THE TRUTH ABOUT BLESSING
By: Bodé Adeboyejo
A Christian radio show host received a call from a woman listener. The woman asked the show host to pray for her, and come in agreement with her that her live-in boyfriend, who was still married to another woman, would become her husband.
The radio host in a nice way tried to tell her that that was a ridiculous request, asking him to pray for her to have another woman’s husband. The radio host asked her why she thought that God would honor that kind of prayer. The woman responded, saying, “Because God has been blessing me: He’s blessed me with a good job, a nice house, a nice car, and two beautiful children,” (by the same man she’s been shacking with)! Needless to say, the radio host could not convince her otherwise.
As ridiculous as this woman’s request may sound, you really cannot blame her for thinking that God would give her another woman’s husband. Rather than blame the woman for her warped thinking, I’d rather blame the source of her thinking; which you’ll probably trace to what she’s been taught or how she’s interpreted what she’s been taught by a preacher or some preachers.
I remember when I first became a Christian. I thought that once I stopped sinning, (at least committing those sins I considered “major” sins, like fornication, drinking, partying, cursing, etc.); and started going to church regularly, paying my tithes and volunteering in some ministries at my local church, that it was now God’s turn to do His part of the bargain, and start “blessing” me. And when it didn’t happen, I thought God had short-changed me!
I remember one time in particular, some years ago, when I was trying to make a career change that seemed to take forever. Yet I saw other Christians doing well, getting good, high paying jobs and having all the other nice things I wanted. I was almost disillusioned with God, wondering why He was “blessing” those other Christians and not me, even though I seemed to be doing the right things; the same things those other Christians were doing, if not more.
Like the woman described above, even like me in my earlier Christian walk, many Christians believe that God owes them, just by virtue of being Christians – having accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Many of them even believe that once they’ve cleaned up their lifestyles and stopped sinning, then it’s God’s turn to start blessing them. And these Christians mistake materialism for God’s blessings and vice versa. For many of them, the word blessing means material wealth, a comfortable life of luxury -- money, big houses, expensive cars, designer clothes, getting a husband or wife, etc.
Many Christians, like the woman mentioned above, came to this conclusion based on what they’ve been taught or how they’ve interpreted what they’ve been taught. But for the most part, I believe it’s based more on what they’ve been taught. After all, there are many preachers out there who, misusing scriptures, are teaching their congregations about prosperity or blessing incorrectly; mistaking materialism for blessing. According to these preachers, blessing is manifested in terms of money, nice houses, expensive cars and clothing, getting a mate, or just having whatever your heart desires, etc.
Preachers like Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Paul Crouch, Rod Parsley, Joyce Myers, Matthew Ashimolowo, etc. believe and teach that having material wealth means having God’s blessing. These preachers have blurred the line between money, prosperity and blessing. In fact, as far as they are concerned these words are synonyms, and can be used interchangeably. But nothing can be farther from the truth.
Creflo Dollar, commenting on a passage in Proverbs 10:22, in an article titled, You Have the Blessing, writes, "Think of God's blessing this way. It's His ability on your ability. It gives you the ability to do what you could not do before...The question is, what does the blessing make rich? Whatever is needed at the time. For example, when the blessing shows up in a poor man's life, it maketh him rich with money.” Really!
Rod Parsley in a book titled God’s Answer to Insufficient Funds, writes, “If I said that for you to live from paycheck to paycheck is to deny the power of the gospel, many of you would get angry. In Luke 4:18 ... Notice there was an anointing to preach good news to the poor. A lot of people don’t like to look at that because good news to a poor man is that he doesn’t have to be poor anymore.” Wow! I thought Jesus said that the poor shall ALWAYS be with us!
Expectedly, these prosperity preachers have an answer to poverty or indebtness? They teach that all you have to do to get what you want or get rid of poverty is to just make positive confessions, and bam! you have what you confess.
For instance, Matthew Ashimolowo has several of such positive confessions on his website (see my article titled, Confession-Rama). An excerpt of one of such positive confessions on blessing reads, “I boldly confess the blessing of a home and financial blessing, in Jesus Name.”
