bless·ing [bles-ing] noun
1. the act or words of a person who blesses.
2. a special favor, mercy, or benefit: the blessings of liberty.
3. a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.
A friend recently shared this article
on Facebook. The author is decrying what he feels is an inappropriate and non-Scriptural use by Christians of the word "blessing" in reference to good things of a material nature that we sometimes enjoy. He says we should stop using that word with respect to financial and material somethings
and instead just say we're "grateful." He admits that he's dealing in semantics, but feels that in this case, the semantics are meaningful and shouldn't be ignored.
I disagree with his premise.
You can be grateful, but it's just a nebulous emotion unless you're grateful to someone. (Aside: This is why I'm always confused by atheists who observe Thanksgiving.) And why be grateful unless that someone has given you something special? And, gee, that sounds to me an awful lot like a blessing.
God's blessings come in many forms, and who are we to limit them to an arbitrary standard, however well-meaning?
Material blessings are
Scriptural. Many references to them are found in the Old Testament (take a look at Deuteronomy 28:1-14
...but be careful; in this rather significant passage, God actually ties His blessings to faithfulness!) and the God of the New Testament is the God of the Old Testament. His character doesn't change.
So, if a person living on a subsistence income is unexpectedly given a significant donation, would that person be justified in claiming a blessing from God? If your answer is "yes," then what is the threshold where such a gift is no longer considered a blessing, but is instead something for which that person is to simply feel gratitude?
I don't know why some are blessed with wealth and many more aren't. I don't understand why some saints have lives full of physical pain and challenge, and others appear to live lives free of stress and full of ease. I'm pretty sure both situations are not as black-and-white as we think; the former doesn't guarantee misery or the latter, joy. We'd do well to remember that God's economy is different than ours, given that He has a view of infinity and ours is rather less.
What I do believe is that God's blessings aren't a zero sum game. The wealthy aren't blessed by God at the expense of the poor. I find nothing in the Bible to support that view.
Now, I want to be very clear about something. I abhor the "name it and claim it" approach to theology. The so-called "prosperity gospel" is a distortion of Biblical principles and its proponents have been responsible for great harm to the body of Christ. But the acceptance, recognition, and even celebration of material blessings does not automatically put one in that camp.
These are questions worth discussing but at the end of the day, the real question - and the one area where I do agree with the author of the article - is not what have we been given but what did we do with it?