WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BLESSED?

While not original with Chick-fil-A, their network of restaurants made the phrase “Have a Blessed Day” a common expression. When we first moved to Amarillo a few years ago I was surprised that almost everywhere I went to shop or be served employees told me “Have a Blessed Day.”

What does it mean to be blessed or to “Have a Blessed Day?” I’m reminded of a song we sang in grade school that declared what “Happiness is.” The refrain of the song reminded us that happiness is “different things to different people.” My sense is that today “being blessed” and “having a blessed day” means different things to different people.

The Bible uses the word blessed many times in both the New and the Old Testaments. And when the Bible uses this word the writer or speaker is declaring that those who have and practice certain characteristics are blessed. Blessed suggests God’s favor, approval, pat on the back, or congratulations. We call these descriptions of those who are blessed beatitudes.

One of the best known uses in the Old Testament is Psalm 1:1 and 2, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” To get the full explanation look up Psalm 1 and review verses 3-6.

Probably surprising to some readers, the last book of the Bible – the book of Revelation – has seven declarations about those who are blessed. One of my favorites is Revelation 14:13, Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

The best known beatitudes in the Bible are the eight pronouncements Jesus made in Matthew 5:3-10 in the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount. He underscores eight qualities or attitudes of people who are blessed. And after each pronouncement Jesus specifies the special blessing that goes with the quality or attitude.

My sense is that the first of Jesus’ beatitudes is the most misunderstood, and at the same time the most important. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus declares, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (NIV).

The quality “poor in spirit” means more than simply being poor. One misunderstanding of the phrase is to shorten it to say “poor-spirited.” But to be poor in spirit does not mean a person has no value, or that he or she is unimportant or insignificant. It isn’t to be like Eeyore who is pessimistic, gloomy, depressed, and no fun.

A couple of different translations of the quality helps us better understand what it means to be “poor in spirit.” The Good News Translation renders the first beatitude “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!” The New Century Version reads “They are blessed who realize their spiritual poverty, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”

To be “poor in spirit” is to be aware that on our own we are not worthy of God’s love.  It is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty and therefore humbly depend on God’s mercy and grace. I hope it is obvious why I suggest this first beatitude is so important.

The specific blessing (in addition to the general blessing) of being “poor in spirit” is to be a member of the kingdom of heaven. Christians acknowledge their need for God’s gift of salvation through Jesus. The kingdom belongs to us because we belong to the kingdom.

Have a blessed day!

Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this post.

photo credit: byzantiumbooks Grateful for Lemons via photopin (license)

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