A few months ago, I was at a Christian gathering and a shirt caught my eye – it was bright green, with a lighter green shamrock, and it read: I’m not lucky, I’m blessed. On the surface, this is such a simple statement, but the roots run deep!
The concept of blessing is complicated, and this author is no theological scholar. There will be more ways to analyze this simple statement than I am able to explore here, but I hope this raises as many questions for you as it has for me about how we understand the idea of being blessed.
An internet search for the phrase in question brought me to James 1:17:
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (NRSV)
Giving the shirt designers the benefit of the doubt, they may mean that God-given gifts like wisdom or prophetic words are not given by luck or random chance, but intentionally and purposefully by God for our good and the good of all people and creation.
On the other hand, they could be suggesting that God’s blessing is tied up in more earthly things, such as enough delicious and healthy food to eat, a supportive family, a career that is both exciting and pays well, or any number of others that might describe a “good life.” These are definitely good things, but if some of us don’t have them, does that mean we are not blessed?
Jesus says something different to his disciples in Luke 6: blessed are you who are poor, hungry, and weeping, and woe to you who are rich, full, and laughing.
Without getting too far down the road of figuring out exactly what Jesus meant by those statements, I want to propose this: I think we have a bad habit of using “blessed” and “privileged” interchangeably. I wonder if the t-shirt I saw is an example of that.
Now, avoiding a conversation about privileges, rights, and entitlements (sorry for all the caveats), let me simply posit that those things I mentioned before – nourishing food, supportive family, etc. – are privileges in the reality of today’s world. Not everyone has them. Those who do have a leg up on those who don’t.
In James C. Howell’s book The Beatitudes for Today, he mentions (via Frederick Dale Bruner) that the Beatitudes are presented in Matthew 5 in two forms. First, blessed are those who are in a state of need – poor, mourning, meek, and hungry. Second, blessed are those who are in a posture of right action –merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and persecuted for Christ’s sake. The only kind of luck that’s involved in any of these is possibly back luck!
So, with all of that in mind, I bid you this: stay blessed.