I’ve seen a lot of status updates like these on my Facebook wall over the past eight years:
“My husband is cooking dinner and my kids are helping me with a project and life is just so good. #Blessed.”
“I just made the last down payment and now own my own home. #Blessed”.
“I got a $100 tip at work tonight. #Blessed”.
Let me be clear. What I’m about to write is NOT to claim that the above situations do not make a person, in some sense, blessed. Yes, “blessing” in the Bible can be financial, and a lot of God followers were and are rich. Yes, there is a verse in Psalms that says if a family has a lot of children they are “blessed.” But I think sometimes we focus so much on these blessings we forget that the Bible gives us other ways we can be blessed. In fact, Jesus opened up a sermon with eight ways we are blessed and none of them have to do with family, financial security or having a home. (Interestingly, Jesus was rejected by his family, was poor, and at least for a time, homeless. If being blessed were primarily these things, I would argue that Jesus missed the point.)
I think we miss the fullness with which God causes us to be “blessed.” It’s often things that are backwards from how we normally think. Instead of being blessed for being fulfilled and self-sufficient, we’re blessed by being desperate before God. And instead of being blessed for being treated well, we’re blessed for treating others well no matter how we’re treated1. And for that reason I’m submitting the following as status updates. These updates are based on the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-102. In the future, I’d love to see such updates that use the hashtag “blessed” with it.
I think we miss the fullness with which God causes us to be “blessed.” It’s often things that are backwards from how we normally think. Instead of being blessed for being fulfilled and sufficient, we’re blessed by being desperate before God. Instead of being blessed for being treated well, we’re blessed for treating others well no matter how we’re treated.
1. Matthew 5:3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
We value self-sufficiency and accomplishment in this culture and we often have a hard time with the idea that we cannot control everything in our lives. We often get completely exasperated when the only thing we can do is pray. But I have no doubt that God puts things in our lives to force us to be entirely dependent upon him. We all experience them. And they make us blessed.
“Someone close to me is hurting and there is nothing practical I can do about it. I’m so frustrated and worn out and desperate. All I know to do is pray. #Blessed”.
2. Matthew 5:4: Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
And sometimes when life is totally out of control and all we do is pray, the sheer unfairness of it all overwhelms us emotionally. It’s easy to associate blessing with laughter, joy, peace and experiencing justice in life. But to associate it with mourning because life is messed up at times? Only Jesus could teach that. People mourn in different ways, but for most of us, I’d say crying over injustice is a way God causes us to be blessed.
Today I cried for 30 minutes because a young man shared with me how he’d dealt with depression and thoughts of dying. He’s such a kind young man and all I have been able to do since is cry and pray. #Blessed.
3. Matthew 5:5: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Our culture values the strong, the loud, the aggressive. Christ values the meek. I’ve often heard that “meekness” is “strength in control.” but I can’t find that definition in any lexicon. I think it’s much simpler: It must mean “humble” or considering others more important than yourself. It comes from being poor in spirit. Former Gamecock football player Marcus Lattimore used to get up at 5 AM and run the stadium stairs with players who were doing it as punishment, even though he never had to be disciplined. And they asked him, “Why are you here? You’re not in trouble.” And he’d say, “I’m here because you’re here.”
Today I read about a star athlete who runs with his teammates who are forced to do it as punishment, even though he is not being punished. He does it to encourage and empathize with them and for no other reason. #Blessed.
4. Matthew 5:6: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
We like to think we are blessed for how strong we are in overcoming sin. Jesus taught us to pray “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.” The posture is that of humility, someone who needs help overcoming, not someone who lives right by their own effort and strength. Similarly, hungering and thirsting for doing right communicates a humble desperation for it. God doesn’t want you to live right and then be proud. He wants you to know that your righteousness truly only comes when you know you have to ask for it. And that makes us blessed.
Today I experienced a temptation that could hurt my marriage and ruin my ministry if I acted on it. I am crafty enough to get around my accountability, so I had to pray for God to deliver me, to lead me away from it. #Blessed.
