This season of Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to count one’s blessings. There are some blessings we tend to take for granted just because they are available to everyone: life; the beautiful Earth; God’s grace. Then there are the personal blessings, great and small, that are unique to each one’s life. These are all blessings we should count everyday.
In the book of Matthew (5:1-13) Christ gave us a list of his Top Eight blessings we should enumerate among our own. Known as the Beatitudes, these eight have been studied and preached on for centuries, but still have something new for me every time I read them.
One that has often given me trouble is “blessed are the poor in spirit”. This was the first one Jesus listed, so it must be important, but I always thought that we were meant to have rich spiritual lives, so this always gave me pause. Eventually, I saw this as an admonition against caring too much for material things. Similarly, I initially saw meekness as a rather negative quality, of being shy and mouse-like.
Even though I failed to see how these, and some of the other characteristics Christ named, could be blessings, I felt that enduring them in this life might make me a better person and would bring rewards or blessings in Heaven.
While reviewing these verses recently, however, I was struck by something I had always overlooked…Jesus said “blessed are they…”, not, “blessed will they be“. For me, that changes everything.
While we will surely be blessed abundantly hereafter, we can and should have these blessings in our lives here and now.
I think the meek are those who purposely set aside any feelings of entitlement. They don’t insist on their rights and in so choosing they have the blessing of receiving every earthly gift with gratitude and joy. Resentment and anger at perceived unfairness is not part of their lives. What a blessing!
The poor in spirit are those who recognize in their soul that they do not own anything, not even their talents. It is all on loan from God to use to bless others. These people live without fear of loss, safe in the knowledge that everything that matters is safe in God’s hands. A blessing, indeed!
Each of the eight can be looked at in the same way. If we have the blessing of mercy we can be thankful for the way it enhances our life. Even mourning is a gift. We cannot mourn if we have not known love and compassion. Those are great blessings.
I used to think the Beatitudes were an admonition to us to shape up so we can be blessed in the next life. Now I see them as Christ’s observations of what this life is all about.
The next time I sing, “Count Your Blessings”, I hope I can include these eight, right at the top of the list.