This article is a follow up of BLESSED & BURDENED | The Story
When my dad had issues in his business and suddenly went bankrupt, I remember a pastor who asked us to fast for two days without drinking water or putting anything in our mouth. He told us that after this fast, God would open the heavens exactly on a given date and we would be surprised the way money would hit our dad. Well, we actually fasted and hoped that his predictions would turn into prophecy. The given date came and passed, things stiffened up the more. Several years passed afterwards and things remained the same. Perhaps, the angel dropped the money from heaven and dad missed it and it hit the wrong person.
At that time, we were going through tough times and I wondered if that wasn’t enough to touch God’s heart. I had no big problem with the fast itself but my problem was with the logic behind it. At that time, what we assumed to be God’s blessings were material things and we were made to believe that these things are the proof of God’s blessings. We come to Church just because we want to get healed, we come to Church just because we want to get richer, we come to Church just because we want God to help us pass exams or win certain contracts. Many of us are just in Church looking for solutions to life challenges but definitely not looking for the truth of God’s word.
You see, many of us started so well with God. We started with the idea of God being our father in heaven who loves us and is with us in all circumstances but as we grew, circumstances and the very popular prosperity gospel out there began to teach us that God is our father who supplies money to us if we can confess positive enough, sow enough seeds, fast enough and get more committed with church activities.
We were made to believe that favour is what we earn with our tithes and instead of giving as part of our commitment in our local assemblies, we started giving just because we believed God’s raffle draw might favour us someday. Yes, maybe we had to add a little more shout to our Sunday “Hallelujah” and also add more steps to our dance so that we could dance away our troubles and dance into financial abundance. This is not what Jesus sent the Apostles out to teach.
I am also very guilty of this even as a preacher and Christian writer and I am only learning to readjust my idea of God’s blessings.
I heard that God blesses those who diligently seek Him and I was made to understand that God blesses us with money, babies, miracle bank alerts and so on! I could see some people come to testify about miracle bank alerts anyway and I believed mine would happen one day. Unfortunately, what almost turned out to be a miracle bank alert for me caused me a problem. A friend gave someone my account number to pay in money to her without informing me. When the money came in and I waited for three days without anyone calling me to ask for confirmation, I felt I had gotten a miracle alert. I used it to settle some bills and a day later she called me to confirm if someone paid money into my account. I started panicking and had to struggle to pay her the money.
“We were made to believe that favour is what we earn with our tithes and instead of giving as part of our commitment in our local assemblies, we started giving just because we believed God’s raffle draw might favour us someday.”
Don’t get me wrong but it is okay if you got me wrong already. I am not saying people who testify of miracle money are lying neither am I saying that miracles don’t happen or that God doesn’t open financial doors to people. However, after so many years of certain kinds of expectations and confusion, I found clarity in the word of God and discovered the error of the false prosperity gospel which had replaced the gospel itself in many congregations. Majority of Christians today would define God’s blessings as an abundance of material things and their understanding of God’s blessings is limited to materialism. So, if we are doing great financially we feel blessed and if we are yet to make money we feel we are not blessed yet.
For most Christians today, what we define as blessings right now is a new car, a new house, a new gadget or just a new set of full wardrobe! So our response to a new job is “what a blessing to have that job! Your faithfulness to God has finally paid off!” Or “What a blessing to own that new house, God has rewarded you for consistently cleaning His house of worship.” Those of us who live in developed cities assume that our developed cities are blessed simply because of the levels of development that have occurred over time! Let us check the logic.
We feel blessed for buying a new car which means we weren’t blessed when we never had a car or perhaps we were less blessed or we weren’t blessed before we got a new job or a new house? It sounds really cool to be a blessing if we achieved a greater feat but what about when we hadn’t achieved anything yet? Could that be a blessing too or would we call it a lesser blessing? I will tell you how our wrong understanding of blessing undermines God and other people. The problem lies especially on the perception that our faith, seed sowing, commitment in Church or positive confessions has paid off.
