The word “blessing” is a very rich word. Everyone hopes to be blessed, but everyone may have a different idea as to what counts as blessings.
Most people will feel blessed if they have wealth, health, education, a successful career, a loving marriage, a harmonious family and so on. Of course, this is blessedness that most people—Christians and non-Christians alike—seek after. There is nothing wrong with that, but these desires are difficult to satisfy fully and often do not last.
In reality, it is also rare to have it all. There is a Chinese saying: “trouble does not come singly and blessings don’t come in pairs”. And this kind of “blessing” is contingent on it being in the present continuous tense. If the situation and time is changed, the blessing is over, then one will feel that he is the most unfortunate person on earth. Thus to be a blessed person, the blessing must last.
In the New Testament, the original Greek word for “blessing” is makarios, which means happy and blissful. Bible scholars say that this kind of blessing is self-contained. Even if the situation changes, the happy and blissful feeling continues.
The most well-known New Testament passage about blessings is the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew: “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted; blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…” To be poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted for righteousness’ sake—these are blessings that Jesus referred to as makarios.
All these are within reach of everyone and these will last. The only thing is no one understands such blessings.
“Blessing” in Chinese—祝福—is actually a prayer, a supplication, to some higher being that blessing may come upon another person.
So in Chinese, when I bless you, it means that I am praying or making a supplication to God in heaven that He will give you blessings. In Chinese, it is not possible to say, “Let’s bless the Lord”. If the word “bless” means a prayer, then to bless the Lord, we would have to pray to an even higher being to give blessings to the Lord.
So a better explanation of the phrase “bless the Lord” is “praise the Lord”. The word “bless” or “praise” appear frequently in the psalms in the Hebrew bible and mean to prostrate oneself or to kneel. These are common postures taken by the Israelites during worship, to express their praise and reverent worship of Jehovah God. Thus to “bless” the Lord is to “praise and worship” Him!
What does it mean to be blessed? According to what is laid out in the Sermon on the Mount, those who are blessed are also those who bless others.
This is exactly what Jehovah God said to Abraham in his promise, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen 12:2). If we want to be blessed, remember that we must first bless others or be a blessing to others.
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2016. He served as President of the Chinese Annual Conference from 2008 to 2016.
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