My wife Erin and I were talking some this week about social media and laughing at some of the hashtags that accompany photos and feeds. One that continues to appear frequently is #blessed. It was our observation that most of these #blessed posts featured things like extravagant vacations, shiny cars, and dreamy relationships. There were a good number of #blessed tags with family photos and the like, but most of them appeared alongside much more superficial or temporal things. This has come to be known as the “humble brag”. For many the humble brag is a passive aggressive way of letting all their followers know what they have been able to accomplish and accrue. But this is also a phenomenon that could be distracting to the kind of blessing that the Bible speaks of.
The first time we see the word blessed is in Genesis 1:22 which reads, “And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth’.” This link between blessing and multiplication is consistent with the context for the majority of uses of blessed in the Old Testament. Indeed children are a blessing and those who parent the children are blessed, but where else in the Bible do we see the word blessed used?
Perhaps the most well-known passage comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s gospel account. In Matthew 5:3-11 we see that Jesus called those blessed who are poor in spirit (v.3), who mourn (v.4), are meek (v.5), who hunger and thirst for righteousness (v.6), are merciful (v.7), are pure in heart (v.8), are peacemakers (v.9), are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (v.10), and are reviled and persecuted with all kinds of evil against them falsely on his account (v.11). I get the sense that Jesus would have considered the poor widow in Mark 12:41-44 to be blessed because she truly got it. She was investing in a different economy all together and Jesus celebrated her faith. Admittedly this is a small sample of Jesus’ teaching and I haven’t mentioned any of the other teachings from the Old Testament on blessing, but I’m willing to conclude that blessing is not all about being able to acquire material things and accrue earthly experiences. While those things are not inherently negative, one’s understanding of being blessed is incomplete at best and ignorant at worst if it begins and ends with a measure of earthly treasures which moth and rust can destroy (Matt. 6:19).
My recommendation? Let’s grow in our understanding of what being blessed means. While it’s ok to celebrate accomplishments, relationships, & purchases while recognizing that they are all gifts from the Lord (James 1:17), we should also celebrate the character of those whom Jesus calls blessed. Can a husband and wife be blessed if they don’t have kids? Absolutely, if they are peacemakers, meek, and pure in heart. Can a Christian be blessed if he is thrown in jail in a foreign country while attempting to disciple first generation believers? Absolutely according to Jesus. If we have experienced the grace of God in our lives, if we have exchanged the judgment of our sin for the righteousness of Christ and are called children of God, if we have a new identity that isn’t dependent on our accomplishments or our failures, and if we are to inherit the kingdom of God for all eternity where we will experience a never-ending praise chorus to the Lamb…indeed we are #blessed.