Blessing: Not Just What We Get

The word blessing comes up a lot in Genesis. Jacob spends his life wanting it, and then ends his life giving it. God sets up the whole book starting twelve chapters in on blessing nations, not to mention the blessing of creation before that. Everyone wants a piece of this blessing that God is giving out. This month at theStory we are spending it on the idea of blessing, because if its this central to the book, then we better have looked into it, or else we end up reading into everything else.

The church in today’s world has the tendency to misinterpret what blessing means. Entire denominations are started up based on the belief that God wants to bless us and shower on us his gifts and love so we are as comfortable and taken care of as possible. I just got a letter in the mail today from Peter Popoff telling me that God had a blessing in store for me (and told him so) and there was very little I had to do for it (the little being send him a few bucks). We have a very specific view of blessing, not to mention are views on curse, and they usually benefit us and make us feel all right.

Starting right from Genesis 12:1-3 the idea of blessing is very laid out for us to understand but unfortunately most of us stop reading when it says we get blessed and think that’s the end. We read “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you” and remind ourselves that God is on our side and he is blessing us (so easy for us in the West to say). We downplay the next few lines, the ones that tell us multiple times to be a blessing, and that we will be doing the blessing. The entire Bible hinges on these verses. These are the verses that call out Abraham, which whom Israel comes from which whom Jesus comes from. These aren’t to be taken lightly.

I’m starting to see the idea of blessing as something that can be done to me, but then to use a gaming term of sorts; needs to be activated. I can have a full bank account and lots of material possessions and some people would consider that being blessed. However, I don’t know if it is much of a blessing at all. The blessing is in the use of it what’s been given, not in receiving it. The verses in Genesis seem to hint that when Abraham gets blessed, he is now intrinsically tied into that blessing. When he is blessed, God blesses in return. All nations are blessed through his blessing. Blessings aren’t just a promise for Abraham, but they are a promise for everyone.

This is where I think the church could do some work on our ideas of blessing. Blessings are never individual gifts that someone receives. Blessings are a deeply connected set of events that multiply wherever they are passed on to and move from one person to another to another. It’s not a one time thing. It reproduces by itself. This is what God is up to in the world. He, being the only true source of blessing has started a chain reaction that is being passed all around the world. It is our job as followers of Christ to keep evolving the blessings that have already been started. Whatever comes our way we give away. Whatever blessing is given to us it is never for our own good but for those who we can give it to.

Maybe Jacob never really fully understood being blessed until he was finally (in the last chapter of Genesis) able to give blessings. Maybe Abraham’s blessing didn’t all happen when he was alive, but it was never about him anyway. It was about starting a new movement of good through him. Maybe what we think are blessing now is really just selfish hoarding and being blessed by God in actuality is when we bless others. Blessing maybe feel great to receive, but I’m starting to doubt if they are ever truly received until they are given away.

4 Comments

  • Profound thoughts.

    Blessed to be a blessing.

    I like it.

  • Nathan,

    The whole concept of being blessed in the first place is determined by whether or not I ill be obedient to God. Blessings are contingent on “IF you will … then I will…..”. However, the opposite is also true, “I you won’t …. then you will be under a curse” It’s dependent upon our choosing to do what God’s Word tells us to do. I whole heartedly agree with you in that the real blessing is not what we get, but in what we give. Robert Morris in his book “The Blessed Life” says that we give to give, we bless others in order to further the Kingdom of God.
    Hey, there are a couple of great books that you may want to check out. “Revolution” by George Barna and Un christian by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons. Good stuff.

  • Hey Uncle Doug. Thanks for the comments as of late. Part of me writing this post was because I am struggling with exactly what you brought up there. You said
    “The whole concept of being blessed in the first place is determined by whether or not I ill be obedient to God. Blessings are contingent on “IF you will … then I will…..”.”

    Instead of trying to explain it myself, I’ll quote Laurence Turner who’s written a book on Genesis that I absolutely fell in love with. He seems to be saying similar things.

    Turner, page 64, Genesis

    “There are two problems in translating this paragraph. The first concerend the last clause of 12.2, ‘so that you will be a blessing.’ The Hebrew actually contains and imperative, and a growing number of scholars favour retaining that sense here: “be a blessing!” So Abram is not simple being informed that he will become a blessing, but is commanded to be a blessing. If the force of the imperative is retained then the following Hebrew clauses should be rendered as consequences of that imperative: ‘Be a blessing, so that I may bless those…”

    In other words, the promises of 12.3 depend upon Abram being a blessing. Just as clearly, the promises of 12.2a (great nation, belssing and great name), depend upon Abram obeying God’s command in 12.1, ‘Go!'”

    It really changes everything doesn’t it? It’s not so much of being a blessing with what God has blessed us with, but instead being a blessing which we then are blessed more and the cycle continues.

  • Nathan,

    I think you got it. Say hello to Rachel for me. So, when are we goin go see you on the East Coast.

    Uncle Doug

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