“Blessed” is one of those words in the Bible that don't always make a lot of sense to people, and yet it is used time and time again throughout the Scriptures. Some versions of Scripture translate “blessed” as “happy,” but I'm not convinced that this is the right way of looking at it. Generally, yes, being “blessed” does mean that one is “happy,” but such a feeling is a result of an action or word bestowed upon us. So what does it mean to be “blessed?”
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “blessed” means “bringing pleasure, contentment, or good fortune.”1 This seems to be a somewhat accurate description as we think of the things that bless us in life. All of them – from the smallest to the greatest of blessings – instill within us feelings of joy, of peace, goodwill, and hope. So it would only seem fitting that Jesus would use the word “blessed” to introduce each of the Beatitudes – our Scripture passage for today.
The Beatitudes serve as the beginning to the Sermon on the Mount – considered by most to be the greatest sermon ever given, and not just because it was Jesus' message to the people. Covering a variety of subjects, the Sermon on the Mount spans two entire chapters of the Gospel of Matthew and serves as one of the major teaching elements in Jesus' ministry. Some scholars have even gone as far to say that the entirety of the Ten Commandments can be found within Jesus' words in the Sermon. But scaling back just a bit, it is important for us to take the time to examine the Beatitudes just a little bit today, because we need to understand WHO it is that Jesus is speaking about in these passages.
Jeff Cook states that “the Beatitudes are a picture of the voids created by sin being filled with the life of heaven.”2 He goes on in his book to expand on this thought – stating that as sin as ripped through our world and caused major damage, Jesus presents to His followers the Beatitudes as a picture of what things are supposed to be like. He gives us imagery of paradise that mimics those images that we get of the Garden of Eden. And he expands the Beatitudes to help readers understand just WHO Jesus is talking about. Let me read them for you:3
“Blessed are the poor in spirit – those who know they lack what makes them alive and who look to others for help – for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn – those who have had that which they care for most stripped away – for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek – those who do not pursue power or authority but live gentile lives in my kingdom – for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – those who have no good thing inside themselves yet still long for something real – for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful – those who give even out of their want – for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart – those whose insides are dedicated to what actually matters – for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers – who work for the same ends I do – for they [too] will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness – who live the live of God in broken places, showcasing God's reign – for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Does that clarify it a little bit for you? It certainly makes light of some of those difficult folks that maybe we've never quite identified with before. Essentially, all of us (hopefully) can identify with one of these “persons” who are blessed according to Christ's list. Certainly we are all “poor in spirit,” because we are all in need of God's grace in our lives. So in essence, Jesus is talking to EVERYONE. All of us are blessed in some way, shape, or form – whether we realize it or not.
Warren Wiersbe writes, “I have felt for a long time that one of the particular temptations of the maturing Christian is the danger of getting accustomed to his blessings. Like the world traveler who has been everywhere and seen everything, the maturing Christian is in danger of taking his blessings for granted and getting so accustomed to them that they fail to excite him as they once did.
Emerson said that if the stars came out only once a year, everybody would stay up all night to behold them. We have seen the stars so often that we don't bother to look at them anymore. We have grown accustomed to our blessings.
The Israelites in the wilderness got accustomed to their blessings, and God had to chasten the people (see Num. 11). God had fed the nation with heavenly manna each morning, and yet the people were getting tired of it. 'But now our whole being is dried up," they said, 'there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!" (v. 6).
Nothing but manna! They were experiencing a miracle of God's provision every morning; yet they were no longer excited about it. Nothing but manna!
One of the evidences that we have grown accustomed to our blessings is this spirit of criticism and complaining. Instead of thanking God for what we have, we complain about it and tell him we wish we had something else. You can be sure that if God did give us what we asked for, we would eventually complain about that. The person who has gotten accustomed to his blessing can never be satisfied.
Another evidence of this malady is the idea that others have a better situation than we do. The Israelites remembered their diet in Egypt and longed to return to the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. They were saying, 'The people in Egypt are so much better off than we are!" Obviously, they had forgotten the slavery they had endured in Egypt and the terrible bondage from which God had delivered them. Slavery is a high price to pay for a change in diet.4”
So what does it mean for us to experience blessing and to live a blessed life? Again, Jeff Cook gives us a suitable answer: “The blessed life is the one that seeks the good of others first, for the blessed life is one that is united with others.”5 In other words, if you truly want to know what it means to live a blessed life, you have to be willing to serve others before your own needs, and contribute to the life of the group. And if you're living your life for others, then you're living a life that mimics that of Jesus Himself.
To be blessed is to receive the grace of God, and to live our lives like that of Christ. What more could we want? And as we follow in Christ's footsteps, we will receive the blessings of God poured-out upon us. So what does it mean to be blessed? Ultimately, it means living within the will of God, and being guided by the Holy Spirit. And we have to be careful, because sometimes our blessings are easy to miss. How are you being blessed today?
2Jeff Cook, Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 26.
4Warren Wiersbe, God Isn't In a Hurry, (Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI, 1994), 77-78.
5Jeff Cook, Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 58.