Creflo Dollar on the other hand, in an article titled, Visualize Success and Reject Failure, writes, “What you speak and visualize determines your success or failure in prayer… As a child of God, you have a covenant right to receive His blessings. See yourself possessing the things for which you've been praying. For example, if you're believing God for a new house, then speak His Word and visualize yourself living in that house. Possessing what you want begins with your confession.
Due to these erroneous teachings on prosperity or blessings, many Christians, today, walk around believing that it is their right and covenant promise to be rich; simply by virtue of being Christians. In fact Creflo Dollar in another article titled Top Secret writes, "As you can see, you have a covenant right to prosper and experience God's best in every area of life. That's total life prosperity...You can transmit top-secret information directly to heaven, and God will respond with the manifestation of what you've spoken in tongues…Use God's highly secure way to withdraw healing, debt freedom and prosperity from heaven's account.”
Because of some of these preachers worldwide audience, many Christians consider material wealth as a sign of God’s blessing. Therefore, whenever they get a well paying job, buy an expensive car or a big house they assume and say that it’s the Lord blessing them. For instance, I once saw a house in a half-a-million-dollar-home gated community with a sign on it. The sign read, “This is the Lord’s Doing.” (Psalm 118:23). Surely, the owner of the house must be one of those Christians who confuse God’s blessing with materialism.
First of all, putting an inscription of Psalm 118:23 on a house is a misuse of scripture. The verse has nothing to do with wealth or materialism. Besides, I think it’s presumptuous to think that having a half-a-million-dollar home is the Lord’s doing. After all there are other people in the same community with similar homes or bigger who don’t know the Lord. And wouldn’t know Him, if He showed them an I.D. Rather than say, “This is the Lord’s doing,” I think the owner of the house should have said, “This is my lust’s doing!”
Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with having a half-a-million-dollar home, but don’t be quick to attribute it to God; as many Christians tend to do. Every “good” thing is not of God, and every “bad” thing is not of the devil either! Besides, it’s not through material wealth that the world knows that we are Christians. Rather, it is through our lifestyle; our genuine love and character, not through perishable things like a mansion or fancy car! God’s blessing is much more than what we can see, feel, taste, touch, smell or hear. So, to cheapen God’s blessings to tangibles is ridiculous and narrow-minded!
So, what is blessing?
There are two kinds of blessings: God’s blessing and man’s blessing; natural blessing or spiritual blessing. God’s blessing is when God blesses a person, which could either be naturally or spiritually or both. Whereas man’s blessing is when a person blesses God or blesses another person. Natural blessing MAY include abundant wealth or riches; while spiritual blessing is grace or salvation, i.e. Jesus Christ is our spiritual blessing. It is establishing a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, i.e. having the lordship of Jesus in a person’s life. (Ephesians 1:3)
For the sake of this piece, my focus is on God’s blessings.
So to answer the question, “What is blessing?” let’s look at what blessing is not, i.e. God’s blessing. As mentioned above, God’s blessing is not material wealth, even though it may include material wealth. It is not a trouble or pain-free life. In spite of physical or emotional trouble, turmoil or pain, and even in the midst of a storm, one can still be blessed. For instance, the story of Joseph in an Egyptian jail (Genesis 39:19-23).
Most times when the word, ‘blessing’, ‘bless’ or ‘blessed’ is used in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament (where it is used the most), it is used usually not in the context of material wealth. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word barak (bless) or barakah (blessing) is used. It’s used in the context of, “having the praise or favor of God,” “having prosperity (i.e. the peace of God, not necessarily money); “having a gift or present”; “having a treaty of peace.” For instance we bless God, i.e. praise or thank God for His mercies; or God bestows temporal or spiritual gift upon a person, e.g. Adam and Eve, Noah and his three sons; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.
Not even in Malachi 3:10 -- the most often touted passage by preachers to get people to tithe --does the word blessing mean materialism. Malachi 3:10 says,
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”
Often times when people read this passage, their focus is usually on the word “blessing” and the phrase “windows of heaven.” Therefore, they automatically assume that God must be talking about money. However, the phrase that lets you know that God must not be talking about money or materialism in this passage is the phrase, “room enough to receive it.” If blessing means money or materialism, then there’s enough room in the world to receive whatever money or material wealth God wants to bestow upon a person.
