The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior- Psalm 24:4-5 NIV
Recently, I attended a large multi-church gathering where we sang The Blessing by Kari Jobe. The Blessing is a lovely song. Most of the lyrics are taken directly from the priestly blessing given to Moses in Numbers 6:22-26. It’s a song that tends to hit in a very emotional way, especially in a large gathering. We all want God’s blessing for ourselves and the people we love, and our Christian culture teaches us to simply expect God’s blessings.
But should we?
Ever since that service I have wrestled with questions concerning God’s blessing. Some of those questions include:
Should Christians automatically expect to be blessed by God?
What do God’s blessings look like?
Are there strings attached to God’s blessings?
How do we position ourselves to receive God’s blessing?
After some thinking and praying and digging through Scripture, I still don’t know if I’m any closer to having all the answers. However, I do have some thoughts on the subject.
Relationship with God is the big win in the hierarchy of blessings. If a person has that they are already ahead of the game. The mere notion that the almighty, all-knowing, maker of heaven and earth would want a friendship with a mere mortal is, well, mind blowing and super cool (Acts 2:38-39, Romans 5:8, James 2:23, Psalm 25:14).
So. It’s reasonable to assume anyone who has a relationship with God is blessed by God simply by nature of their relationship with God. Knowing one’s eternal destiny is secure is a very big deal and huge blessing. But, what about the other stuff? Does God shower blessings on certain people for particular reasons? Are all the other blessings a given because we are Christians?
Before we go there I think its super helpful to define what a “blessing” is and isn’t.
Most of us tend to define blessings purely in materialistic terms. However, the Bible teaches blessings are about more than just stuff. After all, here are oodles of godless heathens who get lucky and or make wise choices with their life and finances. As a result, sometimes godless heathens end up with an abundance of possessions and really big bank accounts. There is zero evidence anywhere in the Bible God blesses godless heathens in a special way. So, it’s safe to assume the number of homes a person owns or the size of their personal bank account are not necessarily an indicator of God’s favor. However, those things can be a sign of smart choices.
The greatest blessings in life have little to do with an abundance of cash or material possessions. Once our basic physical needs for food and shelter are met the most important things in life are a healthy family, a clean conscience, personal safety, inner peace, joy, rest from striving and meaningful friendships (Psalm 29:11, Psalm 127:4-5, Proverbs 17:17, Proverbs 18:24, Psalm 24;3-5, Hebrews 9:14.
Here’s the thing though:
God does not dump that goody bag of blessings in a person’s lap just because they happen to be one of His own. In both the Old and New Testaments God’s blessings are almost always conditional (Matthew 3:10, Matthew 7:19, Luke 6:35-38, Romans 2:6-8, Galatians 6:7-10). Anytime the Bible gives a do this get that formula, God is placing a condition on receiving the blessing (Leviticus 26:1-46, Exodus 19:5, Philippians 4:4-9). There are a too many of those formulas in the Bible to dismiss out of hand.
In Hebrews chapter six the writer gives this short parable about two different kinds of land that’s really just a metaphor for people and how different kinds of people respond to God. Context matters a great deal in this passage. The parable immediately follows a long and rather chilling discourse encouraging Christians to stop sinning, mature in Christ and make the most of their salvation (Hebrews 5:11-6:6). The writer concludes the teaching by saying there is a kind of land (person) who takes in what God provides and produces a crop. That land (person) is blessed by God with all the things that really matter (peace, a clean conscience, joy, etc.). The other type of land gets all the same stuff as the neighboring land but produces nothing but thorns, thistles and trouble. That land is destined to be burned (John 14:23, 1 Peter 4:17, 1st Corinthians 5:9-11).
Thankfully. The writer of Hebrews is supremely confident there are much better things are in store for God’s people than trouble, pain and an absence of blessing (Hebrews 6:9-11). Getting those better things depends entirely on how we choose to position ourselves. God loves His people. A lot. If we have placed our faith in Jesus we have the blessing of salvation and that’s a very good thing and a big deal. The other blessings (joy, peace, freedom from striving, a clean conscience, etc.) come as a result of obedience to Jesus.
It’s not difficult to position ourselves for blessing (Matthew 11:30, 1st John 5:3). God is not a giant meanie who requires perfection from His followers. All it takes to get the good things in life: peace, joy, a clean conscience and healthy relationships is a heart turned toward God, a willingness to confess sin and desire to be obedient to our calling as Christians.
If we do those things God will bless us in abundance.