By Femi Aribisala
How often have you heard this kind of testimony in the church? “Praise the Lord, I was blessed yesterday. Someone blessed me with N100,000.”
But is N100,000 a blessing? Can money really be a blessing? What if I use the money to shoot cocaine and end up in the hospital? Would it still be considered a blessing? If a blessing is a blessing, surely it would remain a blessing come rain or shine? It should not be possible for a blessing to end up bringing adversity.
Clearly, many of the things Christians consider to be blessings are nothing of the sort. Solomon declares: “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22). True blessings will never bring sorrow.
Moreover, while the blessing of the Lord makes one rich, riches are not the blessing. Indeed, the riches that the blessing of the Lord confers are significantly different from those of the world. This is because God has not chosen the rich of this world. Instead, He has chosen: “the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him.” (James 2:5).
“Can you bless me with 1000 naira?” “No, I cannot. But I can pray for you.”
When the beggar at the Beautiful Gate asked Peter for money, Peter gave him Christ instead: “Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’” (Acts 3:6).
Blessings are spiritual
A blessing is something that is spoken or uttered, and which has the power to confer goodness: “For You meet him with the blessings of goodness; you set a crown of pure gold upon his head.” (Psalm 21:3).
Like a curse, a blessing is immaterial. However, it has an inherent power to confer goodness on the person to whom it is invoked.
God does not bless with money. God blesses with His word. Whenever God blesses, He says something instead of doing something. In the New Testament, our blessings are pre-eminently spiritual. Paul says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3).
The perennial carnality of the Church is that we have largely refused to believe the word of God. Where the commandments of God seem to contradict self-interest, we simply ignore them and effectively re-write scripture. So, when people give testimonies about being blessed, the testimonies hardly ever conform to the blessing prescriptions laid down by Jesus in the beatitudes.
According to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, only those things that take us along the path of eternal life, or those things that move us closer to God in heaven, are blessings. (Matthew 5-7). However, Christians do not say we are blessed because we are bereaved or mournful. We do not say we are blessed because we are merciful.
We do not think we are blessed because we are persecuted for righteousness sake. We do not consider it a blessing to endure temptation. We never think people who die in faith are blessed. But John says:
“I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labours, and their works follow them.’” (Revelation 14:13).
But we believe we are blessed when someone gives us money. Thereby, we re-write the scriptures according to the ways of the world; according to the carnal and vainglorious nature of man.
Jesus says: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). Here we see the pre-eminence of the spiritual in new covenant blessings. The man who gives loses materially but gains spiritually and is thereby blessed.
But if we see blessings only in terms of the physical, our carnality will disqualify us from true blessings. Jesus says:
“If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Luke 16:11-13).
Begging to give
Normally beggars beg to receive a gift. But have you ever seen a beggar that begs to give and not to receive?
The true Christian is a peculiar person. (1 Peter 2:9). On earth, he is a foreigner and a sojourner. Therefore, he should act very differently from the unbeliever.
Take a good look at the Macedonian Church. Paul says they were begging to be able to give to the saints: “Imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.” (2 Corinthians 8:4).
Although they were poor, their deep poverty abounded into their liberality: “In a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.” (2 Corinthians 8:2).
Why would they behave like this? Jesus provides the clue: They loved much because their sins, which were many, were forgiven. (Luke 7:47).
The question then is this. Do many Christians not believe the word of God, or do we not want the true kind of blessings associated with giving? The so-called blessing associated with receiving is actually very limited. What has happened to all the gifts, money, clothes, and shoes that we received when we were ten years old?
When a man receives a gift, the gift will only be good to him in this world. It has no use in the world to come. Even the spiritual gifts administered to the church by the Holy Spirit are of limited value: “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
Jesus told a bed-ridden paralytic: “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” (Matthew 9:2). He did not ask him to be of good cheer because he was going to heal him. But he should be of good cheer because his sins are forgiven.
The forgiveness of sins makes the man an heir of salvation; whereas good health is bodily exercise; it profits little. David says: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” (Romans 4:7-8).
When a man receives anything in this world, its value is limited to this dying world. But when a man gives in this world, he will qualify for rewards not only in this world but also in the world to come.
Accordingly, Jesus told his disciples: “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20).