I’m not on Twitter very often. If you go through my tweet history, you’ll notice a three year gap where I decided not to tweet or even log in to Twitter. Even though I am tweeting occasionally again there’s one thing about Twitter that has never really made sense to me: #hashtags. I understand their purpose to group topics together and to follow an event or conference, but I can’t for the life of me understand why some people use the hashtags that they do.
The one that really makes me scratch my head is when people post something with the hashtag #Blessed. Go take a moment and search for #Blessed on Twitter and take a look at what you’ll find. People posting a picture of their iced coffee, their holiday destination, maybe a picture of a free lunch at an event or—my personal favourite—when someone finds out the item they were going to buy anyways is on sale. Is this really what our western world thinks being #Blessed is all about?
If we wanted to learn what blessing means and only looked at Twitter, we would think that being blessed is when something gives us a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Getting a gift, buying something for ourselves, or achieving a goal and posting about it on Twitter is what it means to be #Blessed.
Being #Blessed in the hashtag definition is a stunted and minimized form of what God’s blessing really could be in our lives. When we confuse the hashtag version and God’s version of blessing it prevents us from truly seeing God’s goodness in the world around us. When we look at someone else’s post about being #Blessed, we would often prefer the shallow emptiness of that #Blessing to the rich fullness of God’s blessing.
The book of Genesis has a lot to say about God’s blessing, it starts when God blesses his creation, and this theme carries through right to the end when Joseph blesses the twelve tribes of Israel. Yet the focal point of God’s blessing comes earlier in the book, when God calls Abram to follow him. Here’s what God says:
“Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3 NLT.
I’ve heard many good sermons about the need to be like Abram and leave our comfort zones to follow God, but I’ve rarely heard someone focus on the way God talks about blessing in this passage.
When God speaks to Abram, he uses different forms of the word blessing to communicate different things to Abram. The first use of the word blessing talks about material gain for Abram, and God fulfills this when the four patriarchs of Israel (Abram, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph,) each gain wealth in the form of livestock and being the head of large households. Even Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, ends up being second in command of Egypt through God’s involvement and Joseph trusting him.
Yet in the rest of God’s call to Abram the next four uses of the word bless have nothing to do with material gain. The key to understanding what God means in this passage comes from the last sentence where God says All the families on earth will be blessed through you. God has big plans for Abram when he says this, and just a few chapters later God enacts the covenant with Abram and gives him the new name Abraham. God changed Abram from “exalted father” to “father of many nations.” He had a big plan for Abraham, and that plan was for Abraham’s descendants to be the people that would one day cause the whole world to be blessed in an incredible way by God. This was never intended to be realized during Abraham’s life, it was something for Abraham to hope for with patient and confident faith.
To grasp how God intended his blessing to come upon all the families of earth we have to look at the bigger narrative of scripture. We have to step back and see the whole story God has been creating from Genesis through to Revelation. It’s only then that we start to see that the ultimate fulfillment of God’s blessing comes when his people recognize and strive to experience God’s presence.
Throughout the Old Testament it’s easy to see that when the Israelites followed the covenant it focused them toward God’s presence. When they held to the covenant it transformed them into a witness that revealed God’s goodness, love, and mercy to the other nations of the world.
Then God enacted the ultimate way of revealing his presence to us; sending Jesus Christ to live and walk on the earth, teaching us what it truly means to live in God’s presence. When Jesus started the sermon on the mount, he talked about the poor, the mourning, the humble, and those who strive for justice receiving God’s blessings. He talked about people working for peace becoming his children, and that those who are persecuted for doing right receiving the Kingdom of Heaven. None of these blessings talk about receiving material gain. Even Matthew 5:5 which talks about the humble inheriting the whole earth is about the humble getting to be with God as all of creation is reconciled back to God.
Then something even bigger happened. When Jesus died on the cross, the ultimate symbol of God’s presence being poured out on the world was created. At the moment of his death, the temple curtain that separated the most holy place from the rest of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This barrier that had kept God’s holiness and his presence from overwhelming the people was ripped open to unleash God’s goodness onto the world.
Through Jesus’ death and resurrection God’s presence is made available to everyone. God’s goodness becomes unhindered with nothing holding him back from his people. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abram that all the families on earth would be blessed through him.
When God uses the term blessing in scripture, he is overwhelmingly talking about pronouncing his goodness to the world through his presence with us. God wants to reveal himself to the world and it’s through our relationship with him and being partners in building his kingdom that he blesses the world and reconciles it back to himself.
I am not saying that God does not give material blessings to us sometimes; scripture is abundantly clear that it is well within God’s ability to provide for us. What I am saying is that the shallowness of the hashtag #Blessed is preventing us from truly understanding and experiencing the depth of blessing that is experiencing God’s presence. When our desires are shallow, what we will experience will be shallow. When our desire for God becomes deep and rich, then we will experience the deep and rich reality of God’s presence being with us.
Maybe we can have a bigger understanding of what it means to be blessed by God. Maybe we can start by beginning a daily practice of seeking God’s presence in our lives. Maybe we can let that grow into showing God’s presence to the world instead of showing off our latest purchase with a hashtag attached to it.
The truth is we are all blessed, but we are not #Blessed.
Brian's whole understanding of faith and Christianity changed when he started to encounter what it means to live life with God instead of for God. One thing that Brian is passionate about is walking with people as they explore their faith in Christ and learning how to honestly seek God in the midst of our doubts and fears. Brian is the Pastor of Grand Valley Community Church in Brandon Manitoba. He is married to Nikki and they have one daughter named Olivia. When Brian isn't working on a sermon at a Starbucks or at home with his family, you can usually find him fly fishing or building model air planes.
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