If you ask people what a blessed life looks like, you would get a perspective of life that is going well. A person will say they are blessed because they enjoy good health. Another will cite family and speak of them being a blessing. Still another could describe living in a good neighborhood where they feel safe is a blessing. So blessings in a way are about the parts of life that work well and bring us joy. We direct our thankfulness toward God as the giver of such blessings. So as we read from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we get a different perspective on blessings. What Jesus calls a blessing, leaves us scratching our heads because they don’t fit on our list.
Jesus taught that the blessed are: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the merciful, those hungering and persecuted for righteousness, etc. How can this be? Well, we can try to rationalize his words and make them fit our world. We might say that their suffering will change and become a blessing when they get their act together but Jesus didn’t say this. Or that God sent this suffering as a way of testing and that blessing will come in the future. Jesus didn’t say this. We might pass this off as a future event, as being blessed someday in heaven but Jesus didn’t say this. He said, “Blessed are…” meaning the blessings are now in the present. So how do we reconcile Jesus’ view of blessings and our own? We don’t.
The verses just before this tell of Jesus gathering disciples and preaching the message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” His call is for life to be turned around and taken in a different direction. A new way of understanding the world from God’s perspective has been brought near in Jesus. So how does this work? Well, the kingdom of heaven doesn’t belong to those parading the power of faith for all to see. Instead, the kingdom of heaven belongs to those willing to admit the poverty of their faith. Those that struggle for peace when ‘might is right’ seems to be the dominate belief, are the ones blessed to be called children of God. Those insulted and persecuted for speaking truth in the face of power toward the pursuit of justice, walk in the same path as Jesus and the prophets of old. The kingdom of heaven is also theirs.
So what does it mean to be blessed? One perspective is to have life go well. Jesus’ teaching of blessing is to conform our lives to God’s perspective which he lived out for us to see. The two don’t always mix together well. So how do we transform our understanding of blessing? The prophet Micah gives us a start in the companion reading (Micah 6:1-8). “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”