Summary: How to measure blessings in your life
I’d like to ask you a very simple question. What kind of life would you like to have? When you ask for God’s blessing on your life, what kind of blessing are you thinking about? What is the picture of your life in your mind that you want?
The assumption here is that all of us want to be blessed. Just about every time I pray for someone, for anyone, I pray that God may richly bless them. It’s good religious words, but depending on what our understanding of blessing is, it can mean very different things.
That is what this passage is about. This passage is about how we measure the blessings in our lives. It demands that we recognize in ourselves how we measure the blessings in our lives. There are two basic measures of blessing. There are worldly measures, and there is a Godly measure. Jesus only has one measure. But the world has many. The Jews of Jesus’ time used worldly measures of their blessings. Many Christians today also claim worldly measures of blessing for themselves.
This passage gets right to it. By the world’s measure, if you are rich, successful, happy and popular, that means you are blessed by God. By the same token, the world says that if you are poor, miserable, ugly and rejected, you have a disability, then you or someone in your family has done something to displease God. Blessings, by worldly standards, are understood as circumstances. The are possessions, independence, fame, power. All those things are located in the realm of this world.
But Jesus has a whole other meaning to the word ‘blessing”. Jesus’ words show that it is a virtual reversal of the worldly understanding of “blessing”. The word ‘blessed’ for Jesus refers to the condition of one who lives their lives in the Kingdom of God – who submit to God’s rule in their lives. It’s not about circumstances. It is about knowing that God rules your life within your circumstances. If you know that. You are blessed. But if all you know are the promises of this world, then that’s all you’ll have. And no matter how successful you are in this world, that is not enough to be a blessed.
We are so engulfed in this world, it is hard to understand what Jesus says. I’m going to try to clarify a couple of things about what he’s saying, and then give some examples – talk about what this passage means for us.
The first thing I want to say is that Jesus is not saying that you have to be poor and persecuted and hated in order to be blessed. He’s not saying that it is a prerequisite to blessing. He’s not saying that you are blessed because you are poor and hungry and crying and hated. There are lots of poor, hungry, crying, hated people who are not blessed at all – who don’t know and certainly don’t live in submission to the reign of God at all. Too many are just angry and mean and despairing that they, by the standards of the world, have no blessing.
But Jesus is confronting the world and saying that if you are poor, if you are hungry, if you are crying and hated, it does not mean that you are not blessed. As a matter of fact, you know you can’t rely on the circumstances of the world. You know your weakness. It is right there if front of you. You can’t get away from it. Jesus reaches out to all the poor so that they may know that exactly where they know their life to be out of control, they can rely on God and live in God’s grace.
The flip side of that is also true. Just because you are successful by the world’s standards of blessing, does not mean either that you are blessed, or cursed by God. But if those worldly circumstances are all that you identify yourself by, since they are so good, then that’s all you’re gonna get. Woe to you, because that stuff – those riches, that food, that laughter, that popularity – it doesn’t last, you’ll have your time of knowing just the opposites. If you rely on money, you’ll know poverty. You may be full now, but you’ll get hungry. If you rely on good laughs, you’ll end up crying. And if you get by on your popularity, people will begin to hate you.
Pam Stenzel talked to girls at Niagara a couple months ago. She talked to girls about the world’s lie that what really matters is what you look like. Even if you lie there comatose, as long as you look pretty, everything’s all right. And if you could lose 20 pounds. And your hair is too frizzy or too straight. And girls get pounded with this lie about what blessing really is day after day. Pam expressed concern over her 14 year old and how she would react to this lie about where blessing for girls lay.