The Basis for Blessedness
Our world speaks liberally of the concept of blessing. We frequently hear expressions such as “God bless you” and “Bless your heart.” People say and append that they feel #blessed, #2blessed, or even #tooblessedtocare when they are the recipients of things that might bring them joy or satisfaction, though only for a time. We sing patriotic songs for our country to be blessed. Blessing has come to mean satisfaction, luck, fortune, wealth, comfort, or achievement. Blessing seems to be considered an all-purpose concept, one so lightly and frequently used that the true meaning seems lost and needs to be regained. God takes his blessing seriously and so should we. What does it truly mean to be blessed?
Blessing in the Beatitudes
Jesus begins his famous discourse on discipleship by a series of sayings we know as the Beatitudes. These sayings tackle various aspects of the Christian life in the following form:
Blessed are [those who are enduring a current situation] for they shall [have a future reward].
From a contemporary human standpoint, blessings tend to be fleeting moments of happiness that might not relate essentially to God. But in the Bible, blessedness has a direct relationship between the believer and God. God is the eternally blessed one (Rom 9:5; 2 Cor 11:31) and the source of all blessings (Ephesians 1:3); the believers are blessed by him, in him, and are called to bless him (Psa 34:1; 103:1). Beyond any temporary materialism, the state of being blessed transcends mere ephemeral happiness to encompass a relationship between the redeemed and the Redeemer. To be blessed is the distinctive state of those who have been redeemed, adopted, and now are being sanctified in order to fulfill the Beatitudes.
Not Everyone Is Blessed
While the Greek word translated blessed in Matthew 5 may be translated happy, the connotation is not one of a positive psychological state as the latter might imply. It is rather one of spiritual position in Christ and disposition toward God. It is not one of pride or arrogance but one of humble dependence on God. The blessing of God for the believers is one received only in the context of a covenant relationship with him, enacted by the blood of his Son. In this sense, not every human being is blessed. God does not bless everyone, but he extends his blessing to those he redeems by the blood of Jesus (Rom 4:7-8).
Those who are blessed are to be distinguished from those who are not; for those who are blessed are redeemed, and the redeemed are sanctified. The unregenerate may well feel they are blessed, may experience momentary happiness or comfort, and may take pride in their wellbeing. Nonetheless, if they do not trust in Christ, they will lose their apparent blessings and reap condemnation.
Blessing Fuels Discipleship
Christians are already in a spiritual state of blessedness. The state of blessedness is not an unattainable utopian condition but one of present reality with future consummation. Because we are already blessed, we are able to stand firm in this life, fully realizing that the future holds the fulfilment of the promises of God. Christ’s sermon thus indicates that the principles and dynamics of Christian discipleship which lead to a practice of righteousness are fueled by gratitude, hope and joy.
Similar to what Psalm 1 says, to know God’s law and to practice it is to be blessed. Christ has fulfilled the law of God on our behalf so that we can be regenerated and already blessed and now able to practice the law of righteousness. These beatitudes do not tell us how to be redeemed, but how the redeemed are blessed, and how they should act. Our present state is one of redemption; our present call is one of obedience in light of our salvation. What we are in Christ (redeemed and blessed) directs what we must do (obey and persevere). To be blessed is to be satisfied in God, regardless of the circumstances. Christ has shown us the way and given us the law: blessed is the one who walks in this way and delights in this law (Psa 119:97).