“I am so blessed to get these pair of new kicks for my birthday!”
“I received the promotion that I’ve been waiting for … I feel so blessed!”
“I got an ‘A’ on the test even though I didn’t really study … I’m so blessed!”
“We are blessed to live in a country of such comfort, freedom, and opportunity, aren’t we?”
But what happens when you don’t feel so “blessed” wherever you are in your life? What if you have to work several jobs to pay off school fees, or to live under the fear and oppression of domestic abuse, or to have children with several disorders that leave you devastated, broken, and uncertain about the future? Are we no longer “blessed”?
We often associate being “blessed” with wealth and comfort in life, with the absence of problems.
But what does it even mean to be “blessed”?
There are numerous definitions. The first is to be “made holy, consecrated”, to be “endowed, with divine favour and protection” and to “bring pleasure or relief as a welcome contrast to what one has previously experienced”. (Thanks Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary!)
The equivalent Greek word is used for believers: Makários, describing one’s enviable position for receiving God’s provisions – favour – by extension of His grace. All earthly gifts – comfort, desired outcomes, success and fruitful relationships – are all unmerited blessings from the Lord.
The Giver is good. He knows our hearts, and if we know how to give good gifts, how much more our Father in Heaven, who gives good gifts to those who ask of him? (Matthew 7:11)His gifts testify of His grace over our lives which ought to be received with thanksgiving and praise. They point us to the true source of joy: Jesus.
However, our sinful nature distorts the natural response of worship into an attitude of entitlement. Our focus shifts from Giver to gift. We seek fulfilment in worldly comfort, prestige and convenience.
I find it enlightening that even in the dictionary, the primary definition of “blessing” is not wealth or comfort, but rather “being made holy”. Since we are redeemed and made holy through salvation in Christ Jesus, the truest form of blessedness is to be made aware of our depravity, led to repentance, sanctified for holiness, and to one day receive the crown of righteousness. All other blessings should greatly pale in comparison to this!
The Christian faith has gone through tremendous distortion and dilution over the years as it continues to wrestle and evolve with society. Christian-like ideals of “love” and “peace” might gain acceptance in society, but risk shedding some of their definitive edges. Tragically, being Christian in many first-world countries equates to simply being “good” and “nice” enough.
More recently, however, being blessed with such worldly prosperity has seen many give over their mindset to a massively unbiblical one: That the world is our home.
Pastor John Piper often teaches the importance of Christian hedonism – the whole-hearted pursuit of pleasure in God – to inspire us towards fruitfulness. Christian hedonism proposes that such happiness should be the overruling source of power and energy for a Christian’s life. Delighting in God, therefore, is the pivotal, central responsibility of every Christian.
But ironically, hedonism in the Christian life is increasingly taking a drastically different form, with the pursuit of pleasure in earthly “blessings”. Ingrained expectations of the happy “Christian” feeds the vicious cycle of self-entitlement. I love God as long as He gives me what I want.
Being blessed with such worldly prosperity has seen many give over their mindset to a massively unbiblical one: That the world is our home.
There is enough seeming truth in that to give it some traction. Take alcohol, for example. If you live like a cultural “Christian” and don’t get drunk every weekend, you’ll probably be more successful in life, right? You’re less likely to mess up in your job. Your marriage will probably go better if you don’t come home drunk every Sunday night.
So the rational mind might think: This is proof that if you do what the Bible says, life goes better.
Another example: The Bible says work hard. If you don’t work, you don’t eat. So if you work hard then you are probably going to prosper in your business a little more.
We’d then expect such faithful Christians to be wealthy, to be healthy, at ease, upbeat, success-oriented. And we have developed a form of Christianity to support those ingrained expectations: To be a Christian is to be accepted. To be comfortable. To be secure and prosperous.
And that popular form of Christianity has focused mainly on how we feel and whether our needs are getting met. And then we sell this — we offer this to people. “Come to Christ, and life will go better for you.” The problem is that this mindset is dangerously deceptive.
We have come to normalise spin-offs of devotion and Bible-reading, reduced them to just ink on a 2,000-year-old manuscript, churned out some form of fairy godmother expectation of Jesus, expecting Him to give us what we desire – instead of focussing on submitting to His will.
We have started chasing common, worthless idols as our heart’s desires, and elevated them above the incredible, beautiful, real pleasure of knowing Him, loving Him and dying to be with Him forever.
In the book of Revelations, there was a sobering warning for the church in Laodicea:
I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:15-19)
The self-indulgent choice of satisfying short-term gratification always ends up in bitter emptiness because no gift will satisfy you like the True gift, overflowing and abundant: Jesus Himself.