When we say we are blessed for acquiring material things, what would we say when we hadn’t acquired material things? Are material things the proof of God’s blessings? If your answer is yes, then you are reducing God to those good witches in Disney’s tales that could appear with a magic wand and ask you to make a wish! Often times the testimonies we give about money defines God as one who looks out for the most committed member of the year and gives out an award of a car, a house and so on. We forget that these things happen to unbelievers too! Unbelievers also get “miraculous scholarships”, they also get miraculous jobs and contracts! Unbelievers too get a surprising call requesting for their account number! God isn’t rewarding our obedience to His word with cars and houses. Jesus isn’t offering us a “car-full” life if we get born again and this is the mistake of extreme prosperity teachings! They tell you that everything gets alright financially if you believe in Jesus and they tell you that what the Bible means by being blessed with all spiritual blessings is money!
You need to know this.
“It sounds really cool to be a blessing if we achieved a greater feat but what about when we hadn’t achieved anything yet? Could that be a blessing too or would we call it a lesser blessing? “
What are God’s blessings in the first place? When God made the earth, He blessed every single thing He made; He blessed the earth, blessed the animals and also blessed the man. God has given out His blessings which is the totality of the physical life we live. If you breathe in and breathe out, you are enjoying God’s blessings! When you buy an apple, you are enjoying God’s blessings and when you retire to your bed which was obviously made from the resources God has created, you are enjoying God’s blessings. You aren’t enjoying a little of the blessings, you are enjoying all of the blessings. Every man on earth has been blessed physically by God. Your eyes are a blessing, your hands are blessings and when God said “I will bless the works of your hands” He wasn’t saying there was going to be another kind of blessings coming your way, He was simply saying “with your hands at work, you’d pick the blessings I’ve released from creation.” The moment Jesus came and fulfilled His ministry, God released the last of His blessings which is the spiritual blessings. The definition of God’s blessings should not be locked down on material things alone because the existence of the space around us is God’s blessings too. Saying we are blessed just because we could afford designers shirt puts those who couldn’t afford it on the list of those who aren’t blessed.
Prosperity gospel preachers would always say “poverty is a sin.” If they had meant “life without Christ can’t be without sin” which actually is spiritual poverty, then I would nod in agreement but when it is about lack of material things, it is wrong to say that lacking financially is a sin. I used to be there, I used to believe a large chunk of this prosperity stuff until I got to understand the word of God better. If material possession is what makes us blessed, then a higher percentage of believers out there are not blessed. There are so many believers out there, who are full of faith confessions, committed in their local assemblies and giving their all for the purpose of the assembly and yet they earn just a modest salary every month. What do we say about them? Does it mean they are not blessed? Do our private jets make us more blessed than them?
It is also possible to be rich and walk blamelessly. However, certain people are materially poor not because they chose to. That someone is in lack of material things is not a sign of God’s rejection or lack of faith. Wealth is also not a sign of God’s blessings or approval. In Ecclesiastes 9:15 the Bible says “Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man.” The reason many people never remembered the poor man was because they look in the wrong places, what they call “blessed” is not what God calls “blessed.”
“Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.” – Proverbs 28:6
I have been in that circle before and I had preached “call that money forth!” I am not in it anymore because the more I understand the purpose of Jesus coming to earth, the more the central theme of the Bible becomes clearer. Jesus didn’t come to make people financially rich and Jesus never addressed money and financial prosperity as the proof of blessings. If we see what Jesus defined as blessings, we’d get shocked especially if we are subscribers of the prosperity gospel. Unfortunately, we teach a different thing in the Church. I heard a preacher say “when that business isn’t yielding profit, check your giving. Are you giving enough in Church? And if you are really giving enough, check your confession! Are you truly confessing enough? If you are confessing enough, then check your fasting and prayer life. Maybe, you’ve got to pray more and fast more.” Wow! So, this is all we must do to be blessed and if we mistakenly stumble in one, then we are not blessed. But unbelievers would legitimately get richer without those actions!
“If material possession is what makes us blessed, then a higher percentage of believers out there are not blessed.”
The material prosperity theology only put the word of God to ridicule.
