How We’ve Misunderstood Blessings

August 26, 2022

What does it really mean to be blessed?

We’ve all had the conversations where someone describes something good that’s happened to them and then says, “We’re blessed.” The implication is because something good has happened, that must mean that God has given his blessing.

But what about when something bad happens? Are we still blessed? When someone says, “I lost my job today…”, is it appropriate to follow that with, “…guess you’re not blessed”?

Do you see the problem with using the term “blessed” the way we typically use it? We almost exclusively connect blessings with personal gain. We say we’re blessed when we’re healthy, wealthy, well-fed, and comfortable.

Even when we’re being humble about it, and we say something like, “I’m just glad to be alive today. I’m blessed,” we’re still implying that we’re only blessed when we have good things. What if you weren’t alive? What if you died and went to be with Jesus for eternity? Would that be considered “not blessed”?

This kind of thinking starts to lead us down a weird path pretty quickly. While it may seem harmless to call personal gain a “blessing”, it’s actually an indication that an entire culture of Christ-followers have come to exclusively associate good things happening with the goodness of God. That can be particularly dangerous when what you consider to be “good” isn’t happening to you at the moment.

So what does the word “blessed” really mean then?

Jesus used the word “blessed” often – and the word he used in Greek for “blessed” essentially just means “happy” or “to be envied”. It’s a term that describes what happens when we receive and respond to God in faith and he responds by drawing near to us and calling us his children. We’re “to be envied” and “happy” because we’re positioned in such a way that we can fully experience the goodness of God.

What we don’t see in Scripture is this word for “blessed” being used as an indicator of personal or circumstantial gain. We don’t see Jesus telling people that they’re blessed because they have money or because they’re physically healthy. Those things can certainly remind us of our blessing from God, but they aren’t an indication of blessings.

In the Old Testament, there are a couple of Hebrew words translated as “blessed”. One of them essentially means “happiness” and the other one means “to kneel or to adore”. The book of Psalms says we’re “blessed” when we delight in the law of the Lord, and to “bless”, or praise, the Lord because of who he is and how good he is to us. In both instances, we see a word that describes happiness and adoration for a particular person (God) or state of being (being close to God). Again, we don’t see the word “blessed” used to describe circumstantial prosperity.

The biblical meaning of the word “blessed” is to have the knowledge, awareness, and access to God’s goodness through faith. The Bible uses a lot of different ways of describing what that looks like, but the ultimate definition remains the same.

Blessings do not, however, come from good circumstances that fall in our favor. We’re not blessed because we have a good job, financial wellbeing, a healthy family, or anything else for that matter. We’re blessed because we have the incredible privilege of knowing and walking with our Creator. 

Do our circumstances remind us of that fact? Sure. But we shouldn’t connect our “blessedness” with our circumstances. Doing so just further reinforces the “do good” mindset that causes us to think that when we’re good, our circumstances are good, then God is good. When the truth is, God is good regardless of circumstances.

So next time someone asks how you’re doing, you can tell them you’re blessed, just remind yourself that you’re blessed regardless of your circumstances. Because at the end of the day, your circumstances aren’t what determine your blessings.

Posted by Mike P. Taylor

Mike P. Taylor is an author, speaker, and consultant who helps people understand God's goodness in a fresh way. He's the author of the book Grounded Faith for Practical People and he writes at mikeptaylor.com where he helps people rethink religion for a new generation. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Sydney and their four kids.