I’ve never uttered the words, I’m blessed. Shamefully, I’m more likely to describe myself as lucky to live a good life. I don’t even believe in the philosophy of luck, but it’s just a flippant phrase I can use without attaching any deeper spiritual meaning to it.
Admittedly, I should probably find a better phrase to use.
But the reason I’ve struggled with describing myself as blessed is because the phrase is used so casually that I’ve had a sneaking suspicion it’s actually not often used correctly.
For some, they are “blessed” because of the delicious bagel they ate this morning. Others are “blessed” because they just received a job promotion. Another is “blessed” because they survived cancer.
Can all of these situations be equally described as a blessing? Are there ranges of blessings, or should we limit our use of this word to certain situations?
To define yourself as blessed has always been trendy. One popular rap song even says, “I’m not lucky, I’m blessed.” It seems like anything can be described as a blessing, and maybe it’s a good thing to view every moment in life as a blessing.
Nevertheless, as common as the word is among Christians and non-Christians alike, I must admit I’ve never truly understood what it meant to be blessed. Based on its usage, to be blessed means something good has happened in your life. But the issue with defining “blessing” this way is how challenging it becomes to apply that definition to biblical descriptions of blessing.
Blessed are those who are persecuted…
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial …
Blessed are those who mourn…
Blessed are the poor in spirit…
Certainly, there are many other verses in Scripture that more fittingly describe the way we use the term blessed today. After all, I don’t imagine anyone who is mourning the loss of a loved one is signing off their social media post with #blessed.
Nevertheless, the Bible offers a far more expansive vision for what it means to be blessed than the common understanding.
Types of Blessings
Oftentimes, our framework for blessing is a material gift from God. But if we were to take every biblical mention of blessing, we walk away with three categories or types of blessings.
Blessings From God
The language of God blessing his people is abundant within the Old Testament. The very first blessing from God to humanity is found in Genesis.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28)
The very first blessing given from God was the ability to multiply and to govern the earth. This was a gift from God to his creation. It is accurate to understand blessings from God as the physical things that often come to mind, but this is not the only category of blessings God gives.
In Ephesians, Paul describes the spiritual blessings he received from God.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14)
This is only one example of the spiritual blessings God provides.
As we look to Scripture for an understanding of true blessing, it’s important to talk about the theme of blessings and curses in the Old Testament. Under the old covenant, God would extend blessings for the obedience of his people and curses for their disobedience.
Today, Christians do not operate under the old covenant. We are under the New Covenant that was ushered in with the death and resurrection of Jesus. The operating system of blessings and curses is no longer the appropriate way to understand our relationship with God. His blessings are freely given to his people, regardless of their obedience, because of the obedience of Jesus that is attributed to us.
Blessings to God
The idea of us blessing God may seem suspicious and uncomfortable. We don’t often think of having the ability to bless God. He is the Creator and we are the created. He is the Savior and we are the saved. How could we possibly bless God? Yet there are many examples in Scripture that describe people blessing God. This language is primarily found in the Psalms.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits… (Psalm 103:1-2)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ… (Ephesians 1:3)
It is not that we are a blessing to God, but that we ought to praise him for the blessings he provides to us. This is just an expression of thankfulness and praise from humanity to God. Humanity is not able to help, strengthen, or make God better. When the biblical writers use the phrase “Bless the Lord” or “Blessed be God” they are expressing gratitude, worship, and honor.
Blessing to Others
We are more familiar with the understanding of blessing others than we are blessing God. This is seen through Christian sayings like “God bless you” or “Bless you.”
The blessing of others was common practice in the Ancient Near East. It was common for parents to give a blessing to their children, and these blessings were often material things that took on legal elements. This is seen often in the Old Testament. One example is the debacle of Isaac blessing Jacob instead of Esau, wherein Jacob stole Esau’s blessing, which was apparently legally binding.
In the New Testament, Jesus himself is often shown as blessing others. He is the ultimate model of what it looks like to be intent about orienting yourself for the good of others.
We are called to bless others. The goodness of Jesus’ love that is poured into us should intentionally be poured out into our interactions and intentions with others. We should long to bless others. We have the ability to most fully display the blessings given to us when we live with a posture of self sacrificial giving for the sake of others.
The understanding of God blessing us so that we will bless others goes all the way back to Genesis. God promised to bless Abraham so that he would be a blessing to the world. This, of course, spoke very directly of Abraham’s offspring. The same theme of God blessing his people so that they would bless others makes its way into the New Testament.
Ultimately, whether spiritual or material, the blessings we receive from God lead us to be more satisfied in him. Blessings are a receiving of God’s favor, regardless of circumstances. These don’t always come in the form of our commonly understood idea of material gifts. Sometimes, blessings are in the trials. They are anything that will draw us closer to Jesus.
That’s why all throughout Scripture we read about the blessed person being the one who abides in Jesus, the person who walks with God, the person who meditates on Scripture day and night. The person who is most satisfied in the Lord is described as blessed.