Day 2 – Abundantly Blessed to be a Blessing
It is easy to forget that the early Christian church did not have the Bible as we know it today. Christianity was launched by the event of the resurrection. In those early years, what we now call the New Testament was yet to be written and the Jewish followers of Jesus were still grappling with what to make of their Jewish scriptures, as they wrestled with the idea that Christ’s death now made salvation equally accessible to Jew and Gentile.
As early Christians explored the Jewish scriptures, they found a narrative of God pouring out blessing after blessing on humanity, all the way from creation through the ultimate gift of his Son. In Genesis 1, we read that God rounds out creation with two incredible blessings, extended to all of humanity. The first is one that separates us from everything else in creation – we were made in His image! If that wasn’t enough, He then proceeds to give us the task of filling and ruling over the entire earth! (Genesis 1:28)
Throughout the Old Testament, there are many more examples of God’s blessings. Sometimes they were with a single individual, as we see in the covenants established with Noah, Abraham, and David. In Genesis 12, God tells Abraham that “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (v.2) God promised to put words in the mouth of Moses as he was called to confront Pharaoh, (Exodus 4) and granted Solomon with unparalleled wisdom. (1 Kings 3) Other blessings were extended to the entire nation of Israel. He provided manna and quail from heaven to feed Israel as they escaped from Egypt, (Exodus 16) and sent food to Elijah via ravens while he was in hiding (1 Kings 17).
So, what do all these examples tell us about the character of God? First, He is not a one-dimensional giver! His blessings take many forms and can be both material and immaterial. Second, God is very intentional with how He blesses. His blessings always have a purpose. At times He made this purpose very clear to the recipient in the present; in other cases, the reason becomes clear only as we trace its effects into the future. Third, He is abundantly generous! God does not only bless us with just enough to get
When it comes to material blessings, many have developed a warped perspective by taking Jesus’s teaching out of context. For instance, in the beatitudes, Jesus taught that “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). It is easy to twist that and believe “the poor inherit the Kingdom, so it is better to be poor”, but that’s not what Jesus was saying. In the Beatitudes, Jesus was specifically calling out blessings that are available to those who are marginalized in the culture of the time, because prevalent thought was that their condition or circumstance was the result of a curse and that those who prospered were the only ones living under God’s blessing. In that same passage, Jesus also teaches that blessed are the “hungry”, “those who weep”, and “when people hate you”. This doesn’t mean that we find God’s favor by being poor, hungry, hated cryers. The blessing is not in the condition; the blessing is that the Kingdom of God has now become available through Jesus to people nobody thought could be blessed. (How Heaven Invades, p.110)
If we incorrectly believe that God desires to provide only for our basic needs, (because any more would be “unspiritual”), then we are holding back the revelation of God as an abundant father. James tells us that “whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father…” (James 1:17) God’s desire is to open up every type of blessing to his people and to do it in abundance. Jim Baker states this simply, but quite profoundly – “In order to be a blessing, you need first to be blessed.” (How Heaven Invades, p.5)
Our role & responsibility in all of this then