For us in the United States, we are approaching the time we set aside to be thankful for all that we have been given, and all we have been blessed with in our lives. November is the time we seem to focus on what it means to be blessed and what God has given us in our lives.
Yet we are told by Jesus we are blessed when we are poor in spirit, when we mourn, when we are meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, are merciful, pure in heart, make peace, and are persecuted.
Matthew starts the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes. Blessed are…
“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 for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12, NRSV)
Not really what we think of when we think blessed! Blessed is happy, favored, fortunate, privileged. Being hungry and thirsty, meek, poor in spirit and persecuted does not sound like being privileged or fortunate to me.
But you see that is where our language falls short, or our understanding of the context is important. Our language falls short because we do not understand the honor-shame society in which Jesus speaks these words in the Gospel of Matthew. And we think of being blessed as an emotional state in which bliss and happiness rain down in our lives, and that is just not what Jesus means. It is not about us being happy, or having a good feeling about what we are doing or what is happening around us.
Another way to look at this would be to translate the word μακαροις (makarios), which we have as blessed, as “How honorable…”
Because when we get right down to it who among us would want to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to hunger and thirst, or be persecuted? None of us would seek to be these things, yet that is what we do as people of God. As His children, we seek not our own comforts or status, but look to the other. We seek to comfort the last, the lost, the least and the little, and by doing this we bring honor to God, and are blessed!
So take some time this month to count your blessings. Some of which are the fact we can worship God freely and openly, we are free to live because of the men and women who fought and fight for that freedom. Count the blessings of your friends, and family, and remember that God has blessed you with everything so that you may be a blessing to others. You are blessed to be a blessing!