of faith where if you were struggling, it was your own doing. It was because you weren’t believing enough. It was because you lacked faith. Of course God wouldn’t bless you when you doubt like that!
So we were told to pray harder and go to church more and get right with God, because we were letting the church and God down.
I’m fairly certain my experience isn’t very unique.
But that goes against Jesus’ words. The Beatitudes remind us that even when you’re struggling, even if you’re not okay, even if you weep without knowing why, you are blessed.
This is not to say that we’re not blessed when we’re feeling “blessed”. But maybe our understanding of “blessed” needs to go deeper than when we’re simply feeling grateful for the “blessings” in our lives.
Part of going deeper in understanding is that blessings aren’t meant to be hoarded.
A lot of Christians love to quote/reference the blessing of Abraham (Genesis 12):
I will make you a great nation and will bless you.
I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, those who curse you I will curse.
For whatever reason, most folks forget the last line, which I feel is the most important: all the families of earth will be blessed because of you.
We are blessed to be a blessing.
For a lack of a better phrase: we’re called to “pay it forward.”
But “blessing” can be such an abstract idea. So how can we really bless someone?
Michael Frost writes:
I’ve heard that part of the etymology of the term ‘to bless’ is ‘to add strength to another’s arm’... what does it mean to add strength to another’s arm? Anything that relieves their burden in life. Anything that helps them breathe more easily. Anything that lifts their spirit or alleviate their distress. (Surprise the World!)
We are all in a situation where we can be a blessing--where we can bless someone.
Whenever we talk about how blessed we are, whenever we count blessings, it’s important to remind ourselves that we are blessed to be a blessing.
So what is something that you can do to help relieve a burden in someone’s life?
What is something you can do to help someone breathe a bit easier?
What is something you can do to lift someone’s spirit?
What is something you can do to alleviate their distress?
In other words, how will you bless someone today?
Joseph Yoo is a West Coaster at heart contently living in Houston, Texas with his wife and son. He serves at Mosaic Church in Houston. Find more of his writing at josephyoo.com.