For instance, Bill Gates (Microsoft owner) has enough room to receive all his billions, and property. If not, he won’t know his financial worth. Besides, if blessing means material wealth, then Bill Gates will be the most blessed person in the world, since he’s about the richest man in the world now! And if material wealth is a sign of a person’s righteousness, then Bill Gates must be the most righteous man.
Besides, if blessing means material wealth, and Malachi 3:10 talks about opening the windows of heaven, has anyone seen money, mansion, cars, etc., fall out of heaven yet?
In the New Testament, the word for ‘bless’, ‘blessing’ or ‘blessed’ is the Greek word eulogeo. The English word eulogy is derived from it. It means “to speak well of” – to praise, to celebrate with praises; usually in reference to God to acknowledge His goodness. It also means “to invoke a blessing on a person (instead of a curse);” “to consecrate a thing with a solemn prayer;” “to make happy, cause to prosper, to bestow blessings upon,” etc.
If blessing means material wealth, then most of the apostles and the early Christians must not have been blessed. Because they wrote more about what they suffered and lacked for the gospel sake than what they had to enjoy. They were stoned, beaten, jailed, ship-wrecked, and even martyred! Today's Christians don’t want any part of that. All they want are the benefits and goodness of God.
I have always heard Christians talk about how they are blessed or want to be blessed. But hardly do I hear them talk about suffering for Christ or their willingness to suffer for the gospel’s sake. They only want the benefits of God, without the persecutions or sufferings for Christ. Even though that was not what Christ promised.
Rather, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel’s who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life.” Even Apostle Paul, in one of his letters to Timothy, wrote, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12.
Some Christians, like the woman radio caller mentioned earlier, want the blessings of God, without meeting the requirements for blessings: righteousness, obedience (to God’s Word and Will) and single-mindedness of focus on God. Even in some Old Testament passages, where the word blessing sometimes suggested the idea of materialism, God didn’t arbitrarily bestow blessings just on anybody; and definitely not on a sinful, wicked and disobedient person. God’s blessing was conditional. His blessing was contingent on obedience -- upon a person keeping His commandments or instructions. That’s why you’ll often see the word, “if” whenever God blesses a person or makes a promise to a person.
For instance, God told the nation of Israel through Moses, “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.” Deuteronomy 11:26-28.
Even God told Solomon, the wealthiest man ever lived saying, “So if you walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days." 1 Kings 3:14. Also see 2 Chronicles 7:17-19.
Jesus also told his disciples (and us) in John 14:14 saying “If you ask anything in my name, I’ll do it.” But right in the next verse says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15. Now, when it comes to blessing, most Christians stop at verse 14, but don’t go on to read verse 15 or pretend as if verse 15 does not exist.
From the aforementioned passages, one can deduce that there are three main characteristics of God’s blessings:
As Christians we operate and are governed by the New Testament, i.e. we are under grace, and not the Law. Therefore, Christ is our spiritual blessing! There’s no blessing greater than that! When God told Abraham in Genesis 12:3-4 that He would make him a father of many nations, and that the families of the earth shall be blessed through him (Abraham), He was referring to Jesus Christ -- a later descendant of Abraham, a descendant of Adam. It is through Jesus that all the nations of the earth are blessed by Abraham.
In summary, the truth about blessing is that blessing is not material wealth. It is predicated on righteousness and obedience to God’s Word and/or Will. The truth about blessing is that the real blessing is spiritual, and Jesus Christ is that spiritual blessing! The truth about spiritual blessing is that it’s not conditional or selective, but all of us can have it, IF we choose to have it. Indeed, if you are a true Christian, you already have God’s spiritual blessing. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
The truth about blessing is that if you are not a true Christian (I don’t mean a church-goer), you can choose to have that blessing, and I will urge you to ask for that true spiritual blessing – Jesus the Christ. That is the real blessing that you cannot have enough room to contain, as mentioned in Malachi 3:10. That is all the blessing you need. And that, my friend, is something money cannot buy!