Jesus taught us to pray “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.” The posture is that of humility, someone who needs help overcoming, not someone who lives right by their own effort and strength.
5. Matthew 5:7: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
We are surely blessed when people show us mercy, right? Later in Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus illustrated the opposite truth with a king who forgives a $20 million dollar debt and the freed man then getting upset with another man over a much smaller debt. And he concludes that if you forgive, you will be forgiven by God and if you don’t, you won’t. The point could not be clearer. If we do not forgive others, no matter how bad it seems in our mind, we do not understand God’s forgiveness and will live without gratitude. But when we show mercy, we find blessing.
Today I was thinking about how people in my church have hurt me when I have made myself vulnerable. It eats at me. Then I read and meditated on 1 Cor. 13 and “love keeps no record of wrongs”. I hope this is a step to showing mercy. #Blessed.
6. Matthew 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Maybe at times we think blessing comes from being served and associating with people just like we are. For reasons you can find here (and see also note 1 below), I believe Jesus is saying that if you treat the less fortunate with compassion, you will see Jesus through them. And when we show social justice to the broken, and ostracized, we are blessed.
There is a lady in my neighborhood whose husband just left her and she has no job and three kids. My small group decided to do something financially to help short term and with job skills and childcare long term. This woman is Jesus. #Blessed.
7. Matthew 5:9: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
This may be a reference to helping find resolution in conflict between people and groups, but I wonder if, with the focus in Matthew by Jesus on not bringing peace in relationships while on earth (Matt. 10:34), if he may be talking about bringing peace (with God) to people by leading them to the Gospel, since that is what the Prince of Peace came to do. And when we tell them so they can hear and choose, we are blessed.
Today my son made the decision to follow Jesus after we had a discussion about who Jesus was. I told him that the peace I have with God can only come from Him. #Blessed.
8. Matthew 5:10: Blessed are the persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
How often have I heard someone pray and thank God that we are “blessed” to be able to worship in this country without fear of persecution? Which blessings do we have that those in persecuted countries don’t? I am not denying that God desires freedom for all people, and that is, in some sense, a blessing. But being persecuted is stated as a blessing here over the course of three verses, more than any other in the list. Freedom may be an implied blessing, but persecution is explicit. I don’t think we should seek it out, but neither should we see it as anything other than what it is: a blessing from God.
How often have I heard someone pray and thank God that we are “blessed” to be able to worship in this country without fear of persecution? Which blessings do we have that those in persecuted countries don’t?
What God does here is only what God can do. Governments can persecute you. Dictators can harm you. Individuals can slander you, insult you, imprison you and take away your rights. But they can’t stop you from being blessed. God’s sovereignty over everything–our emotions, our mental state, even when being harmed–is incomprehensible. So I would love to see more Facebook status updates like this:
Today I read about a pastor in Iran who refused to deny Christ and so they trumped up charges to put him in prison. If he can do that, why can’t I refuse to be ashamed that I believe in creation in my college science class? #Blessed.
Maybe you think some of these things are too personal for Facebook or that Facebook isn’t the place for dirty laundry and things like that (and to the extent some people think it can be wrong). But I hope you see I’m just using this idea as a medium to get us to think about what biblical blessings truly are. They are the things I mentioned in the beginning but they are so much more. Jesus taught that blessings come from seeing yourself as desperate before God (Matthew 5:3-6) and based on treating others right more than being treated right (Matthew 5:7-10). O that our culture would realize this and teach this and practice this.
- I believe the Beatitudes divide well into vs. 3-6 being about our relationship to God and vs. 7-10 being about our relationship to man (which is crucial to my understanding of vs. 8). This is a pattern we see in the Ten Commandments and the Great Commandment ↩
- I believe that the Beatitudes run from vs. 3 to vs. 10 and that vs. 11-12 is a commentary on vs. 10. Verse 3 and vs. 10 both have the same ending, “For theirs in the kingdom of Heaven,” creating a bun type beginning and end effect. ↩