I’ve said it myself, time and time again: “I’m blessed with good health.”
“I’m blessed with a beautiful family.”
“I’m so blessed to live in this house.”
“God has blessed me with so much.”
And it’s true. I do feel blessed when I think about my life. I have everything I need and more. My refrigerator and cabinets are stocked full of food. My health is good, and when it’s not, I have insurance to cover the cost of doctor’s visits and prescriptions. I live in a comfortable, spacious home in a safe, welcoming neighborhood. I can afford to pay all my bills and have money left over for entertainment. My closet brims with clothing and shoes. I have a college degree and a fulfilling job. My children attend good schools. I could go on and on.
I am so blessed.
Or is it that I am simply lucky?
I’ve been thinking a lot about an interview I heard recently with Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest who has dedicated his life to working with former gang members in Los Angeles. “I’m lucky,” Father Boyle said. “I won all the lotteries — the parent lottery, the sibling lottery, the zip code lottery, the educational lottery.”
Hearing Father Boyle use the word “lucky” to describe his upbringing and life circumstances stopped me short, especially because I don’t think I’ve ever heard a person of faith call himself lucky instead of blessed.
Yet the more I thought about it, the more I understood Father Boyle’s word choice. Citing our material circumstances — the home we live in, the food on our table, the vacations we enjoy, our health and the health of our family, the status of our bank account — as evidence of our blessedness implies that, at the same time God has chosen to bless us with these gifts, he has chosen not to bless others in the same way.
If I say I am blessed because I own a lovely home in a safe neighborhood, or blessed because I have a good job with a substantial income and health insurance, or blessed because I have a bountiful feast spread out on my dining room table, what does that say about the single mother living in the inner-city tenement apartment, the man standing in the unemployment benefits line, and the family starving in some distant land? Are they not blessed? Has God chosen me, but not them?
Jesus, in fact, said the opposite of what many Christians profess. I suspect those who sat at his feet when he preached his Sermon on the Mount did not expect him to define the blessed as those who mourn, those who are persecuted, those who are meek and those who are poor in spirit. But Jesus knew what we so often forget. We are not blessed by what we have — a beautiful home, a luxurious vacation and delicious food (though we are grateful for these things, to be sure) — but by what we lack. We are not blessed by all that we do, but in where we fall short. It is in our brokenness, in our failings and shortcomings, in our grief and hardship, that we are most aware of God’s compassion and love.
God does indeed lavish blessings upon us, but not in the way most of us like to think. We are blessed by who we have — a God who is always with each and every one of us. We are blessed by who we are — beloved children of God, loved always and forever.