#Blessed Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means
*I wrote this article a year ago on 1/17/18. It is crazy how much I have grown since then. I have gained a ton of confidence in myself and at the same time a freedom to meet people where they are without needing them to agree with me.
The Annoying Truth About Being Blessed
I love and hate this section of Luke 6! I love it because of how in your face and confrontational it is to the religious elite. I love how it challenges arrogance and hypocrisy and promotes compassion and grace.
I love when those things are pointed at everyone else. I honestly, deep down hate how much this passage condemns things that I do. As much as I like to think that I listen to God and follow his word, I never let myself be uncomfortable for very long. At best, I allow a nagging thought to slightly change me. I seldom allow myself to be completely shaken and re-evaluate most of how I live.
Annoyingly, this passage did that for me.
Jesus calls his disciples. He takes them to some random level place, heals a bunch of people, then begins to preach.
Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God. (vs. 20)
In the first translation of this verse, I was let off the hook a little. It said “Blessed are the poor (in spirit)” and I thought “I beat myself up all the time. No one is harder on me than me. That’s got to be poor in spirit. I’m good with this one. Check!” (Cause no matter how much I like to say it’s all about God and grace, there’s still a part of me that feels comforted by checking off ways I qualify for deserving to be “in”.)
Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why this passage wasn’t translated “poor in spirit” if it obviously meant “poor in spirit.” So, I went to my handy dandy The Complete Word Study New Testament by Zodhiates. I looked up the original Greek word for “poor” used in this passage. It means a beggar or someone completely dependent on others. There really isn’t a single English word that portrays what this word means. Especially to a society who thinks “I’m so poor I can’t afford a new Iphone.”
The use of this word would have actually been extremely provocative to the people in Jesus’ day. The typical belief was that the poor were “unclean” and association with them made you also “unclean”. Their poverty was viewed as a judgment from God. The ultimate sign of God’s acceptance of a person was believed to be wealth and ease so that you could follow all of the crazy rules hyper religious people had.
The Difference Between #Blessed and What Jesus Taught
I believe Jesus very intentionally used this word to demonstrate how incredibly different his teaching was from the religious norm. I believe he meant it both literally and symbolically. “Blessed are those who physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually know they are dependent on others, ‘cause they get what the kingdom of God is all about”.
Even today, religious people who claim to follow Jesus point to wealth, ease, material comfort and independence as signs of God’s blessing. I seldom hear people talk about seeking God and being dependent on him or others as a blessing.
While I love this passage for everyone else and how it contradicts so much of what is presented as Christian in popular culture, I don’t like what it says about me!
I completely give in to despair when my finances are tight. I struggle with feeling abandoned by God because I’m not making any money right now. I pictured my life being different and easier by now. My slight struggles make me feel “unblessed”, but they are the exact things that cause me to depend on him and that is where I’m most blessed.
And that’s just one verse! I’m never going to get through this book! LOL
Lord help me live in this truth. Help us those of us who claim to be Christians to learn to actually follow what you taught. Begin with me. Help me change my focus from all my stuff to your kingdom!
Blessings my friends! Thanks for reading and sharing!
More Tough Truth About What Being Blessed Really Means
In Luke 6, Jesus was preaching a sermon to a large crowd. He started with “Blessed are the beggars among you. You know, the people who the religious leaders consider so dirty that just brushing up against them will contaminate you and you will need to ritually cleanse yourself from associating with them or God won’t accept you? Those guys are blessed and theirs is the kingdom of God.” (Italics are the CLF paraphrase! 😉)
After the crowd recovered from the shock of this statement, Jesus went on to explain even more how “the kingdom of God” was not at all what people thought.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
How This Differs From American Church Culture
Again, when Americans talk about being blessed, they generally talk about the opposite of what this passage says. I can’t even imagine an American going without food for a day or two and considering themselves “blessed”. I know for sure that when I am weeping over a loss in my life, I don’t feel “blessed.”
Being Controlled By The Fear of Rejection
Perhaps my biggest struggle is I can’t deal with people not liking me. My whole life has been defined by being that girl who couldn’t stand “fitting in” but desperately wanted everyone to like her. From my high school days in a small farming community where I dressed in tie dye and listened to reggae to my current weird mix of hippie, Calypso loving, easily bored, can’t- sit-still-in-church self, I’ve never been great at conforming. (I think it’s a third child thing.) But even though I don’t like conforming, I always desperately want to belong. When push comes to shove, I will tow the party line if it’s a choice between belonging or being true to myself.
Nothing sounds worse to me than being insulted and excluded. Yet Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man”.
Would I be willing to be hated, excluded, and insulted because of following Jesus? While I like to think the answer is yes, I can’t be true to my past and say yes. I always backed down when exclusion was threatened. Even now, when I bring up a troubling truth in a Christian group. I immediately make excuses for everyone’s discomfort. I have confronted hypocrisy that I’ve seen in Christian leaders in safe private meetings, emails and, most often, around my kitchen table with people who already agree with me.
I recently wrote a post about racism and how I wanted to stand against it. As I opened my eyes to things that are happening in our country, I began to see the incredibly stupid and divisive things many who call themselves Christians are saying. The worst offenders are loud, obnoxious and have way more fans than I could ever imagine. Standing against the culture feels like the scariest thing in the world to me. However, this passage reminds me that this where I will find Jesus.
Clearly blessed in Jesus’ view doesn’t mean what we think it means. I’m pretty sure it means knowing him. It’s the truth I’ve found when I truly grieved and I felt his presence. In those times, I knew he was real, knew he cared and knew it all mattered. I saw beauty that I can’t fully express, a glimpse of the kingdom of God.
I want to want the kingdom of God more than I want ease, comfort and things, but I sure do like my stuff and I really, really want everyone to like me!