Many of us have ended up not knowing the place of contentment because we have been made to believe that money is the proof of God’s acceptance. Before God called Abraham, Abraham had material things but God still told him “I will bless you!” (Genesis 12:2) When the Angel said to Mary “blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:42) Mary didn’t become wealthy in material things but Mary was still “Blessed”! Paul who wrote about our spiritual blessings in Christ said in Philippians 4:12 “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” Being blessed isn’t about what we possess materially.
How about those times we are about leaving the Church and the man of God gives us a prophetic word like “this week is blessed!” People leave the building with a wrong perception of what a blessed week is. Next Sunday, the majority come back again expectant but worried about the supposed un-fulfilment of prophecies. They are looking at the wrong places. While those declarations are great and positive confessions helps keep us inspired and motivated towards greatness, we must be very careful that we don’t keep giving people the wrong picture that the Bible never painted for us. God never promised us ease of life in this world as a reward for our commitment and belief in Him. The false prosperity gospel has become so popular and common that we even find it hard differentiating God’s definition of prosperity and men’s definition of prosperity. This also makes it a bit problematic identifying what God’s will for us is.
I am not saying we aren’t blessed but I am saying that material things aren’t what define God’s grace or blessings in our lives. I am also not saying we shouldn’t be committed in Church in all ramifications but I am saying that we cannot conjure up prosperity from God because we were more faithful in sowing seeds, confessing positive and all of that. These things shouldn’t be the reason for our gathering. In developing countries, people go to Church looking up to God to receive from Him what the government can easily solve if they want to. Many people have reduced God in their mind to the level of their local government chairman by claiming to serve Him in a bid to get Him to do what their local government chairman can do! If employment, money and so on is what you define as God’s blessings, then you haven’t come to an understanding of who God is.
Why will you spend all your night praying for Visa, money, accommodation, the fruit of the womb and so on! For so many people, their need is the only thing that gives them a discussion topic for God! Meaning that once they have what they need, they forget God! Religion thrives in developing countries because the poverty rate is high and we are all expecting God to wave His magic wand and ask us for just three wishes. People go to churches praying for lotteries, jobs, marriages and so much more. A lot of people go to Church for a whole year just because they are hoping that perhaps in any of these meetings, God would visit them. It is this kind of Christianity that thrives in many developing countries.
What exactly does Christ our Lord define as blessings? I will show you. In Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus gave us a whole new perspective on who is truly blessed and right here we see that blessing is not an outward condition, it is an enviable joy and satisfaction that comes as a result of God’s grace and salvation regardless of how we look on the outside. The material things that you have or never had is not what defines how blessed you are! You may experience lack but you can smile in contentment and say “I am blessed!” Grace is not Benz or Gucci, grace is God’s acceptance of you regardless of who you are.
“I am not saying we aren’t blessed but I am saying that material things aren’t what define God’s grace or blessings in our lives.”
Let’s take a look at those beatitudes so that I don’t take more time in explaining them.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for, in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The list is finished! Yes, it is finished! There isn’t any “blessed are the rich for thou shall buy what you need” or “blessed is the married, for thou shall have twins!” You aren’t more blessed than a woman who has no child and you aren’t more blessed than someone who lives under the bridge. God’s blessings have nothing to do with what one has and what one doesn’t have. Many of us grew up hearing prosperity gospel as the true gospel and because there is a thin line between Biblical teachings on faith and what people teach today as the prosperity gospel, we don’t pay attention and we miss it up! I know we’ve heard a lot of testimonies of how angels dropped money bag on people’s door and if you want to wait for that, go ahead and wait till you are “blessed”. You want to give till you receive your returns? Go ahead and give! Perhaps, someday, it will be your turn to win the heavenly lottery and Angel Gabriel would come with your own gift pack. But mind you, God’s definition of blessings has nothing to do with those material things. With the lens of the New Testament, we understand better what God’s purpose is for man. Many people who embraced Christianity because they heard the prosperity gospel ended up discovering that they have been scammed!
Just so that I make sure you don’t misquote me, I believe in miracles but only God in His own wisdom knows how, where, when and why He allows certain miracles to happen. We aren’t entitled to these miracles and we cannot even predict these miracles. Miracles aren’t our way of survival on earth, they happen just for a purpose. For instance, Stephen was being stoned to death and God never miraculously save him! We learnt by history that John was crucified too and put inside boiling oil but he miraculously survived! He survived definitely because God needed him to do an assignment. This is why we must not expect that a miracle which happened to one would happen to all.
