“Do you think you are blessed?” He pondered the question I had just posed. I knew he wasn’t just looking for the ‘right answer.’ He was honestly considering whether he believed himself to be blessed by God. His response was very American. “I suppose compared to most people in the world, I am.” If someone asked you that question, how would you answer it? Most likely, your response would be framed around material possessions. I’m not sure if it is the way we are wired or the way we are conditioned, but as soon as we hear the word “blessed”, we usually think of what we have.
In Matthew 5:3-12, in a section known as the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks of a certain group of people as blessed. In fact, he uses the description nine times. What characterizes these blessed people? They are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and persecuted. This is probably not the list you and I would compose.
There are several things that are peculiar about this list. First, most of the descriptions show something lacking. A spirit without wealth, the grief of deep loss and a profound longing for righteousness are not what I would normally associate with blessing. These are all about something we don’t have. About a desire to acquire what we do not already possess. In God’s economy, blessing starts with a genuine realization of our need. If I know in my soul that I desperately need God, then I experience his blessing. I begin to see past the fog of what I possess and begin to see what I truly need.
Second, these characteristics seem to be about seeing the worth of others. These blessed people are meek, merciful and peacemakers. They do not seek their own but put the needs of others first. In Philippians 2:3,4, Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Have you been around someone who takes that seriously? Their attitude blesses you because it comes out of a journey with God.
Third, this seems to be a description of the speaker himself. Jesus lived this out. He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. He suffered great loss. He practiced meekness (strength under control) at every turn. He panted after righteousness. He practiced mercy and was pure at his very core. While actively seeking peace with men, he was persecuted as the prophets were. This list is the very character of God. As we know him, we become like him. We begin to live his character and this list becomes descriptive of our own lives.
Nowhere in this list does God associate blessing with physical circumstances. It is a posture, a realization of who we are before him, an outflow of knowing the King of all creation. It is a life that can’t help but pour out God’s character. It is someone who stands in marked contrast to those around him because he has walked with God. This blessed one could live in a Manhattan penthouse or a Calcutta slum. It doesn’t matter. He is blessed by God.