Let’s be honest here. We are the wealthiest society the world has ever known. The rich young man Jesus encountered in Matthew’s gospel? That’s us. We sit in our beautiful homes, we drive nice cars, we take really cool vacations, and our churches are often monuments to materialism. Our nodding acknowledgement of the place of God in our lives is usually something along the lines of “I am so blessed” – as if God is responsible for our materialism.
But are we? Blessed, I mean. I am not so sure.
In Scripture, blessing always leads to a deepening of the relationship. Does a ski vacation make me a better Christian? Do the beautiful stained glass windows at my church enhance my faith? Or – on a more basic level – does the fact that I am not worrying about my next meal push me into a deeper, more dependent relationship?
Are all the things I call blessings in my life really blessings?
If Jesus came to bring each of us a cross, why do we attribute lack of that cross to divine provision? His description of blessing:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
No mention of a new car, or even a filling dinner. Seems Jesus defines blessing a bit differently than we do.
“I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Have you ever noticed that so often when we use the term “blessing” in the present tense, we’re referring to the good things happening to us? That nice house, our healthy children, a raise at work, etc. But blessing in retrospect is when we more often get it right: The great challenges in life – the financial, spiritual, relational challenges – are the places where we discover growth in relationship with God… and then look back and call them blessings.
So do we seek out these difficult moments when we find God’s grace? I am afraid we don’t. It’s simply not going to happen, but perhaps that is a statement of our weakness and lack of trust in His ultimate provision – but at least this will give us a different perspective when adversity does roll into our lives.
The challenges are always opportunity for the most critical things: growth and relationship.