Now, let’s get the simple message straight.
What does the Bible really tell us about God’s blessings? Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” What other blessings are greater than all of God’s spiritual blessings? The Bible says we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. Money, fame, material prosperity and all earthly gains are in nowhere close to what God truly defines as blessings because as we look at those things to mean God’s blessings, we may never find reasons to be grateful to God because we may never have enough that satisfies us or even if we do, our neighbours may feel they are not blessed. The reason Jesus came, died and resurrected was not to make us financially rich. Even before Jesus came, people were making money. Jesus came with something greater than this earth riches. Jesus is our heritage! He is the totality of God’s blessings! When we want to truly define God’s blessings, we look up to Jesus!
“There isn’t any “blessed are the rich for thou shall buy what you need” or “blessed is the married, for thou shall have twins!” You aren’t more blessed than a woman who has no child and you aren’t more blessed than someone who lives under the bridge.”
The Bible says in Ephesians 1:3 (emphasis are mine) “BLESSED be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has BLESSED US IN CHRIST with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING in the heavenly places…” Our blessings in Christ are not money and we can make some list from Paul’s writing in Ephesians 1. God’s spiritual blessings include:
- 1. Election
- 2. Adoption
- 3. Acceptance
- 4. Redemption
- 5. Forgiveness
- 6. Insight into His will
- 7. Sealing of the Holy Spirit
And lots more!
In verse 4, Paul shows us what God’s spiritual blessings are and he wrote: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…” It is God’s choice of us to be holy and blameless in his sight that truly portrays God’s blessings. As important as material things are, they are not proof of God’s blessings.
Therefore, just like we saw in the story, BLESSED OR BURDENED?, whether you are Cynthia the songwriter who couldn’t perform so well, or you are Ken who is good in performing other people’s songs, or you are Ngozi who had children but no money, or perhaps Mrs Bisi who had money but no children; you are blessed with every blessing that God has. There is no blessing with which you have not been blessed. But maybe, we are always looking the wrong way. We are looking at the Bentley, the Jet, the Gucci, the fame and so on and the Bible calls all of that “vanity!” They are things that will perish but God’s blessings last into eternity.
You may have been more privileged than the other person, you may have had more opportunities than the next door neighbour and you may have been born in an environment that exposed you to a certain degree of success but God knows why He put you there, however, you aren’t more blessed than the other person who lives in a ghetto. It has nothing to do with how much you had sown as seeds, or how much faith you have had, or how great you have prayed. The man with 10 talents was not more blessed than the man given 1 talent but the problem with the man with 1 talent was that he was looking at the wrong place. God will not call you blessed on the basis of your wealth; He will not call you blessed because you have many children. In the parable of the rich fool, God didn’t call him a blessed fool but a rich fool. He was rich but he was just burdened.
Are you skilful? That skill is a call to responsibility!
It is a responsibility that you have!
Are you rich in material things?
If you have more, then you have a responsibility to give more.
You don’t help the poor because you fee you are more blessed than them. You help the poor because you have a responsibility to do so. Even as you are giving out to a needy, you give with a sense of responsibility knowing that it is kingdom service that you are rendering. The Bible talks about Dorcas who was a seamstress and the Bible says she would usually make clothes for the widows who couldn’t afford it! She was not trying to prove anything, she knew it was a responsibility (Act 9:39). If you are wealthy, it is a privilege the serve others; to serve all the “blessed” others.
Next time you hear the word blessings, look at Christ. All our blessings are located in Him. If we truly want to point out the blessings without just being generic about it, it is about God loving the unworthy, it is about God giving the unrighteous His own righteousness and it is about God uniting Himself with us as one. When we want to show how blessed we are, it is in exhibiting the same character of God that is in us as His children.
When next you are asked “how are you?” and you respond “I am blessed.” Your focus shouldn’t be on the material things as even rich fools have them.
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” – John 1:12
God bless you
~ George O.N