Have you ever stopped to consider what it means to be blessed? Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, pronounced a series of eight, proverb-like yet cryptic blessings on the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness’ sake. We commonly refer to them as the Beatitudes (from the Latin beatus meaning blessed). But what exactly is blessing?
The word blessing falls into the category of words I often refer to as “big, fat, churchy words.” It’s one of the words that we have so taken into our religious vocabulary that we take its meaning for granted and assume that everyone we encounter in our faith community defines it the same way we do (which is of course the way that Jesus defined it). But if one of your fellow church partners or, better yet, a friend that is not part of a faith community, were to ask you what a blessing is, or what it means to be blessed, how would you reply?
The Greek word translated as blessed here in the Sermon on the Mount is makarios, a word David Lose calls “notoriously slippery.” Depending on its context, it can mean happy, blessed, fortunate, well off or to be envied among others. One famous power-of-positive-thinking minister referred to them as “The Be-happy Attitudes.” I’m pretty sure that Jesus meant something deeper than being happy.
So let’s latch on to the traditional translation of “blessed.” Does that really help us? We attach several meanings to blessed – favor, permission, empowerment among others. What if, as David Lose suggests, the question isn’t what it means, but rather what it feels like? What does it feel like when you’re blessed?
His answer? “To be blessed feels like you have someone’s unconditional regard. It feels like you are not and will not be alone, like you will be accompanied wherever you go. Being blessed feels like you have the capacity to rise above present circumstances, like you are more than the sum of your parts or past experiences. Being blessed feels like you have worth — not because of something you did or might do, but simply because of who you are…”
Now that’s a sense of blessedness that I can get my arms around. What about you?