What Is A Blessing?
blessing: (n.) and to bless (v.)
- Definition: The verb 'to bless' means to treat as holy, to honor someone or something for its goodness. This also came to mean to ask God to give benefits to the person or thing blessed. That kind of benefit is called a 'blessing'. A blessing makes the blessed person happy, or at least pleased.
- English word origin: Old English blētsian (to consecrate, set apart as sacred) < assumed Indo-European root *bhel- (may be related to 'blood').
- Its specifically-Christian and Biblical usage is based on forms of the Greek makarios (happy).
- Other words for it: 'table graces', boon, honor, hallow, to make the sign of the cross, thank, announce favor, ask God to favor, express gratitude.
To Christians, Jesus has made all of humanity holy, as God who became a human. This means all of existence has become endowed with a sea of blessings. Christ's followers are given His charge to love our neighbors and, like God, give blessings to them. Thus, Christians over the years have prayed blessings for specific people (that is, that God give them the fruits and achievements they seek). In some circles, the term is used very cheaply, especially in prayer; 'giving a blessing' then becomes nothing more than 'to give them whatever they're after', instead of what God desires for them. Many people turn to churches and religious figures or meetings or services to get personal blessings which are material (health and wealth) or spiritual (ecstatic experiences). Not that God doesn't want to bless them, but their pleas are not an act of worship or love so much as a dressed-up display of selfishness in order to receive more gains. In the core of the Christian tradition, believers do not chase after benefits for themselves, but live a life of blessing (and empowering) others. Those who are blessed by you may want to give benefits in return, but whether they do or not is not the Christian's concern. Jesus promises to bless us in full measure as we give to others. Also, there are often opportunities to turn your intercessory prayers for someone into a blessing of encouragement spoken to them. It is also traditional for Christian guests to bless those who show them hospitality.
God is the ultimate giver of blessings. The most remarkable of these is God's ability (and even eagerness) to take terrible happenings and make blessings grow from them. It doesn't make tragedy into anything other than tragedy, but it enables us to pass through it, and not only live, but even thrive, thereafter.
The most well-known Christian gesture of giving a blessing to someone is to trace the sign of the cross in front of the person or object. This is the same motion as crossing oneself, just done toward another. It is generally seen as a Roman Catholic or Orthodox tradition, however Anglicans and Lutherans sometimes do it too. But at the heart of any Christian act of blessing is the idea that the words and gestures are matched by an act of generosity, hospitality, assistance, or companionship, where possible. Take the time to think about what action to take. A gesture of grace may have to suffice, but do more when you can.
- You can find other definitions for 'blessing' in the dictionary.
- Dallas Willard wrote about the right way to bless someone (excerpted from his book *Living In Christ's Presence* in Christianity Today, Jan 2014).
- The Jesus Creed blog takes a look at what Jonathan Pennington wrote about the Greek word makarios.
- Also, read this on the prosperity gospel, which so loosely speaks of material blessings.